Opinion: Between motherland and fatherland? the fight to resignify nationalism in Spain amidst COVID-19

Coronavirus has brought plenty of issues to think about globally: around climate change, the end of capitalism, or the need for deglobalization. But it has also helped a variety of narratives to reemerge. Among these, war-like metaphors and pro-national patriotic narratives are being echoed everywhere in institutional speeches, mass media outlets, voiced by local police or even by citizens clapping for their warriors: the health care workers.

The presented ad infinitum war narrative presents the virus as the ultimate enemy, and our health workers, now at the frontline, police, and military among other ones as heroes -not very often as heroines- fighting the enemy. Calls for total war to defeat the enemy or wartime economic measures have become the frame where the pandemic moves, at least in Spain.

But the central piece of the puzzle is the question of how this war is shaping every political discourse either on the right or on the left, and from what we are witnessing these days, they all fall into the Nation, the patriotic, the national sentiment. thus, the second fight amidst COVID-19 is to re-signify the nation. What does it mean to be Spanish amidst this pandemic? What is the body of the nation in these times?

The fight to take over the national discourse is not new to Spanish politics, it has been especially relevant and renewed for the past years in relation to both the so-called Catalan issue and the emergence of the far-right party Vox, but also as a counter-discourse from parties from the left such as Podemos to redefine nationalism; to redefine what being Spanish means. Notwithstanding, this pandemic has seen a qualitative increase in calls for patriotism and national sentiment, which are, as usual, marked by gender.

There has not been a PM speech since the beginning of the state of alarm that has not included the words compatriot and nation, or that has not called for unity and peace among all the Spanish peoples. The real Spanish for the Socialist government are those who in solidarity are bravely waging this fight, always men and women, and the nation has transformed into the precious motherland around a narrative of affection and care, essential pillars of the nation that needs to be protected.

  On the other side of nationalism, the male-embodied -strong firm fearless- fatherland emerges. Being Spanish turns into being the strong man- in line with other leaders such as Trump, Bolsonaro or Johnson-; to call for a true patriotism involves attacking the “illegitimate government” and fighting the “Chinese virus” in exclusive terms while promoting an identitarian nationalism. In doing so, there is a need to make the “social-communist” government resign, pictured as the enemy of Spain and as harm to the nation. Needless to say, they never mention women in their speeches.

Either Motherland of Fatherland, the Right has successfully resurrected the national discourse, and everyone must play in those terms.

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