The Destructive Side Of Patriotism
Patriotism: the love and devotion to one’s country, the support and defense of one’s country. In other words, national loyalty. This sentiment is closely related to Nationalism, where a group of individuals strongly identify themselves with a nation based on political ideology, common cultural characteristics or even common religion and race.
But where do we draw the line between patriotism and nationalism?
A clear line cannot be drawn. There is a positive and destructive side to both patriotism and nationalism. Pride in the national language, attachment to the native soil, pride in the culture and history of the nation, are some of the positive aspects of nationalism. The destructive force kicks in, when one nation tries to dominate other nations and refuses any form of criticism or elucidation.
Patriotism becomes a problem when it is blind to the mistakes of the nation and gives unconditional support to the government. Blind patriotism is fanatical. It is also called Chauvinism and can even lead to Fascism. As Mark Twain correctly put it: …the true patriotism, the only rational patriotism, is loyalty to the nation all the time, loyalty to the Government when it deserves it.
Blind patriotism is fostered by national superiority.
How can a person genuinely respect another person’s beliefs if you feel inherently better than they are just because of an accident of birth? It’s one thing to take pride in who you are and what you believe in. It’s another thing to think that yours is the only way.
The function and the origins of patriotism in USA is explained as “In big countries such as The United States, Patriotism has to be learned over time and to be intentionally fostered in order to solidify it as a required characteristic for a “membership” in the group,” in the book titled Contesting Patriotism: Culture, Power, and Strategy in the Peace Movement. The reason is, in a “group” of this scale, it is almost impossible for the members, the citizens of a country, to have the full and direct experience of the group’s membership without the help of national political leaders.
Certain political factions insist that the right to life, less taxes, or owning firearms, are beliefs that are patriotic. What once was called torture is now called enhanced interrogation and supposedly saved American lives, thus a patriotic duty. This is how Patriotism gets framed and labeled in politics. The problem starts when the patriotism turns into dogma, using political messaging tactics such as flag waving and appeals to prejudice.
It is this intentional fostering of patriotism that can often lead to blind loyalty to a nation and finally to intolerance of criticism or dissent and therefore causing destructive patriotism.
After the 9/11 attacks, uncritical patriotism was followed by political repression at home and by military intervention abroad, hereby becoming the American way of life. No example could better show that criticizing international policies and national policies, especially during a time of crisis, is the highest form of patriotism yet.
Photo Credit: Associated Press