What is patriotism?

I had to think for a while whether to put this in general questions or great debates, but almost all the questions I ask end up being debated. Alas, the question is here.

I want to know what exactly patriotism is. I know what the dictionary says, and I know how most people in the States perceive patriotism, but I don’t get it.

Before I start, some people are going to perceive this as anti-American, but I come from the states. This is not anti-american so much as it’s pro-everyone.

That’s essentially the point, I don’t understand patriotism because, though it may be uniting force, it is also a dividing force. A patriotism binds people from one country more or less against everyone else in the world.

When I hear “God Bless America,” I feel like it’s a big middle finger to the rest of the world.

Furthermore, when asked, most patriotic Americans site history, economic power, and general awesomeness as their reasons for being patriotic. Yet, to me that seems like taking credit for things that one took no part in (especially history).

Less and less, do I understand patriotism, and why people so many people around the world can accept it or call themselves patriots…

I’d love to hear some other thoughts on the subject…

Have a good one.

First off, there is a reason the US uses the word patriotism, but not nationalism. There is a deep, deep difference. American identity has nothing to do with ethnicity or race.

Nor is it a negative identity, like Canada’s. This is not intended as a slight to Canada, but Canadians tend to define themselves as being not America. If asked, they may well describe all about how Canada is distinct - but always implicitly how it is distinct from the US.

The US has a positive identity, and one not neccesarily defined by history. It is true,. as always, that history records how we got here. But that history isn’t important in defining us. Each generation defines itself anew, takking new strains of thought and character from new immigrants. Yesterday, the Irish changed America. Today, we eat sushi and watch anime. To-morrow we might learn things from India. Built into the American identity is not a servitude to history, but the promise of tommorow, of reinvention, innovation, growth. The identity of America is not historically-based. It IS the Constiution, our ability to learn without surrendering our identity, our faith in our ability to overcome adversity.

What I’m saying here is that America is not at all a national identity in the classic sense. It is fundamentally different than being English, or Indian, or Japanese. America is a super-identity. It rises above others, envelopes them, makes them its own.

Then you don’t get it. (No offense intended) What’s getting you upset is that people are different and identify with different things. You are, in short, upset that everyone is not identical, and that some people believe that their differences are for the better.

Nationalism is divisive. And no doubt there are some Americans who are naitonalistic. But the core of America is its inclusiveness. Even at the very height of opposittion to immigration, it was not banned. The most nationalistic periods in American history did not damage or hinder that core patriotism.

As mentioned, this is not really true. History is probably less important for Americans than almost any other nation, because we are so very unconcerned about it. By rights, America ought to have blood feuds with Germany, Japan, England, and maybe Russia. Yet we don’t. We know we had wars against them, but it doesn’t matter.

Indeed, the American idenity is independant of private history as well. My ancestors, quite recently, were Czech, Irish, English, whatever. But I am not. We have family friends who were English. But they are now Americans with English accents. That’s not something most other nations understand.

In America, a person who immgrates is an American who happens to have been from somewhere else. In pretty much every other place on earth, that isn’t the case. They are always the foreigner. A Turk who lives in Germany his whole life (birth to death) is not a German (and I do not mean this as an indictment of Germany or Germans, and use them as an example of something very common, not unusual).

In short, nearly all national identities are given or assigned. American identity is something else: it is something chosen, something one becomes, but not something one merely is.

Patriotism is nothing more than the love of your country. It can be a love based on irrational reasons, and it can be a blind, unconditional love, but it’d still be patriotism.

Of course, the converse of this is that if you have a love of your country but aren’t afraid to root that love in well-argued reasons, and aren’t afraid to point out the flaws that need correcting, then that’s patriotism too – despite the efforts of the unquestioning, blind-love, my-country-right-or-wrong patriots who’d insist otherwise.

If people worldwide are shunning away from using the word “patriotism,” it’s probably because of the blindly zealous efforts of the unquestioning patriots who’ve turned the concept into an embarrassment for the rest of us.

A form of modern tribalism. The idea that your tribe is distinct and superior is a universal sociological attribute of humans.

And to add to that…

Loving one’s country doesn’t necessarily mean hating everyone else’s countries, anymore than loving your family means hating other people’s families.

And you can’t make someone love you, whether the “you” is an individual or a country. You can make people obey the laws and conduct themselves in a peaceful manner, but patriotism can’t be coerced.

I suppose you could substitute “family” for “country” and this statement would be just as true. There’s really nothing special about those people who happen to be your close genetic relatives, or the guy or gal you happened to meet and “fall in love with”.

Yeah, true. People form identities along certain lines of race, sex, philosophy, nationality, genetics, etc. I suppose someone who thinks their religion or personal philosophy is superior is no different than a patriot who feels their country is superior.

Another point: Patriotism is typically expressed in terms of a parent-child relationship; patriotism of course comes from the Latin patria, “fatherland”, and other nationalities speak of the Fatherland or the Motherland. But I would say in a democratic republic in some sense the parent-child relationship is reversed; maybe we should speak of the Daughterland, and speak of “filiatism”. Patriotic citizens of a democratic republic have a duty to make their countries better, just as loving parents try to raise their children up to be good and happy people.

This is just as easy to reframe in a reactionary way, though. “Patriotic citizens have a duty to protect and defend the status quo, as loving parents try to raise their children to conform for their own good.”

“By ‘patriotism’ I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular
way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no
wish to force on other people
. Patriotism is of its nature defensive,
both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is
inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every
nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, NOT for himself
but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own

–George Orwell, “Notes on Nationalism”. Emphasis added, because I think that point is important: A patriot believes his country is the best in the world, while respecting and appreciating the right of people from other countries to think the same of their countries. A nationalist thinks everyone should want to be just like us (whoever “us” is). A patriot also understands the difference between criticizing some aspect of, for example, American life or politics, and being “anti-American”. A nationalist doesn’t. Orwell’s essay is online at several places; read the whole thing.

That’s silly. Patriotism is simply love of, and loyalty to, ones own country. Why is that any more of a middle finger to the rest of the world than, say, love and loyalty toward your significant other is a middle finger to all the insignificant others out there?

I’m with Thudlow Boink (great name, BTW).

The sources of patriotism vary with each individual, of course. For me, it’s a love of, and loyalty to, a country with a wise and time-tested Constitution which has (with some setbacks, to be sure) ensured freedom for all its citizens. A country which played a key role in winning two world wars, which ensured freedom for millions more. A country which has (largely) welcomed immigrants and provided opportunities they could find nowhere else. A country based upon the rule of law, however often we fall short of that ideal. A country which has long been a leader in science, technology, medicine, and exploration. A country whose history encompasses such gifted and inspiring people as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Susan B. Anthony, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, Thomas Edison, Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, Neil Armstrong and Jim Lovell, not to mention Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, and so many more. And, when all is said and done, I love my country for having given my family and me a chance to grow, learn and live in peace.

I love my country and genuinely believe it is, for all its many faults, the best in all of human history, but I don’t think any the worse of those in other countries who believe otherwise. I don’t hate or disrespect them because they’re not Americans; far from it.

Because that’s the nature of love; it’s fundamentally uncaring towards outsiders. That’s why “All men are brothers” and similar slogans are common among those who promote tolerance/cooperation; they are trying to expand those emotional bounds outwards.

Bull. Patriotism isn’t uncaring toward outsiders - it merely makes distinctions between them and us. It is the use put to those distinctions that are sometimes hateful and hurtful.

And for those who care to read malice into the lines of anthems, I think strong sentiment is to be found in a great many of them. As a representative example, here is an English translation of the Italian national anthem:

Now, is this to be considered a big Italian finger to the world?

Patriotism, isn’t about a place on the map. It isn’t about being loyal to a flag or a country’s name. It is a sense of place and belonging. It is family, friends, the old neighborhood. It is believing that your country can be great, noble, and simply the best there is. It is the feeling of pride you feel when your country lives up to what it should be, and a sense of loss when it doesn’t. It doesn’t come from outside yourself. It can’t be ordered or demanded. It isn’t flags, barbecues and fireworks (although they are great fun).