What we should reflect on Finland’s Independence Day

Posted on December 6, 2011

By Enrique Tessieri
Since I grew up in three countries, I have the opportunity to celebrate three independence days every year. Today is Finland’s turn. What should we be reflecting on this day? Should it be nationalism, patriotism or neither?
Some make a big distinction between nationalism and patriotism. While I consider them basically the same thing, the former is used to stress how much better better one group is compared with another. Patriotism is generally supposed to mean a sense of community.
While the term patriotism has a nationalistic connotation to it, that feeling of community it is supposed to bring out in us is crucial to any well-functioning society. We all belong and work for the betterment of all the members and parts of our society.
A key component of these celebrations, in my opinion, should be the opportunity to embrace our diversity and be inclusive to new members so they may enjoy that sense of community.
We should be a model of a small world community where all peoples from all backgrounds can live together and reap strength and meaning.
Too many independence day celebrations in different countries are just the opposite. They are too nationalistic and do nothing to mend the injustices brought on other groups when these nations were built.
If Karl Marx was the founding ideological father of the former Soviet Union, relatively unknown social thinkers to many like Baron de Montesquieu had a huge impact on the then nascent republic of the United States.
As most people know, The Declaration of Independence of the United States took place on July 4, 1776. A revolution usually gives birth to great men and ideas like that of Thomas Jefferson.
He wrote that if any government didn’t offer its citizens unalienable rights such as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, it is the right of the people to either alter or abolish such government, even by force.
We must not forget, however, that the those unalienable rights that Jefferson spoke of were meant for white Europeans not for groups like Amerindians never mind blacks, who were slaves at the time.
Argentina’s declaration of independence from Spain happened on July 9, 1816. The country, which had at the beginning of the nineteenth century a population totaling a mere 400,000 people excluding Amerindians, which may have accounted for about a third of the total population, was enormous and practically empty.
Juan Bautista Alberd, one of Argentina’s most influential statesmen of the nineteenth century, coined the phrase: “To govern is to populate.”  His thinking inspired the 1853 constitution, which was one of the most immigrant friendly in the world at the time.
While immigration changed the face of Argentina, it was a death blow to the Amerindians and the country’s black population.
Just as Jefferson forgot the black slaves’ unalienable rights, Alberdi held Amerindians in similar contempt and did not see them forming part in Argentina’s future.
Contrary to the United States and Argentina, Finland’s independence happened such a short time ago (94 years) that my grandparents saw that day. If Finland didn’t have blacks or Amerindians, it had socialists and communists that had no place in our society especially after the 1918 Civil War.
In all three of these countries, persecution and exclusion of groups were factors that helped create these nations.  With this in mind, shouldn’t this important day be a moment when we reflect on the greatness of our society measured in correcting historical injustices, reconciliation as well as promoting social equality, justice and inclusion?
On that this day we should make a vow that we’ll never commit such atrocities as war on others ever again.
If this is what we are celebrating today, I wish from the bottom of my heart to everyone a very wonderful Independence Day!