National Identity

You are a citizen of many different things. You belong to a city and a neighborhood, a state or province, and a nation. The word “citizen” is something like a title in that it implies there are certain rights and privileges that are at your command, in addition to a few obligations to maintain the entity.

More important, however, is that citizenship is an identity. While the various actions required by law or custom only come up once in a while, your kinship is a constantly defining force. You might travel around the world and meet someone who shares a citizenship with you, and there is an instant bond.

But what does any of this mean to the ever increasing number of people who call themselves “global citizens”?

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What is a “Nation”?

Much to the dismay of many people of Scottish ancestry around the world, a new nation was not created last Thursday. The people of Scotland, which is to say those who would have to live with the consequences of any action, narrowly decided to stay with the UK. In the lead-up to the election, when it looked like it might go the other way, the leaders of all the parties of the UK promised that Scotland would have more power to decide its own fate and that seemed to be good enough.

But a not-independent Scotland is just one of the many complications found within the UK and in many nations around the world. Simultaneously, an agreement was made in Ukraine to give more autonomy to the Russian speaking regions in an as yet undescribed power sharing arrangement if only everyone would stop shooting. And in Iraq that central government appears powerless as the autonomous Kurdish region uses its own army, the Peshmerga, to battle ISIL with help from many nations.

What, indeed, is a nation? The short answer is: whatever it needs to be.

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