This is an essay I felt compelled to write about a US American study abroad program to Viet Nam that reinforces and indeed celebrates US nationalism. It is a textbook example of how not to structure such a program.
The country of Viet Nam is but a sideshow, a prop that enables students and veterans to waltz hand in hand down a very bloody memory lane and learn nothing, at least nothing that resembles historical truth.
There was one last year and another one that started earlier this week. As I mentioned in the postscript, C of O liked the 2017 Viet Nam program so much that it organized a fourth trip to Viet Nam this from 9-22 December 2018. Since they’re running out of veterans who are alive, yet alone able to make the long trip to Viet Nam, what’s next, Patriotic Education Travel Programs to Afghanistan and Iraq?
Here’s an excerpt that may whet your appetite to read the article in its entirety.
Patriotic Education as Misnomer
A cursory reading of the program information and the “tour blog” reveals that it would be more accurate to call it the “Nationalistic Education Program.” The distinction between patriotism and nationalism, while quite elementary and accessible in any dictionary, is lost on most US Americans, including those with advanced degrees and obviously the leaders of C of O. Patriotism is defined simply as “love for or devotion to one’s country”. In contrast, nationalism is defined as loyalty and devotion to a nation; especially a sense of national consciousness exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups.
As with most US evangelical Christians, there are close ties to US nationalism. Why? Because both are about a sense of group identification, exaltation, and superiority. If you’re an evangelical Christian, you have found salvation and are “saved.” The rest of us are doomed to eternal damnation.
On the political side of the coin, in the words of Herman Melville “We Americans are the peculiar, chosen people — the Israel of our time; we bear the ark of the liberties of the world,” i.e., are members of an exclusive club that is the “greatest nation on Earth.” In fact, the logo for the C of O Patriotic Education Program features these words: God, Sacrifice, Country, and Heritage, a rhetorical intertwining of religion and nationalism.
It’s clear that these programs are designed not to create global citizens, which is usually the case with study abroad programs, but to solidify preexisting nationalistic values and attitudes. Think of it this type of study abroad as the mixing of US nationalism with US-style evangelical Christianity, the perfect international education marriage made in hell.
Shalom (שלום), MAA