Many people find it hard to grasp the notion of a nation because they try to grasp the notion too tightly. It is, we might say, like a wet bar of soap that flies out of the hand when it is squeezed.
I suspect they do this because their minds are modern, and therefore trammeled by the Cartesian prejudice that a “clear and distinct idea” must stand at the head of every rational thought. But when nation is apprehended as a clear and distinct idea, it is always reduced to one aspect of the real thing, which is complex, indistinct and obscure. In a recent post, for instance, I wrote about the way that men like Paul Ryan reduce American nationality to a doctrine, and about their fierce hostility to men who (they allege) reduce that nationality to blood and soil.
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