Monday, July 4

Patriotism vs. Nationalism

In the spirit of the day, A and I had a long discussion regarding the meanings of the words "patriotism" and "nationalism" and how they differ.

The conclusion we arrived at surprised me. I thought I had a solid distinction in my mind regarding the two terms. Until A started asking me to define them. I deliberately did not go grab a dictionary because I felt it was important to explore what I thought rather than what's in some book. I found myself suddenly at a loss. All I could do is describe it by using metaphors. Knowing that using a metaphor for a definition is inherently flawed, I started to wonder if I was unconsciously relying on my own biases rather than an objective definition. Several very interesting hours later, I think we came to a mutual conclusion.

The conclusion: "nationalism" and "patriotism" are in fact the same thing. The only difference between the terms is whether the observer agrees or disagrees with the action. I argue that if the observer agrees it's "patriotism"; whereas if the observer disagrees it's "nationalism". One person's nationalism is another's patriotism. "Patriotism" is a politically useful term with positive connotations to be hung on actions that, if performed by someone else in another country, would be labeled as "nationalism" with its inherent negative connotations.

Is it patriotic or nationalistic to slap a flag sticker on the back of one's car? Is it patriotic or nationalistic to slap another sticker below it saying "Love it or leave!" or "You're with us or against us"? Is Lee Greenwood's often-played song "I'm Proud To Be An American" patriotic or nationalistic? It all depends on who you ask.

1 comment:

  1. That Lee Greenwood song is such a load of schlock.

    I personally don't see what's so admirable about blind faith towards one's country. Why do people think it's ok to value the life of an American over the life of any other person in the world?