I wrote and never posted this last fall. time to share.
As I creep ever closer to the goal of realizing a Jewish farm, I’ve returned many times to my undergraduate thesis. When I wrote about minority american attempts to create (or capture) paradise, I didn’t realize the extent with which I was writing about nationalism.
Now, I’ve been reading. Most recently, a dense little number called “Imagined Communities,” which explores the history of nationalism. It’s fascinating to consider the constructs behind something so seemingly given as the idea of a nation. I’ve long felt angst toward american mono-culturalism thinly veiled as the melting pot. Simply because mono-culturalism is flawed, as it lacks the tools to (understand? Accommodate?embrace?) difference.
There is a reference early on in the book to the idea that nations are constructed as imagined communities. Imagined, because they are made up individuals who are (and likely remain) strangers, but who conceive of themselves as belonging to a community with shared aspirations. These imagined communities rely on the subordination of difference to similitude, as difference is a threat to the foundation of unity.
A sense of unity is vital to spiritual well being. There is a reason we seek it out, and there are reasons we suffer (in ways we haven’t yet fully realized) when we fail to recognize our need for connection. Arguably, variation and difference is just as necessary as wholeness. It is this latter assertion that too often gets overlooked—because it lives in the uncomfortable realm of the unknown.
I know I’ve found in my own experiences that it is the dialogue between these two community qualities that develop rich and meaningful connections. I’ve developed a sense of belonging in a Jewish community, and fed off the security of those relationships in other relationship.
I’ve begun to strengthen my conviction that a nationalism that strives for similitude is unhealthy. For some reason, I feel drawn to pondering the problematics of the development of nations (or nationalisms) by minority communities. Perhaps because, as a Jew, I cary the mark of Israel.
As a Detroiter, I have watched the region’s Jewish community begin to rally around a colonial narrative of a Detroit homeland. A generation or more removed from the city, we’re beginning to shape a narrative that claims that its time to return to our homeland. We left of our own volition and of our own volition we may return, because we have the resources to do so. But what of the people who remained? For me, this blank slate narrative is all too familiar.
What unsettles me is not the relocation/migration. I too am an immigrant to Detroit. I relocated with resources, privilege, and power all helping me along my way. Its the lack of context and the lack of insight that we sometimes have into our own power, privilege, and resources. The ways we can wield them to our own ends and be blind to the ways our personal benefits can be harmful to others. I’m not sure there are answers, but there are certainly questions.