Some Thoughts on Land, Citizenship, and Identity

 

On December 14th, Sweden’s largest daily newspaper published an interview with Bjorn Soder, vice speaker of the Parliament and member of the Swedish Democrat Party. Maybe some of you have heard of it, or at least seen the international headlines that said “Speaker of Swedish Parliament says Jews have to abandon their faith in order to be Swedish?” or perhaps the more popular “Jews not Swedish, according to Swedish politician”

Well, let’s just take a step back and look at what Mr. Soder actually said:

There are examples of people that belong to the Sami or Jewish Nation living in Sweden. I believe that most people with Jewish heritage that become Swedish leave their Jewish identity. But if they don’t it does not have to be a problem. One has to make a distinction between peoplehood and citizenship; they can still be Swedish citizens and live in Sweden. The Sami and The Jews have lived in Sweden for a very long time.

So what Mr. Soder is saying in this statement and throughout the interview is that he does not believe that one can be both a Jew and a part of the Swedish nation, but one can be a citizen and enjoy all the benefits and responsibilities of any other citizen. That distinction — and an important distinction it is — seems to have been lost on the frantic readers.

Within hours after this article was published, the avalanche of criticism came rolling down the medial mountain, and Jews and non-Jews alike were calling racism on the top of their lungs.

I read the article over and over again but was unable to find the source of this national upheaval. Instead I found that Bjorn Soder was saying pretty much exactly what I have always said, albeit with some eloquence left to be desired.

You see, I am not Swedish. I’m Jewish. I am a part of the Jewish people who happens to be a citizen of Sweden. I pay my taxes and I follow the laws, but that does not make me Swedish. Nor do I have any desire to ever claim that title. Instead I value and protect my Jewish identity and it is with pride that I affirm that through action, faith and tradition.

So why the upheaval?

Bjorn Soder is saying that the Jews are a people, not merely a religion, and that there are commonalities such as language, history, loyalty, and culture that bond us together and set us aside. In his interview, Soder is using terms such as ‘peoplehood’, ‘nation-state’, and ‘national identity’ — and this touches a nerve in post-Holocaust Europe. World War II changed not only the Jewish but also the entire European narrative, and for the past 70 years religion, nation-states, and national identity have been deemed the culprit and the key to the dark European history that had brought on unparalleled suffering. The old was replaced with the new; a cultural relativism where no tradition, belief, or state should stake a claim on any moral high ground but all ideas and cultures are equally unimportant compared to the globalist, multicultural ideal.

Post-war Europe sees identity, religion and tradition as bad, and assimilation as good. In this John Lennon-esque ideal we are all different yet we all the same, like snowflakes that may be unique close-up but indistinguishable for all intents and purposes.

Right after the interview with Mr. Soder was published, the Jews of Sweden were fighting for the right to be identified as Swedish, and when doing so they quite happily aligned with politicians and intellectuals who were quick to score points in this much-publicized debate. The Left party and the Social Democrats, known for their ties to Hamas and Fatah, were suddenly the Jew’s best friends. We Jews, however, were, as always, our own worst enemies. Instead of fighting to be Swedish, we should fight for our rights to be Jews in Sweden, enjoying minority rights and protected minority status. Instead we fight for the right to be assimilated, joining any dodgy alliance that is willing to give us the time of day.

This is not a puff-piece for Bjorn Soder, nor is it an excuse for the ban on both circumcision and the import of kosher meat proposed by the party he represents. Instead it is an attempt to lift the debate above the comfortable knee-jerk reactions caused by post-war trauma and to realize that there are more than two choices in the oh-so-popular identity game.

My grandmother always told me that he who stands for nothing falls for everything, and I believe that by saying that I have no desire to be like you I am giving you the freedom to be who you are. I stand for me, thus I stand by you. Not by being the same, but by being an equal. If that is a distinction we as a country do not grasp, our problems are much bigger than one man’s words or a viral interview.

Bjorn Soder was attacked for a principle that readers lacked the political will or intellectual integrity to fully understand. Thus was the opportunity to debate him on policy lost in a sea of opportunism and hyperbole.

I agree with Mr. Soder on the principles of peoplehood and the nation-state, yet I disagree with him on much of his politics. We should be capable of holding those two thoughts in our heads simultaneously, shouldn’t we? Just like we should be able to be Jews in Sweden without being Swedish or live in one land while calling another our home.

I have a Swedish address and a Jewish identity. My home is Israel and my passport says Sweden. This should not scare anyone, but instead affirm the values we share as we revel in our differences. The more firmly I stand for me, the closer I can stand by you. Not like you, but for you, as an equal.

It really isn’t that hard.

 

There are 24 comments.

  1. Member

    Once again the apostles of tolerance demonstrate their intolerance of any view divergent from their own. The left wing will always defend your absolute right to agree with them.
    Thanks for posting a thoughtful article challenging the mainstream of thought today. Your arguments are compelling.

    • #1
    • January 4, 2015 at 3:48 pm
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  2. Member

    This actually made headlines? Exactly when did it become taboo to admit that Sweden is an ethnic state? It’s usually held up as the gold standard for successful ethnic states, that all others are measured against.

    • #2
    • January 4, 2015 at 4:00 pm
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  3. Inactive

    My problem is the damned if you do damned if you don’t aspect of all of this. I am all for assimilation and loyalty to your home nation. As long as that nation is free and respects your rights as an individual. My problem is this man is saying you emphatically can’t be Jewish and Swedish. Religious Jews can pay their taxes, vote, participate in national holidays, speak the language, imbibe the majority culture while maintaining Jewish custom and tradition, and yet they can never truly be Swedish this man says. So you can be as intensely patriotic as you want as a Jew and still be seen as the other. You can not be patriotic at all and segregate yourself from traditional Swedish life, and embrace an ultra orthodox Jewish life, and you would still obviously be seen as the other. So no matter what you do you aren’t Swedish. The only thing you can do is completely stop being Jewish. This to me reeks of intolerance and is abject nonsense. This is the same old garbage the Europeans have been spouting for centuries now. The Jews aren’t us because they are cosmopolitan. The Jews aren’t us because they cling to their own. The Jews are intensely patriotic and serve in the military, but they still aren’t us because they are Jews. Meanwhile European states do everything they can to bend over backwards to Muslim tradition which is completely foreign, and in no way has shaped the culture, history, and thinking of Europe in the way Jews have.

    • #3
    • January 4, 2015 at 5:26 pm
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  4. Inactive

    .

    • #4
    • January 4, 2015 at 5:26 pm
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  5. Member

    Annika, a very interesting piece; I’m reminded of the distinction between ‘American Catholics’ and ‘Catholic Americans’ that came to my notice during my freshman year at college during the U. S. Bicentennial in an extra-credit religious studies class. Thanks for this!

    • #5
    • January 4, 2015 at 5:30 pm
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  6. Member

    Assuming one can only belong to one nation at a time, and that nationality and citizenship are not synonymous:

    1. Are all Swedish citizens equal in the eyes of the State? 
    2. Is it unacceptable for the Swedish State to discriminate between Swedish citizens of Swedish nationality and Swedish citizens of Jewish or Sami nationality?

    If yes to both (I’m assuming it is) then what makes Sweden the land of the Swedish nation? What makes the Swedish State particularly Swedish? Is just the fact of demographic majority?

    Is it not possible to belong to more than one nation at a time? Aren’t there people who are

    1. Jewish and also American? 
    2. Muslim and also Indian? 
    3. Hindu and also British? 
    4. Chinese and also Canadian?
    5. Arab and also Australian?

    A lot of people are enriched by multiple identities, and have many loyalties – that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and accepting that is part of reveling in our diversity.

    • #6
    • January 4, 2015 at 5:48 pm
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  7. Inactive

    I imagine this subject just “feels” different to those of us in the USA where “American” is our nationality but not our ethnicity… is there not an option on the table to assimilate while retaining your heritage

    • #7
    • January 4, 2015 at 6:24 pm
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  8. Member

    Well stated.

    TheChuckSteak: My problem is this man is saying you emphatically can’t be Jewish and Swedish. [….] The only thing you can do is completely stop being Jewish. This to me reeks of intolerance and is abject nonsense.

    It seems to be a reminder of America’s uniqueness in the world and in history. Most nations begin with a people. Ours began with ideas.

    Japan is the popular example in our modern world. A Japanese person can become an American by more than law alone after acquiring American citizenship. But could an American emigrant ever be fully accepted as Japanese?

    Israel is a peculiar mix of nationhood by inheritance and nationhood by ideas. But please keep in mind, Annika, what you yourself have said about Jews undermining Jews. Israel can remain a haven for the world’s Jews (if “haven” is the right word for a nation so maligned and plagued by violence) only so long as the majority of its citizens are self-respecting Jews. If demographic changes diminish that Jewish majority and threaten its overt mission as a fortress for Jewish refugees — in other words, if Israelis try to become a nation like any other nation — then Jews will become no safer in their lives or in their culture than they would be under any other government. I fear that Israeli politics is too liberal to long sustain its mission of protection.

    America too can change, for better or for worse. When the era of a Constitutional republic passes here in the US (as all governments surely pass, eventually), American culture will move closer to adopting the norm of nationality by tribal inheritance. A nation of ideals is a rare gift.

    In the meantime, we can all trust in the loyalty of individual friends and neighbors. Though a particular government might not welcome you, there will always be particular citizens under that government who care. Take some encouragement from personal acquaintances. They will always be your staunchest defenders.

    • #8
    • January 4, 2015 at 6:39 pm
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  9. Inactive

    Joseph Eagar:This actually made headlines? Exactly when did it become taboo to admit that Sweden is an ethnic state? It’s usually held up as the gold standard for successful ethnic states, that all others are measured against.

    Europe is a collection of ethnic states, and European leaders are trying to end that as quickly as possible. As crude as this sounds, it’s basically self-hating white guilt, and there’s this insane notion that black, brown, and yellow people can be proud of their ethnicities, but if whites are, it means Hitler is coming back. And so you have the rather ridiculous spectacle of European leaders insisting on importing millions of Africans, Arabs, Pakistanis, etc, to turn places like England, Sweden, Germany, etc, into multi-culti “modern” states. They are quite literally trying to commit a kind of national murder as some kind of sick penance for their “crimes”, as they imagine them to be. Ironically, the only two countries willing to stand up and declare “This nation is for our people and culture” are Israel and… wait for it… Russia. Japan also has such a policy, but won’t say so openly.

    • #9
    • January 4, 2015 at 7:13 pm
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  10. Inactive

    Aaron Miller:Well stated.

    TheChuckSteak: My problem is this man is saying you emphatically can’t be Jewish and Swedish. [….] The only thing you can do is completely stop being Jewish. This to me reeks of intolerance and is abject nonsense.

    It seems to be a reminder of America’s uniqueness in the world and in history. Most nations begin with a people. Ours began with ideas.

    Japan is the popular example in our modern world. A Japanese person can become an American by more than law alone after acquiring American citizenship. But could an American emigrant ever be fully accepted as Japanese?

    Israel is a peculiar mix of nationhood by inheritance and nationhood by ideas. But please keep in mind, Annika, what you yourself have said about Jews undermining Jews. Israel can remain a haven for the world’s Jews (if “haven” is the right word for a nation so maligned and plagued by violence) only so long as the majority of its citizens are self-respecting Jews. If demographic changes diminish that Jewish majority and threaten its overt mission as a fortress for Jewish refugees — in other words, if Israelis try to become a nation like any other nation — then Jews will become no safer in their lives or in their culture than they would be under any other government. I fear that Israeli politics is too liberal to long sustain its mission of protection.

    America too can change, for better or for worse. When the era of a Constitutional republic passes here in the US (as all governments surely pass, eventually), American culture will move closer to adopting the norm of nationality by tribal inheritance. A nation of ideals is a rare gift.

    In the meantime, we can all trust in the loyalty of individual friends and neighbors. Though a particular government might not welcome you, there will always be particular citizens under that government who care. Take some encouragement from personal acquaintances. They will always be your staunchest defenders.

    You are right on every single point. I had a professor of history in college who was from Japan. He immigrated to the US in the 1950s. And he said the US is unique. He made the point of what is the difference between a US citizen and a US non-citizen living here legally? The difference is a citizen can vote and serve on a jury. That is it. He said go to Japan. They will remind you all the time that you are not Japanese. He said that he didn’t get it when he came here why Americans were treating him like an American Japanese. He said that he was the intolerant one. He would tell Americans that he wasn’t American Japanese. He would consistently make the point that he was not like them. He didn’t even consider them real Japanese. And he realized that Americans really don’t give a damn where you are from.

    John Locke made this point. That America is a fresh start. The whole world is divided on tribal, religious, ethnic, and cultural lines. Animosities and fighting that goes back more than millennia in some cases. That here in America none of that garbage reigns. We are e pluribus unum. We are one people, culture, and nation and none of these ancient hatreds should divide us. We are a fresh start. That is why it is beyond vile when the left tries to slice up the entire country into male vs female, white vs black, immigrant vs native, white old man vs young ethnic woman, gay vs straight, atheist vs religious and on and on and on. The left is systematically introducing into our country hatreds and animosities that are derived from mostly bogus and Marxist narratives about sex, race, class, and nationality. Europe is so sick because they have never gotten past their hatreds like so many other parts of the world. Very much like Africa as well which is war torn and divided beyond belief by all of this stuff. America is a shining example of how different we are to most other regions of the earth.

    • #10
    • January 4, 2015 at 7:47 pm
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  11. Member

    TheChuckSteak: John Locke made this point. That America is a fresh start. The whole world is divided on tribal, religious, ethnic, and cultural lines. Animosities and fighting that goes back more than millennia in some cases. That here in America none of that garbage reigns. We are e pluribus unum. We are one people, culture, and nation and none of these ancient hatreds should divide us. We are a fresh start. That is why it is beyond vile when the left tries to slice up the entire country into male vs female, white vs black, immigrant vs native, white old man vs young ethnic woman, gay vs straight, atheist vs religious and on and on and on. The left is systematically introducing into our country hatreds and animosities that are derived from mostly bogus and Marxist narratives about sex, race, class, and nationality. Europe is so sick because they have never gotten past their hatreds like so many other parts of the world. Very much like Africa as well which is war torn and divided beyond belief by all of this stuff. America is a shining example of how different we are to most other regions of the earth.

    Very inspiring and clear writing.

    • #11
    • January 4, 2015 at 9:31 pm
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  12. Member

    Annika Hernroth-Rothstein: So what Mr. Soder is saying in this statement and throughout the interview is that he does not believe that one can be both a Jew and a part of the Swedish nation, but one can be a citizen and enjoy all the benefits and responsibilities of any other citizen. That distinction — and an important distinction it is — seems to have been lost on the frantic readers.

    I’d have to agree with the people who are outraged and frightened by this notion that a person can’t be both “a Jew and a part of the Swedish nation.” If Sweden were giving DNA tests to everyone to establish who is truly Swedish and who is isn’t, and then making these statements about all those who don’t pass the DNA tests, then at least the government wouldn’t be singling out Jews. But I’m not reading it that way, and it does sound awfully close to the racist language of the past. The government, no government, has any business speculating on who meets the biological citizen requirements. That’s just insane and dangerous.

    Unless he’s talking about dual citizenship. But it doesn’t sound like it. Does Sweden allow dual citizenship? The United States does allow for it with some countries such as England.

    • #12
    • January 4, 2015 at 9:39 pm
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  13. Coolidge
    ST

    Any word (from your politicians) on the invading mohammedan army disguised as immigrants?

    http://www.jihadwatch.org/2014/10/sweden-police-point-out-55-muslim-dominated-areas-where-criminals-have-taken-control-of-the-area

    • #13
    • January 4, 2015 at 10:05 pm
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  14. Member

    Simon Templar:Any word (from your politicians) on the invading mohammedan army disguised as immigrants?

    Well the Sweden Democrats, of whom the guy Annika quoted is a member, are pretty anti-immigrant, and their supporters are apparently anti-Muslim. The SDs had an unsavoury beginning, which they say they’ve reformed from. But if you argue that it’s okay to decide one group is too different to deal with its individuals as individuals, it’s evidently a slippery slope. Or perhaps the instinct is to deal with all groups as essentialised groups rather than with individuals as individuals.

    • #14
    • January 5, 2015 at 2:07 am
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  15. Member

    And here we see the great curse of the “Ethnic State”. One can be a citizen of an ethnic state but only those of the ethnicity can ever truly belong. And there in lies the problem for the Jews. If to be Jewish is to be an ethnicity they can never really belong in another Ethnic nation other than their own. The one exception being non-Ethnic states like America, Canada, and Australia.

    • #15
    • January 5, 2015 at 7:59 am
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  16. Thatcher

    Sweden, though, is not purely an ethnic state. The northern parts of Sweden, Norway, Finland and NW Russia are populated by Sami, whom we refer to in English as “Lapps”. Lappland is a geographic, ethnic, and cultural reality, thought not a state.

    • #16
    • January 5, 2015 at 10:08 am
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  17. Member

    Robert Dammers:Sweden, though, is not purely an ethnic state. The northern parts of Sweden, Norway, Finland and NW Russia are populated by Sami, whom we refer to in English as “Lapps”. Lappland is a geographic, ethnic, and cultural reality, thought not a state.

    Many Ethnic states have enclaves or regions where other ethnicities are in the majority. What defines an ethnic state is not its territory, but rather its view of itself. Apartheid South Africa was an ethnic state of white Afrikaners. It ruled over a much larger ethnicity that shared the land. The problem with the Ethnic state mentality is that it creates an insolvable fault line in states with large ethnic minorities. As long a Sweeden is home of the Sweeds the Sami people, Jews, Gypsies, or any other ethnic enclave must accept never totally belonging so long as they maintain any ethnic distinctiveness. The way to solve this is complete ethnic integration or the establishment of a non-ethnic state.

    • #17
    • January 5, 2015 at 11:55 am
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  18. Inactive

    I agree, of course, with what Annika says, knowing full well that the argument falls apart when you talk about the allegiance of elected office. And I don’t mean mayor.

    Can you says what Annika says and then run for Prime Minister? Disraeli knew you could not and he made his choice. Bruno Kreisky made a different choice by not renouncing his Judaism but by doing everything he could to undermine Jewish causes.

    You cannot compare these and others (Trotsky, Leon Blum,…) with Americans, because the nationality of America is somehow different – but that was not always the case and there may again be a time when it is not.

    • #18
    • January 5, 2015 at 12:30 pm
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  19. Member

    I think I can help you resolve your identity crisis. Not to worry if you are a Swedish -swede, a Jewish – Jew, a Swedish Israeli, an assimilated diversity second class citizen or what.

     You took far too seriously what some two- bit Swedish politician said and mangled it into a lengthy,convoluted personal history.

    In trying to make sense of your post I found myself lost in the middle of an Ingmar Bergman movie. Confused, struggling with dialogue and imagry. You are a bona fide Swede allright. A perfect scandanavian amalgam. They are more than neurotic enough without any of your Jewish mishegos in the mix.

    • #19
    • January 5, 2015 at 1:02 pm
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  20. Thatcher

    Annika,

    This is not a puff-piece for Bjorn Soder, nor is it an excuse for the ban on both circumcision and the import of kosher meat proposed by the party he represents. 

    I’m afraid as much as I share your philosophical perspective in general, I don’t think you can just ignore this. Kosher meat and circumcision in no way threaten Swedish society or put the slightest burden on the social welfare system. That this political party would make these purely harmless religious practices illegal is pure antisemitism.

    Interestingly enough, here in America such ban ideas come almost exclusively from the left. What everyone always forgets is that Nazi stands for National Socialist Party. The idea that Nazis were right wing and Communists are left is part of the absurd mythology of the 20th century. They were just different variants of the same socialist collectivist obsession. As a Jew the major difference was between those who wanted to kill you right away and those who were willing to wait for a while and then kill you.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #20
    • January 5, 2015 at 1:18 pm
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  21. Member

    Valiuth:And here we see the great curse of the “Ethnic State”. One can be a citizen of an ethnic state but only those of the ethnicity can ever truly belong. And there in lies the problem for the Jews.

    Actually there lies the problem of the “Ethnic State” – because apart from Iceland I cannot think of a single truly homogeneous country.

    The “Ethnic State” is a nice theory, but it doesn’t fit the world we live in – and perhaps it never has.

    • #21
    • January 5, 2015 at 5:24 pm
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  22. Member

    Zafar:

    Valiuth:And here we see the great curse of the “Ethnic State”. One can be a citizen of an ethnic state but only those of the ethnicity can ever truly belong. And there in lies the problem for the Jews.

    Actually there lies the problem of the “Ethnic State” – because apart from Iceland I cannot think of a single truly homogeneous country.

    The “Ethnic State” is a nice theory, but it doesn’t fit the world we live in – and perhaps it never has.

    Japan is fairly homogeneous too from what I understand…but yes, we are in complete agreement. You never have perfectly homogeneous ethnic states. Invariably ethnic borders over lap, and some ethnicity come do dominate regions even where they are not a majority. Which is where we get all the ethnic strife from, that is to say ethnic strife arises from people wishing to implement their Ethnic State in the real world. This leads to the necessity of removing ethnic minorities one way or another, rarely if ever is this peaceful or consensual.

    • #22
    • January 5, 2015 at 9:23 pm
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  23. Member

    Thank you for this article, Annika. It’s good to know what’s going on elsewhere.

    You write: “You see, I am not Swedish. I’m Jewish. I am a part of the Jewish people who happens to be a citizen of Sweden. I pay my taxes and I follow the laws, but that does not make me Swedish.”

    But it is my impression that there are many American Jews who consider themselves fully American while at the same time they are Jewish and part of the Jewish people; not “just” U.S. citizens, but fully American.

    But maybe that’s one of the differences between the U.S. and Sweden.

    • #23
    • January 6, 2015 at 6:55 am
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  24. Member

    La Tapada:But it is my impression that there are many American Jews who consider themselves fully American while at the same time they are Jewish and part of the Jewish people; not “just” U.S. citizens, but fully American.

    But maybe that’s one of the differences between the U.S. and Sweden.

    I think it’s a minority view in Sweden.

    [Edit: where it’s also a political issue that doesn’t exactly reflect broad social trends. Which is fascinating.]

    Many countries start off with a Blut und Boden view of nationhood, but as they develop they move towards the view of a nation of citizens.

    The US is unusual in that it started off like that, but it’s a view that has been found to be sound in more and more places – not just Australia and Canada, but in most of Western Europe and (aspirationally at least) in places like India.

    Most countries with a tribal ethnic or religious view of their nation-state are those (eg most of the Arab world, Pakistan, Thailand, Burma, China, a lot of Africa, Central Asia, Russia) which treat citizens who are not members of the tribe badly. It’s a logical, and perhaps inevitable, expression of that understanding of nationhood.

    • #24
    • January 6, 2015 at 4:36 pm
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