Nationalism can be an at times trivial thing. Some Americans tout our freedom, which I get, but others tout our football, which I don’t. It gets flipped around very easily. Europeans will tout their football in spite of ours. In reality, football doesn’t matter and shouldn’t have an impact on your sense of nationalism. But most things that do impact our sense of nationalism are trivial.
I thought about this the other day with respect to the shape of one’s country. Most borders are formed by lines of latitude, longitude or bodies of water. Most countries have ovalish or rectangularish shapes that are unremarkable, but that’s not true for everyone. For instance, America’s shape is very unique and plastered everywhere. I’m sure most Americans could draw a pretty good silhouette of it. Being American, that’s not a fair starting point. What countries do I see the silhouette of often? The United Kingdom and Italy come to mind, the U.K. totally and Italy primarily shaped by the sea. Their shapes are unique, iconic, and plastered everywhere with pride.
What about countries like Somalia or South Africa? They have unique shapes that I rarely see (South Africa even has holes in it.). Part of the reason could be that those countries are less relevant, but I think a bigger part of the reason lies in the origin of the shape. When Europeans were imperializing the rest of the world, the borders of their territories were largely based on what resources they wanted to harvest. While I don’t know this for a fact, I’d bet that the reason South Africa has one country and almost two contained within it’s borders is because one European country wanted the rubber it could harvest and beat another European country to the punch. Haiti and the Dominican Republic are separated by a line created to split up the French half of the island from the Spanish half. My point is these countries had no say in their shape and it is a constant reminder of the shady origins of their country. The United States is the opposite. We, more than most, had a say in what shape we wanted our country to be. Imagine our shape if we had remained the 13 colonies. Our country’s shape reminds us of manifest destiny. In a way, it’s uplifting. However, I think most of the world’s borders are something they’d like to forget.