The Story of Unity and Nationalism

Chris Salvemini
6 min readJul 3, 2019
For what it’s worth, I’m probably the reason my old high school doesn’t do the pledge. I refused to stand for it all throughout school, and I guess some administrators finally caught on that it was a stupid thing to do every morning. Yeah, I was an edgy kid.

There is nothing more dangerous than a good story. With it, any leader can find a horde of fervent followers behind them. Their unifying power is unparalleled — especially in the information age when anyone can carve a platform out from a Facebook account.

All it takes is an interesting tale, and anyone can manipulate everyone into believing they are alone, surrounded by enemies. The better storyteller a person is, the more control they have.

Just ask any authoritarian dictator. There are plenty to go around right now.

Rodrigo Duterte rose to power with tales of internal enemies, lurking within the homes of the lower classes who enjoyed rising to their own sorts of power through recreational drugs. Donald Trump spun stories about immigrants and other dangers pressing against US borders, stopping the country from being the best in the world. Jair Bolsonoro found his power by weaving myths about innate Brazilian greatness, inhibited by external and internal enemies that would be vanquished by his rule.

These myths are simple, and they all share similar thematic components. They usually feature a single hero, trapped within a nation under siege and who fights against all odds to serve a greater good: the nation. At the end of the myth, the hero raises their nation’s flag above all else.

Flying a flag doesn’t mean much, anyway. They’re the geopolitical equivalent to hanging a poster in your dorm room. They need to be taken down at the end of the semester.

That hero is usually the storyteller or the politician, but they are also the people of a nation. They are allegories that anyone can see themselves in, and their simplicity is their power.

Nationalism Is the Same, No Matter the Nation

National myths are the same, no matter the country. And so, nationalism is counter-intuitively the single greatest tool to erase borders unite the world. It does not matter whose flag flies at the end of a nationalist myth, but rather that a flag is raised at all. Audiences do not see themselves in the flag at the end; they see themselves in the person raising it.

Nationalism’s allure does not originate from the reverence of any single country, but rather the carnage and drama…

Chris Salvemini

Thoughts® are my own. At least, I think so