Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Consider This - Nationalism versus Patriotism

Consider This - Patriotism and Nationalism

It has been two weeks since the mid-term elections, and the country is still going through recounts and validations for some very close races. Even this far removed from that day, and the rallies prior to the polling, the nation remains divided - and once again it is all about what Trump proclaimed and continues to espouse even after November 6th.

"Make America Great Again" .. "America First" .. Nationalism versus Patriotism.

On the surface, when someone says they are a Nationalist, others may not think much of that - instead believing that being patriotic to one's country means putting that nation first. Much like rooting for their favorite sporting team over all the others in that league. Even as bad as the Eagles have played this year, Philadelphia fans will still recall fondly how well their team did last year, beating New England and bringing home the first ever Super Bowl Championship for the city. That is a centric-styled viewpoint, concentrating on the home team, the favorites, over anyone else. Sure, the players for New Orleans are nice guys and all, but Our Eagles are the best.

This is similar to how most people view "Nationalism" when they hear the term.

A Patriot is someone who likes their country best, has pride in the nation, but understands the larger concept of global relations and society, and how England, or Germany, or even Russia, isn't that bad a place either. They need help? Sure, we can help out some. Going back to the sports analogy, one views their team best, but doesn't see anything really wrong with another team. The Seahawks are great, too, even though I prefer the Eagles. Sure, Dallas isn't my favorite, but I'd still cheer for them over the Redskins.. or vice versa.

Consider this...

First, we need to look at the accepted definitions of these two words - Nationalism and Patriotism. From the Miriam-Webster website:

NATIONALISM: (origin dates back to late 1700s)
1. loyalty and devotion to a nation
especially : a sense of national consciousness (see CONSCIOUSNESS sense 1c) exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups
Intense nationalism was one of the causes of the war.
2. a nationalist movement or government
opposing nationalisms

PATRIOTISM: (origin dates back to the 1600s)
1. love for or devotion to one's country

Again, on the surface, these look similar enough that at a glance, they should be interchangeable in usage. After all, the original use of Nationalism in the writings at the time of the American Revolution were synonymous with Patriotism. However, as time has passed, there is an underlying difference of a grand magnitude which needs to be defined further as it relates to Nationalism versus Patriotism.

Posed to the internet on the Quora website was the question, "What is the difference, if any, between Nationalism and Patriotism?" A portion of the answer highlights these two concepts:

The late American journalist Sidney J Harris defines the difference rather well:

“The difference between patriotism and nationalism is that the patriot is proud of his country for what it does, and the nationalist is proud of his country no matter what it does; the first attitude creates a feeling of responsibility while the second a feeling of blind arrogance that leads to a war.”

Nationalism stresses unity based on a cultural background, including language and heritage. Patriotism, rooted in the love for a nation, emphasizes values and beliefs.

Patriotism, I think, predates the concept of nationhood. It's about the land and the people you live with and emotionally and intellectually identify with.


Since the rise of Fascism and Socialism/Communism in the last century, the divergence between Patriotism and Nationalism certainly widened to become nearly polar opposites. As Harris stated, a patriot is proud of what their country does, where a nationalist is proud of their country with a zealous abandon. By this concept, people were certainly less patriotic during the 1960's and 70's at the height of the Vietnam conflict, as many were not proud of what the nation was doing at that time. But, while there were dissenting opinions about underlying reasons for the Middle East conflicts at the start of this century, the nation was feeling more patriotic because the actions were at least a retaliation for the attacks on September 11th.

Another point of view to consider in all of this is our allied nations around the world. Right now, the ire from loyal Trump supporters is aimed at France, since the verbal sparring between Macron and Trump has raised the hackles on both sides. While many may dismiss the French President as just another disappointing foreign politician, it must be understood that the countries of Europe dealt with Nationalism in a very harsh period of time - the early to mid-part of the 20th century, specifically from the end of the First World War, through the Depression, and against Nazi Germany through World War II. Hitler has been described in countless history books and articles as a megalomaniac and narcissist.

So, when Trump starts acting out and talking or tweeting without consideration of other people and nations, our allies remember the last time someone spoke up like this.
Nationalism is not Patriotism .. not anymore. Certainly, be proud of the country - but we cannot forget where we came from, how we got here, and who our allies are. Some may say Trump's Nationalism holds our nation dear, but does not disregard others; and yet, almost every other tweet or speech emits an aura of contempt for others and how he can do no wrong. Everyone else is against us, we have to defend our borders.

Might as well take down that tablet the Statue of Liberty holds, because Trump is closing up shop and doesn't want to allow "your tired, your poor, your huddled masses..."

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