National Icons

In the article Places of Memory, Till describes the use of place in the building of a national memory, both by the state and citizens. Combined with Webster’s American Nationalism, the Flag and the Invasion of Iraq*, these two articles gave me a better understanding of the pervasive nature of nationalism in the United States.

In Till’s article, the creation of national places is often controlled by the state, such as the the building of museums and monuments, but the identity of these places are created by the citizens, like in the example of the Vittoriano Emanuele II monument, or recreated in the case of the Soviet public monuments. The state builds these national monuments in an attempt to create “symbolic capital”, a concept expanded upon in Webster’s article. These places are designed to showcase the state’s preferred version of history, highlighting the positives while forgetting the negatives, which forces the people to create their own monument and museums.

Webster’s article explores the possible correlation between a rise in nationalism and the lack of opposition to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Webster points out that the United States is unique in its flag’s prevalence in citizens’ day to day lives. He notes that this prevalence increased after 9/11, indicating an increase in nationalism. I can remember seeing full-page color flags from the local news paper taped up in almost every window after 9/11. My household purchased its first ever flag bracket in 2001. Webster asserts through Billig that the every present American iconography gives the government an easily accessible “reservoir of emotion” that it can use whenever the need arises. This calls back to nationalism being used as a tool by the state to rally the people. People who would have criticized the United States’ invasion did not out of fear of being called unpatriotic, an accusation that carries little weight outside of times of increased nationalistic feeling.

 

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