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Fight for the Meaning of America


time-articleThe following is an excerpt from David Von Drehle | October 13, 2016 | Time.com |

Von Drehle is an editor-at-large for TIME, where he has covered politics, breaking news and the Supreme Court since 2007. He is the author of four books, including Abraham Lincoln and America’s Most Perilous Year, published in 2012, and Triangle: The Fire That Changed America.
Are we defined by openness or by borders?

The idea of nationalism is at least as old as Genesis, where the sons of Noah divider e the earth between them after the flood. But as the presidential campaign has made clear, Americans have not quite settled on what it is that defines us as a nation.

Are we defined by openness, a belonging, at least potentially, to people everywhere? Hillary Clinton has advanced that idea throughout the campaign. “We don’t hide from change. We harness it,” she declared in her campaign launch speech. Her vision was of an “inclusive society,” she continued: “What I once called ‘a village’ that has a place for everyone.”

Or are we defined, as most nations have been throughout history, by geography and a common culture? Does our nationhood depend on what we keep out as well as what we include? Donald Trump has answered Clinton’s calls for togetherness by demanding sharper divisions, between domestic and foreign, undocumented and citizens, Muslim and non-­Muslim. “If you don’t have borders, you don’t have a country,” he often says.

Trump’s rhetoric of great walls, trade wars and crackdowns on outsiders make him a textbook nationalist in a year when nationalism is surging around the world. From Putin’s Russia to the France of ­Marine Le Pen, from anti-­immigrant marches in Germany to the U.K.’s Brexit surprise, from defiant Turkey to nostalgic Japan, influential leaders are stoking powerful movements of us-against-them.

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