Wednesday, July 4, 2012

I Am Not a Patriot; I Am a Nationalist (with reason)

So, I do not consider myself patriotic. I don't feel any particular attachment to the country or the government. I am fond of American government in the broadest sense*, but it is not unconditional fondness. I never think the United States is right simply because it's the United States. That is what Patriotism is to me.

You see, I see patriotism as a way of thought and a willingness of service to a country and therefore a government. It seems a bit dogmatic to me; The U.S. is right because the U.S. says it is right and any other thought or speech is disloyal.

Patriotism has shown itself to be dangerous and I think it is particularly prominent in the United States. The U.S. is a country that is so diversely composed that the only real way for the populous to feel allegiance is through patriotism. The country can only feel unified by loyalty to a common government and probably more importantly a shared hatred.

In American history it is rare to find periods free of war and impossible to find one where there isn't a clear 'enemy' in American culture. Whether it be the British, the Mexicans, the Anarchists, the Communists, the USSR, the gays, the blacks, the Jews, the Irish, Illegal Immigrants, Islamic extremists...

Popularly supported policy in the name of Patriotism leaves a lot of stains on our history. Segregation, HUAC, McCarthyism, the Iraq War,  the PATRIOT Act, the internment of Japanese-Americans and the list goes on.

Loyalty to the government is misplaced in my eyes. A citizen's job isn't to serve a government without regard to how that government is serving him or her. A government governs by the consent of the governed. The government is replaceable if it stops serving its people. The government does seek to continue to exist by forcing loyalty by stroking the flames of hatred and fear of a common enemy. However, that shouldn't work as well on the governed as it does.

I do consider myself a nationalist. I think that nationalism and patriotism are distinctly different even if the words are often used interchangeably. I view nationalism as loyalty to a nation; I view patriotism as loyalty to a country.

I make a significant distinction between 'country' and 'nation.' A country is a political unit. Many nations can be in one country (i.e. England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland in the United Kingdom) or a nation can be divided between countries. Loyalty to a country implies loyalty to a government. Loyalty to a nation implies loyalty to a people and a culture.

I like American culture a lot. Blues, Jazz, Rock 'n Roll. A freedom from European conventions and social constraints. A diverse culture with influences from everywhere.

When I look back at our history, the agents of positive social change have been Nationalists not Patriots. The Civil Rights Movement, the Suffrage Movement, the Gay Rights Movement all seek to make the nation better in spite of what the government.

I of course cannot defend nationalism totally. It, as every other ism seems to be, can be dangerous. I think this danger is particularly evident in Europe during the first half of the 20th Century. World War I was basically started by nationalist egos across the region. The rise of Hitler was largely a nationalist movement. In fact, most supremacy movements are based in nationalism. 

I refuse to believe that I or any American is superior. However, that doesn't mean that I don't take reasonable pride in being a part of this nation's history and culture. I like it here. Yes, there are repressive assholes, but they exist everywhere. Our culture comes up with all kinds of fun shit in spite of them.

I am disappointed with the Government of the United States. I like the founding ideals, which we celebrate on this day, but this government doesn't live up to them. I would like to see the government come closer to that ideal for the betterment of our nation. Government shouldn't get away with just pointing to the ideals to justify doing things that seem opposed to them. I think patriots allow that to happen and nationalists do not.

Thanks for reading and please comment


*I like the idea of how it should work. I don't like how it actually functions or what it does.

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