American nationalism is an odd thing. Our shared history is short. Our ethnic backgrounds are diverse. Our political system is decentralized. From the point of view of most other nationalisms, these facts would be somewhat embarrassing. But American nationalism prefers to treat them as points of pride.
Because of those same facts, Americans have had to make “the creation and maintenance of a shared identity” an unusually “intentional and self-conscious project.” For “surely residents of the same places, subject to the same laws, must share some answers to the question of who we are.” “The sanctification of national principles” seems to …
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