Former President Bill Clinton said Thursday that the nationalism movement that has engulfed politics in America as well as other countries around the world is part of a more insidious and interconnected movement to institutionalize separatism and division around the world.
Politico reports that Clinton was giving a keynote speech at an event hosted by the Brookings Institution honoring the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin when he made the comments. It was his first major public appearance since his wife, Hillary Clinton, lost the presidential election.
“People who claim to want the nation-state are actually trying to have a pan-national movement to institutionalize separatism and division within borders all over the world,” Clinton said. “It’s like we’re all having an identity crisis at once—and it is an inevitable consequence of the economic and social changes that have occurred at an increasingly rapid pace.”
Politico notes that while Clinton did not specifically mention President Donald Trump, he repeatedly warned against the “us versus them” thinking that he said has become an active part of politics in America, in the Brexit vote, in the Philippines and throughout Europe.
“The whole history of humankind is basically the definition of who is us and who is them, and the question of whether we should all live under the same set of rules,” Clinton said.
Clinton repeatedly held up his old friend Rabin, who was assassinated in 1995, as the standard that contemporary politics is falling short of. Rabin was a man changed over his life, Clinton said, displayed courage and was so reliable that then-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was so “in awe of him” that he was ready to make agreements based on trust.
Rabin “was smart, he was careful, he understood the insecurities which roil through every society at every time—and instead of being paralyzed by them or trying to take advantage of them, he tried to take account and bring them along,” Clinton said.
Clinton said, “We have to find a way to bring simple, personal decency and trust back to our politics.”
Clinton said that the day of Rabin’s 1995 assassination was his worst day in the White House, adding, “I remain convinced that had he lived, we would have achieved a comprehensive agreement with the Palestinians by 1998 and we’d be living in a different world today.”
He said that though “we are programmed biologically, instinctively, to prefer win-lose situations, us versus them,” world leaders should look to Rabin as a model rather than continuing down the current path of politics.
“This is a very old story. It’s as old as the Holy Land, and much older. Ever since the first people stood up on the East African savanna, ever since the first families and clans,” Clinton said, “ever since people encountered the other. It is a very old story. And it always comes down to two things: Are we going to live in an us-and-them world, or a world that we live in together?”
Clinton said that Rabin’s approach to finding ways to work and live together is what is needed in today’s world.
“If you got that,” Clinton said, “in every age and time, the challenges we face can be resolved in a way to keep us going forward, instead of taking us to the edge of our destruction.”
Read more at Politico.