xlargePeople are often called Patriotic, as an achievement, for example when someone dies at war, especially in the United States, where patriotism is seemingly expected of you. To be unpatriotic is to be against your country, that you should instead love. But should you?

Dictionary.com defines patriotism as “devoted love, support, and defense of one’s country; national loyalty.”

This sounds very positive, but what makes up a country? To me the answer to that is everything within the “borders” of the country.

Within the country where I reside, the United Kingdom, there are a lot of good things, there are a lot of good people, but there are also a lot of bad things and bad people. There is still prejudice and hate, perhaps not commonly found among the majority of people, but still present in some of them. In order for me to be patriotic about this country, or proud, I should be proud of the entire country, I should support it, support the government, support the military, support anything within the borders, more than anything outside of the borders.

We can already see the similarity between patriotism and nationalism. There are multiple dictionary definitions for nationalism but this one is quite interesting:
“the policy or doctrine of asserting the interests of one’s own nation viewed as separate from the interests of other nations or the common interests of all nations.”

tumblr_mkwx4jj5PD1raqgcro1_500The above definition is to say that my nation is more important than all other nations, because it is my nation. And the people that were born on this piece of land are more important than people born on another part of land. In my view that is essentially the same as racism. I don’t believe that someone should have fewer rights, less food, less access to healthcare, or less of a voice because they live over there instead of over here. A prejudice of location at the time of birth is not really any different a prejudice of the skin colour we are born with.

Interestingly the Correlates of War project, an academic study of the history of warfare, found a strong correlation between patriotism and war. It found, for example, that patriotism in Germany was extremely high before World War I, whereas today Germany is at the bottom of patriotism surveys.

The Patriotism Scores from the World Values Survey refer to an average answer for the question “Are you proud to be [insert nationality]?”

The definition of proud is: “feeling pleasure or satisfaction over something regarded as highly honorable or creditable to oneself.” I cannot give credit to myself for being born within this set of borders, and I don’t see why I should feel honourable.

I am thankful to be born and living in a place where I can eat everyday, seek medical care when needed and have clean water, but I am not proud of that fact. It is not an accomplishment that I have been a part of. If anything, it just signifies further prejudice. The people within the border only take care of others within the border under the positively attributed label of “patriotism”, which means we limit ourselves from helping developing nations, limiting ourselves from giving other people equal treatment.

george-carlin-national-pride-patriotismOften, people claim to be patriotic to justify prejudice in cases of immigration. Recently the media has been reporting about US citizens going to the Mexican border, with guns, to stop Mexicans from entering the US… because they are patriots. But the message they are essentially saying is: “We have a nice life, and you have a hard life, but you need to keep having a hard life, because you weren’t born on this side of the fence. If we let you in to have a higher quality of life, I might not be able to have as much money and as many material possessions.”

I believe this is a common belief around the world, which is likely to be one of the reasons why people in the east have a negative view of the United States, not only for envy, but for the perceived arrogance of the “we are the greatest” attitude. This is largely portrayed in TV, movies, and music, and those of us that live in the west may not even notice because it is so popular.

There is a common belief that immigration leads to national debt in the United States, however Vice reported earlier this month that “Unauthorized workers are paying an estimated $13 billion a year in social security taxes and only getting around $1 billion back.”

In the UK, saying that you are patriotic, or even hanging a flag, is almost always attributed to hate groups like EDL or the National Front, or simply to racism. Thankfully when these groups tour the country waving the flag, they are met with protest groups of a larger size against their messages hate. So while I am thankful that those hate groups are not a majority, I cannot say that I am proud of all the people that live here, only that I am glad for the things that some of them do, in the same way that I am glad for the things that some people do from all nations.

EDL StokeUnfortunately, English patriot groups such as EDL and the National Front are growing, even allowing neo-Nazis to join their groups. The attributed racism and hatred towards Muslims and immigrants is becoming more commonly acceptable in everyday conversation, and speaking out against such prejudices may cause backlash.

In the US, a large number of the houses have US flags, and going to school each day pupils are often required to pledge allegiance to the flag, or possibly face expulsion. Personally, I feel that requiring children to pledge allegiance to anything before they even understand what it represents is indoctrination, and is hardly different from religious indoctrination.

Groups such as the EDL and the KKK spread hate while claiming that it is just patriotism. Psychologists Patricia Lyons and Jared Kenworthy authored a study claiming that “group-level narcissism,” or collective narcissism, is linked to negative attitudes toward immigrants. The definition of collective narcissism isn’t vastly different from the definitions of patriotism and nationalism.

Being glad, or being thankful, isn’t the same as being patriotic. Patriotism isn’t just supporting the good things and the good people within the attributed borders, but it is an almost blind support for everything that the nation represents and those that represent the nation. Can you truly be proud of the what your country does and represents? Things like the military, wars, political leaders, the legal system, the prison system, and the economic system. I can’t.

We tend to have a cultural bias, a preference for the place we are used to, of course that doesn’t mean that it is a truly better place than everywhere else. An attachment to our home, and to say “I like living here, not because it is better, but because it is my preference,” that is perhaps the most peaceful patriotism. This patriotism however is quiet, it isn’t showing off, so if someone claims to be patriotic, it is very likely to be a lot more than a cultural attachment to home.

In writing this I feel worried stating my opinion of patriotism because of its popularity in the USA, and because I am a UK citizen not a citizen of the USA, so my views may be dismissed. I am not attacking anyone, I simply oppose prejudice being embraced as a positive thing because of a single word that is used to justify those prejudices.

Your skin colour, gender, nationality, size, age, religion, etc… These things don’t define your worth, the things you do define your worth.