The Burning Man org came up with some fluffy explanation for why it's such a grand idea, and I think there's no way to spin it. It's a mistake, the worst mistake they've ever made.
Anyway, I sent an outraged email to email@example.com, which I'm sure will have no effect beyond making me feel briefly self-satisfied. If the theme offends you, feel free to email them too. If you don't care about Burning Man or have something snarky to tell me about the event, I'm not interested. I'm pro-Burning Man, but anti-Nationalism.
Subject: 2008: Nationalism Man
Date: September 3, 2007 9:33:30 PM PDT
It's going to be Nationalism Man. It's going to be a year of flag waving vs. snarky Adbusters wannabes. It's going to be people arguing all week about whether America sucks or rules, as if we're all trapped in the meatspace version of an internet message board flame war.
It's going to alienate international burners who aren't even from here and have no need to consider their lives in the context of "America". It's going to upset American burners who are freaked out about our standing in the world. It's going to annoy people who don't want to be campaigned at. It's going to bring fights, more arsons, and bad vibes. It's going to look like a Nationalist rally in the desert, with flags and confederate flags and protests and counter protests. It's going to bring "the default world" into the event where it doesn't belong.
I'm saying this as a defender of Burning Man, as someone who always believes the org has their heart in the right place, and always wants to do what's best. I read the blurb and I get what the org is going for, but you picked the most loaded phrase possible. You could have named it anything else - "Unity" or "Nations of the World" or "Ideals". Instead you brought all other nations under the umbrella of America, showing the world that even the counter-culture has their own version of American dominance and manifest destiny. It's as offensive as saying the UN is America too, as if we're extending our collective middle finger to the world in a grand display of arrogance.
This is the first theme that truly divides people. While there have been themes in the past that people disagree with or can't get on board with or believe reflects some hidden conspiratorial agenda, this is the first theme that is so loaded that it can't help but divide people. And shouldn't the theme be about uniting people behind a common purpose? Or at least giving them room to ignore the theme or build upon it in some unique way?
I'm sure you will disregard this, feeling proud that you've pushed some buttons, but I implore you to rethink the theme, and replace it with something else.