Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Patriotism vs Nationalism

A while back I published a post with my thoughts on the topic of patriotism in the era of Donald Trump. After reading it, one of my friends (yes, Richard, that's you) suggested I comment on the topic of patriotism versus nationalism. I thought it was a pretty good topic, especially for the Fourth of July, so here goes ...

My Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines patriotism as, "Love for or devotion to one's country;" and nationalism as, "Loyalty and devotion to a nation; especially: a sense of national consciousness; 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."

I believe we are well beyond patriotism in today's America. Today, "love and devotion to one's country" seems to be measured not in mutual respect for our fellow citizens and devotion to our founding traditions, but in ostentatious displays of the flag (including the flag of the Confederacy, which had nothing to do with loving the USA, and the Gadsden "Don't Tread on Me" Flag, which praises love of individual rights over love of country and responsibilities of citizenship). It also seems to include an insistence on "America First." We are living in the age of "Red, White, and Blue, So Screw You!" nationalism.

I consider myself a patriotic American. I love my country. I spent 23 years in uniform serving it, and I'm proud of its melting pot tradition and of the largely positive role we've played in the world. Americans don't always do the right thing the first time, but over the 240-plus years of our history, we've usually managed to work things out among ourselves in a way that has made us arguably the most wealthy and successful nation on earth.

Unfortunately, we are shedding many of the qualities that have allowed us to create this great nation. Consider our attitude toward immigration. Immigrants ... which virtually all of us are, if you go back far enough* ... built this nation. My paternal grandparents came from Hungary in the late 1800s, and my maternal ancestors came from Germany before then. They worked hard, learned to speak a foreign language (English), and built new lives for themselves and a strong base for those of us who came later. Do we need secure borders? Of course we do. Should those who try to enter illegally be turned back? Yes. But as Americans, we should recognize why it is that so many people want to come here, legally or not - because they have the same dreams and aspirations our own ancestors had.

Responsibility for the present social and political disaster of our immigration "policy" - such as it is - rests squarely on the shoulders of the president and Congress. By ignoring our history and our shared values in favor of kowtowing to a mindless blaming of "immigrants" for every problem, they have - confusing patriotism and nationalism - led us directly to the horrific mess we have today. As far as I can tell, I'm the only person who has ever proposed a workable and realistic immigration policy**, and it's been pretty much ignored by every president (Bush, Obama, and Trump), Representative, and Senator I've sent a copy to.

Another thing that separates destructive nationalism from patriotism is the tendency to demonize those with whom one politically disagrees as enemies who wish only the destruction of the nation. We see this in the overheated rhetoric of Donald Trump, who denounces Democrats - individually and collectively - at every opportunity, accusing them of wanting totally open borders and the unlimited influx of foreign criminals, and who denounces the media as "enemies of the people" rather than First Amendment guardians of what's left of our democracy. We also see it in the overheated rhetoric of Democrats who allow their passion to overrule their brains (yes, Maxine Waters, I'm talking to you) ... all it does is convince passionate Republicans that equally passionate Democrats are all crazy.

So ...

Patriotism vs Nationalism. What's the real difference? I think it's best summarized in the comment attributed to Carl Schurz: the nationalist says, "my country, right or wrong;" the patriot says, "my country, right or wrong. If right, to be kept right; if wrong, to be put right."

Unfortunately, we've reached a point where no one can agree on - or even discuss rationally - what's right.

And that's wrong.

Have a good day and a safe and happy 4th of July holiday. More thoughts later.


* It's not PC, but in this category I also include "Native Americans," many of whose ancestors originally arrived in North America via the prehistoric land bridge from Siberia to displace whoever might have been here even before them.

** Check it out here if you haven't seen it any of the other feensky-zillion times I've shared it.


Unknown said...

Well said! Happy 4th to you and yours!

Mike said...

Carl Schurz was a smart guy.

MarkD60 said...

I'm glad I read this. It was interesting.
Happy Independance day!