Patriotism In The 21st Century

by Mark Lovett

Everybody loves a Fourth of July parade.  The marching bands are on display in their regal uniforms, the crowd is cheering and the flags are waving in the breeze, always a festive time. A time to honor those who founded this country, a time to connect with old friends and neighbors, share our sense of national pride, celebrate good times and look to the future.

But the notion of patriotism is complex and has changed over the centuries.

Patriotism is often defined as an allegiance, dedication or loyalty to one’s own country.  This is especially true for the United States in the 21st century, whereby the word has become a litmus test of being an American.  For some it underlies the notion of ‘you’re either for us, or against us‘ – which is a point of view that implies there is no middle ground, no room for discussion, no place for individual thought.

In this light the term tends to cross over into extreme nationalism.  In fact, many contemporary notions of patriotism have been heavily influenced by 19th century ideas about nationalism.  Paul Gomberg, contemporary scholar of ethics, has even compared such patriotism to racism, arguing that a primary implication of patriotism is that a person’s moral duties are focused on members of their nation, excluding non-members from the equation.

Reading between the lines of political rhetoric, you can often hear, “although every nation in the world should be treated as equals, it just so happens that my nation is a bit more equal than yours.”  We are increasingly seeing the folly of this idea.

Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all others because you were born in it.” – George Bernard Shaw

Old World Patriotism

Among the ancient Greeks, patriotism was comprised of ideals concerning language, religious traditions, ethics, law and devotion to the common good of humankind as opposed to identification only with a nation-state.

Greek philosopher Socrates once said, “Patriotism does not require one to agree with everything that his country does, and would actually promote analytical questioning in a quest to make the country the best it possibly can be.”

As recently as the 18th century the idea of patriotism was viewed much differently.

Unlike the situation in the 19th century, when nationalism tended to be exclusive and confrontational, during the 18th century patriotism belonged with such inclusive and cohesive values as humanity and beneficence.  In the discourse of the second half of the 18th century, a person who provided relief for the poor, or objected to excessively harsh penal laws, or who criticized institutions such as serfdom or slavery, was likely to be described as a good patriot.  The common good to which patriotism was directed in the 18th century was socially cohesive in nature, and typicall crossed social boundaries.”  – From the Historical Dictionary of the Enlightenment, by Harvey Chisick

This view transformed over time, most likely due to the increasing establishment of nation-states in which citizens more commonly viewed themselves as members of a nation, as opposed to their religion, ethnicity or even local culture.  And as warfare continued to escalate between nations rather than previous monarchies, the idea of defending the nation took hold and strongly manifested itself as an ‘us against them‘ way of thinking.

Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.” – Tom Paine

Patriotism Without Borders

The problem with patriotism being thought of as nation-based lies in the extension of intent to include the view, “my country, right or wrong.”  We have witnessed much death and destruction caused by this ideology, and the notion itself gives sanctuary to those who commit crimes against humanity.  In the 21st century it has been used to justify preemptive warfare based on the argument that the possibility of  being attacked provided an excuse for striking first – even when it turned out that the supposed ‘possibility‘ was completely false.

Can it be that the meaning of patriotism, as with so many other words, has been severely altered over time, to the point where it no longer embodies any of its altruistic past?

Can we envision patriotism from a global perspective…embracing patriotism without borders?

Image courtesy of Stephano

This is the question now proposed by Global Patriot, and I enlist each of you to not only consider this question, but to offer some answers , thoughts and ideas from your own unique perspective.

It is thorough such dialogue that we have the opportunity to move beyond our differences and embrace the commonality that we all share with regard to respecting each other and the amazing planet that supports us all.

 

Parade Mosaic courtesy of Celine Chamberlin

World Flag image courtesy of Visible Noise

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Gerry August 22, 2012 at 4:29 am

Well said, Mark. I’m glad to have found this blog.

Reply

Greentech-BG January 23, 2011 at 9:59 am

Global Patriot writes about 21st Patriotism – Patriotism Without Borders

Reply

kevinpmiller January 21, 2011 at 7:42 pm

Thanks for your insights, as always, Mark. The irony is, many of the people who proudly proclaim they are ‘patriots’ (as in “my country, love-it-or-leave-it”) are blind to the forces that control the people, both her in the “land of the free” and elsewhere. Free Trade deals, instead of ‘Fair Trade’ hurt nearly everyone but the shareholders of multinational corporations…yet we rarely hear anything intellectually meaningful from those ‘patriots.’ Until we realize that our ‘entangling alliances’ with groups like the WTO not only force unemployment and hardship upon Americans — but indeed the poorest countries on the planet, it will be challenging to engage in the kind of meaningful dialogue that will lead to positive change — for All.

Reply

Samimatson October 25, 2010 at 4:59 am

ok, just going to say this: in the 2nd paragraph you said ‘litmus’ I did not know the definition of this word so I looked it up and the definition was:
— noun
“a soluble powder obtained from certain lichens. It turns red under acid conditions and blue under basic conditions and is used as an indicator”

Reply

GlobalPatriot October 25, 2010 at 11:53 am

Thus, the term “litmus test” is commonly used to indicate “a test that relies on a single indicator” – the reference here meaning that in some people’s mind loyalty to America is considered to be a test as to whether you are, in fact, an American.

Reply

John Carroll December 13, 2009 at 11:37 pm

The World Flag was created in 1988 to raise awareness and funding in support of education, global health, human rights and the environment!

Check out http://www.theworldflag.org and join us on facebook at
http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-World-Flag-Project/9271366540?ref=ts

Reply

John Carroll December 14, 2009 at 6:37 am

The World Flag was created in 1988 to raise awareness and funding in support of education, global health, human rights and the environment!

Check out http://www.theworldflag.org and join us on facebook at
http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-World-Flag-Project/9271366540?ref=ts

Reply

Michael Guthauser January 24, 2009 at 8:50 am

Mark
You make a number of poignant observations regarding the differences between “healthy” patriotism and pseudo “patriot games” patriotism. The false patriotism is a familiar propaganda tool used by the ruling elites of some nations that seek to maintain their status quo or take more of what they want to the detriment of others.

To limit or counteract this effect, the citizenry of all nations are responsible for developing and nuturing a life-long discipline of illumination both for themselves and helping those that are trying to find their way that will reflect as closely as humanly possible the realities of the world we live in. A good place to start for those of us in the US is to read and understand, at least generally, the Constitution of the United States as well as knowing how your congressional representatives are voting in Congress.

Not everyone has the same abilities to accomplish this, but all should have the opportunity to develop their understanding as fully as possible. With a corporate concentrated media, this is not always easy since MSM has its agenda that may not be directed towards enlightening the masses for society’s betterment.
As Justice Louis Brandeis once famously stated, “Sunshine is the best disinfectant.”

I would agree, but add that the viewer must also have a proper frame of reference that is accumulated with discipline and contemplation so that you can truly understand what you are looking at.

Reply

Global Patriot January 26, 2009 at 4:27 pm

Very insightful comments, Michael. It is a sad fact that the term patriotism has been turned into a dedication on the nation state instead properly focused on a dedication to humanity. And you’re quite right that the citizenry of all nations are responsible for reclaiming the proud heritage of patriotism.

Reply

Michael Guthauser January 24, 2009 at 3:50 pm

Mark
You make a number of poignant observations regarding the differences between “healthy” patriotism and pseudo “patriot games” patriotism. The false patriotism is a familiar propaganda tool used by the ruling elites of some nations that seek to maintain their status quo or take more of what they want to the detriment of others.

To limit or counteract this effect, the citizenry of all nations are responsible for developing and nuturing a life-long discipline of illumination both for themselves and helping those that are trying to find their way that will reflect as closely as humanly possible the realities of the world we live in. A good place to start for those of us in the US is to read and understand, at least generally, the Constitution of the United States as well as knowing how your congressional representatives are voting in Congress.

Not everyone has the same abilities to accomplish this, but all should have the opportunity to develop their understanding as fully as possible. With a corporate concentrated media, this is not always easy since MSM has its agenda that may not be directed towards enlightening the masses for society’s betterment.
As Justice Louis Brandeis once famously stated, “Sunshine is the best disinfectant.”

I would agree, but add that the viewer must also have a proper frame of reference that is accumulated with discipline and contemplation so that you can truly understand what you are looking at.

Reply

GlobalPatriot January 26, 2009 at 11:27 pm

Very insightful comments, Michael. It is a sad fact that the term patriotism has been turned into a dedication on the nation state instead properly focused on a dedication to humanity. And you’re quite right that the citizenry of all nations are responsible for reclaiming the proud heritage of patriotism.

Reply

Stefano October 18, 2008 at 12:40 pm

I’m honoured to have my work published in such a site! :)

Patriotism, as you argue, does not mean we have to stay divided: everyone must be proud of his roots, but also be open-minded and accept different cultures. Every nation deserves respect, no one is superior, there are just little differences on the surface, but if you look closer you will seehow similar we are!

Stefano

Reply

Global Patriot October 19, 2008 at 4:29 pm

Thanks for your contribution Stefano, it means a lot to add art to the written word, makes the message much more powerful!

Reply

Stefano October 18, 2008 at 7:40 pm

I’m honoured to have my work published in such a site! :)

Patriotism, as you argue, does not mean we have to stay divided: everyone must be proud of his roots, but also be open-minded and accept different cultures. Every nation deserves respect, no one is superior, there are just little differences on the surface, but if you look closer you will seehow similar we are!

Stefano

Reply

GlobalPatriot October 19, 2008 at 11:29 pm

Thanks for your contribution Stefano, it means a lot to add art to the written word, makes the message much more powerful!

Reply

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