Over the years I have had numerous disputes with people about the U.S. Often, I will condemn and criticize the U.S. and its behavior, as well as what it has become. Naturally, its made quite a few people upset. I’ve heard all sorts of stuff about how I’m not patriotic and such. I don’t know how many times I’ve been told to ‘leave this country’ (a common American response to criticism) or that I’m a communist or something.
But, what I found, is that they are looking at a ‘patriot’ from a certain perspective. In general, according to what I’ve heard from people, a patriot is nothing but a ‘yes man’ to his country. All he does is glorify and worship his country, regardless of what it does. He brags it up and looks at everything as if they are the ‘best’ and are always ‘right’, usually. In extreme cases, I’ve seen people called ‘traitors’ if they are not ‘patriotic’. I’ve even heard people called ‘enemies’ if they don’t support them (that is, not be patriotic). There’s a saying that has always appaled me: “if you are not for us, then you are against us”. This reflects this narrow point of view of patriotism.
I disagree with this.
This point of view expects people to be robots. It goes by the assumption that because you are born in a country it automatically makes what it does ‘right’ for you.
It also expects people to just blindly agree. This means that it expects people to overlook any ‘disgust’ or ‘appaling’ behavior of their country. That’s like saying that its OK for their country to murder, or exploit, or whatever the case may be.
This point of view also gives a country free reign to do what it wants. Since there is no criticism of it, there is nothing to guide its path.
We must remember that a country doesn’t always do things that are good. Sometimes what a persons country does is bad. What am I supposed to do then, just agree with it? This can create a great conflict of morals in a person.
They also look at things as too simply with a narrow point of view. As the saying above says: you’re either a ‘patriot’ or an ‘enemy’. This shows how this point of view of patriotism creates enemies and easily turns people into threats. It also creates a condition where a person cannot disagree: you agree or are an enemy.
It is also typically used only in ‘crisis’ situations, such as in a war. As a result, the patriotism comes and goes with the situation.
This point of view seems concerned with one thing and one thing only: The glory of their country. This is why I speak of this perspective as the ‘patriotism as glory’ point of view.
I have a totally different point of view, which I call the ‘patriotism as community’ point of view. This point of view basically is from the point of view that patriotism is really a community point of view and is reflective of the love of that community. Its intent is to support and maintain that community. It reflects a general active attitude in life.
Some of the traits of a patriot in the ‘patriotism as community’ point of view include:
- A patriot is not a ‘yes man’ to his country. He cannot agree with everything it does, nor should he look at it from this perspective. He cannot look at his country as automatically ‘right’ in everything.
- A patriot is someone who seeks his country to do better and be better. This means he must criticize it when it doesn’t do this. It also means an awareness of its pitfalls and failures. This means that a patriot must be ‘disgusted’ or feel ‘bad’ when it does things bad. This means he can support his country, when it’s needed, but he can also condemn it, when needed. A true patriot condemns and praises his country, as required.
- A patriot is someone who sees himself as part of a country, the community in which he lives. Accordingly, he see’s himself as an important person in his country. He see’s himself as a contributor in the community in which he lives.
To me, a lot of patriotism is just an extension of our moral self projected onto the country. Our moral self see’s right and wrong in things. If we do bad, we feel bad. If we do good, we feel good. Just because that moral self see’s a bad in what we do, we don’t kill our self over it. Typically, when we feel bad we try to avoid it. In other words, in the end it is all for our benefit. In that sense, we could call it a ‘personal patriotism’. Why? Because we are supporting ourselves, in praise and in condemnation, all to help us be better people. This would suggest that a definition of patriotism is an attitude of supporting and improving ourselves (as individual people, a community, or a country). This is achieved by using the good and bad of our nature to help us to that end. In that sense, its like a hope and a form of self confidence. It also implies a belief that we can overcome our bad qualities.
Accordingly, to me, patriotism is something like a ‘national moral self’. Just like the moral self or ‘personal patriotism’, a patriot praises the good and condemns the bad with the intent of developing their community, country, and nation. This means that any condemnation is not done blindly, in a sarcastic degrading way. It is done with an attitude of improvement.
Many times, I’ve said that condemnation of a country is like being a doctor delineating a disease. In many cases, that’s all it is, stating the ‘symptoms’ of the disease. Just because someone states the ‘symptoms’ of ones disease doesn’t make one against oneself. In fact, it’s the complete opposite: we state the symptoms of our disease in the hope of getting better.
I’ve also said that because I’m willing to condemn what’s wrong, it makes me the ‘real patriot’, not these ‘yes men’ who agree with everything for their greater glory. It is I, who delineates the problem, who is caring for the country. I am the one who shows care. A person who puts their country on a pedestal is not necessarily concerned about their countries welfare but more for their glory. People like that will often run their country into the ground.
Patriotism, I think, stems from everyday attitudes and behavior. From this ‘base’ sprouts all forms of patriotism. This ‘base’ sense of a patriot is someone who see’s themselves as part of a country, culture, and people and has the point of view that they need to look out for it and keep it healthy. They see their occupation as a contribution to the country (that is, its not about money but playing their part in the communities welfare). They see obeying the laws and rules as beneficial to the community. They don’t find ways to get out of paying taxes. They try to be good descent people and individuals. In general, they see themselves as someone who contributes to their community and country by being a good person. From this, I think, a true patriotic sense is created. If a person has a low self esteem (that is, a low ‘personal patriotism’) then they will not display patriotic qualities toward the community or country. This shows that communal patriotism is rooted in the personal patriotism of the individual. This shows that patriotism stems, not from the country, but from the person themselves. Basically, how a person feels about themselves is reflected onto the society. Therefore, to be a good patriot a person must seek to be a good person.