Patriotism

In this day and age, it is hard to look on the term “Patriotism” with anything but distaste.

While many would claim that it carries a certain air of community that is naturally appealing, the blindly nationalistic aspects of the word have come to effectively obscure this small beauty.

Certainly, loving your fellow humans is an admirable trait, but patriotism, by definition, makes a distinction between humanity as a whole and the isolated block of humanity to which the patriot belongs.

Though it is generally marketed as a unifying force, in practice, patriotism tends to be extremely divisive, both internally and externally.

Despite what its proponents say patriotism does not always mean unconditional love for all people residing within your country. More often than not, the most staunch patriots equate patriotism with unfaltering support for the current regime. Those who disagree with the current government — however noble or moral their objections may be — are labelled unpatriotic.

So, by one of the widespread uses of the term, someone who cares enough about their fellow citizens to rebel or speak out against the government that oppresses them is not a patriot. The patriot, on the other hand, is the citizen too blind or lazy to recognize its country’s faults, much less do anything about them.

In fact, in the western world, most things dubbed patriotic are actually, on examination, quite the opposite. The Patriot Act, for example, actually takes fundamental rights away from the very citizens it purports to protect.

But even if we ignore this internal strife, patriotism still implies yet another line of division, this one between one country and the rest of the world.

Patriotism has the potential to be a term that denotes pride and unity amongst a large group of people, and there is nothing wrong with pride and unity in and of themselves. It is when they cease to be focused inwardly (as with pride and unity in one’s community) and begin to be focused outwardly (as with disdain for another community and the desire to exclude them) that they become so problematic.

Thus, what started off as humble pride on one’s own community quickly becomes a disparaging or even violent attitude to those in other communities.

The very fact that a country would use the supposedly positive term “patriot” to refer to a missile is perfectly illustrative of this issue.

Despite the aforementioned problems of patriotism, it is the pleasant and arguably positive aspects of it that are perhaps the most dangerous. This is because these warm, fuzzy bits of patriotism are perfectly suited for manipulating people simply by virtue of how compelling they are.

It is this vision of heroic, proud patriotism that is used to coax good-natured citizens into serving in the military without even examining the morality of the military’s actions. Patriotic imagery is used to blind the citizenry into supporting immoral action.

The good aspects of what we call “patriotism” should be reclaimed under their original names: Community, respect, love, etc., and the value of patriotism should be reevaluated.

If you erase the arbitrary boundaries that segregate different groups of people, the people still remain. Patriotism, then, is a fondness for barriers that separate us. Is that something to celebrate?

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