By Ian Kershaw, a British historian with a focus on Germany. / April 29, 2019 / NYTimes
If there is a common thread in all of these problems, it is the interplay of national interests and identities with the demands of an increasingly integrated continent, and an increasingly global world.
If a sense of European identity has remained largely an idea and aspiration rather than a reality, it has nonetheless acquired a form of political content. “Europe,” in the eyes of most Europeans, has come to be largely synonymous (positively or negatively) with the European Union. “Europe” demarcates the countries of the bloc as an interwoven community of nations separate from the others on the European continent — mainly Russia and former members of the Soviet Union. This “Europe” is neither the “Europe of the fatherlands” favored by de Gaulle and others, nor the supranational entity that was associated with Jacques Delors. Rather, it stands as a unique entity somewhere in between. Some continue to look to an ever-widening ”Europe” incorporated in a federal European state as a utopian future. Others, increasing in number, regard “Europe” with distance, even hostility, as a foreign body impinging upon their sovereignty as nation-states.
This has left the “Europe” of the European Union in the eyes of many of its citizens as little more than an opaque and detached organization embodying rules and regulations that affect most people’s lives, but cannot be challenged through political engagement. That opens the door to the politics of nationalist and separatist movements. In reality, the main emotional allegiance is not to “Europe” but still to citizens’nation-state or region (or would-be independent nation-state).
However, while the union has been unable to create a genuine sense of European identity, the dangerously aggressive, chauvinistic nationalism that spawned two world wars scarcely exists any longer, and what does has been diluted and countered by the gradual increase in transnational cooperation and interdependence.
Europe has fought for and won freedom. It has acquired prosperity that is the envy of most of the world.
So, perhaps the elusive search for a European identity is unnecessary, as long as citizens of Europe’s individual nation-states are committed to upholding the common European principles of peace, freedom, pluralist democracy and the rule of law; to sustaining the material well-being that underpins that commitment; and to striving to strengthen wherever possible the bonds of transnational cooperation and friendship.
It’s a thing about the globalized perspective that you can see more clearly in other countries what you are blind to in your own. When you consider another country you stand a better chance of not having your identification and your partisan loyalty stand in the way of fairly considering the facts and the essential situation. So read this article about Globalization’s impact on the self-governance of Europe to lay bare your logic, beliefs, values, et cetera… Then, return to consider the USA.
For instance, the article also includes the side comment on the USA:
Today, the legacy of the past — overwhelmingly still the memories of the war, occupation and the Holocaust — plays a crucial role in shaping national identities in ways that have no equivalent in the United States.
Do you really think that our memories of the European settlement era, Slavery, the Civil War, Urbanization, and the pendulum swing of Equality/Inequality don’t have an equally powerfully threatening impact on shaping our national identity? ]