The Countermarch

Alien Nation

When Pope John Paul II would arrive in a new country, his first action was always to drop to his knees and kiss the ground. This gesture of reverence was usually portrayed in the media as a sign of respect and of love for the people of that country—and it was that. But for the Polish-born pontiff, it was more an expression of his deep understanding of patriotism, a recognition that there can be no people without a place, a soil from which that people has sprung.

The idea of a nation (natio) that is rootless—not tied to a particular land (patria)—is an absurdity. It is the flip side of the idea of a “nation of immigrants,” which arose in the late 19th century and took hold on the American imagination between the two world wars. White nationalists who find, say, Texas, Montana, and Northern Virginia equally interchangeable and open-borders “nation of immigrants” dreamers both elevate the centralized state above any actual nation, political citizenship above true familial and cultural ties (much less ties to the land). Neither type of nationalism is compatible with the patriotism of a John Paul II, who noted in his final book, Memory and Identity, that “Catholic social doctrine holds that the family and the nation are both natural societies, not the product of mere convention,” and warned that, therefore, “they cannot be replaced by anything else”:


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