The need for the fall of modern patriotism

Patriotism is seen in this country as a cardinal virtue. Americans love to flout their nationality, covering our cars with red, white, and blue bumper stickers and our politicians with lapel pins. Our schoolchildren swear loyalty and obedience to a piece of cloth every morning. Those accused of being “unpatriotic” or “un-American” may vehemently deny these attacks – but no one ever seems to challenge the premise behind them. Is patriotism a good thing? I must note that I am not referring to people who serve in the military, or the civil service. I do not question those who devote their lives to their fellow citizens, nor their motivations in doing so, whatever they may be. Other ideals, love of family, love of fellow people – these things I do not question. Rather, I question the common, everyday expression of pride in or love for one’s country itself. When you get down to it, being proud of nationality is silly. The difference between an American citizen and, say, a Canadian citizen is which side of an imaginary line they were born on. Being born in a place is a matter of chance – why be proud of that? We aren’t better than anyone else because of where we were born. Furthermore, America is hardly a bastion of good in the world – past or present. A side effect of patriotism is a tendency to whitewash the history and current dealings of our nation, and this is a dangerous trend. Such a perfect picture leads to more patriotism, and more purging of the official documents, and so on – and eventually, we get the same type of attitude behind Holocaust denial in Germany or genocide denial in Armenia. It is vitally important to recognize such atrocities in the history of the United States. Millions of indigenous Americans were slaughtered and driven from their land throughout the colonization and growth of the United States. We attempted to invade and conquer Canada, and did invade and conquer half of Mexico. During World War II, Japanese-Americans were brutally treated, and eventually forced into concentration camps. We helped brutal dictators worldwide take control during the Cold War – because they were “our” brutal dictators. These things must not be forgotten. There are many things Americans can be proud of. Our values, our national institutions, and our personal accomplishments far out-shadow any concern over what arbitrary place we were born into. We can love our fellow people, or those same values and institutions we are proud of. But love for or pride in a nation – that is not a good thing. It is vanity. We are not better than foreign citizens, and it’s time we accepted that. Nationalism is often productive – images of a nation coming together for a common goal, as in the World Wars create the idea that it is a good thing after all. However, nationalism unites people to the exclusion of those outside, and this can only lead to conflict. Those same World Wars that nationalism helped us win were caused by nationalist fervor. Looking beyond the imaginary lines drawn in the past shows us that foreign citizens have, for the most part, the same concerns we do. Rather than uniting with other American citizens alone, we should join together with people around the world, and solve our problems instead of creating new ones.