Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Wrestling with Patriotism

Patriotism - (noun) Love of country and willingness to sacrifice for it; devotion to the welfare of one's country; devotion to a community as opposed to devotion to one's individual interests.

Nationalism - (noun) Having pride in one's country; a collective state of mind or consciousness in which people believe their primary duty and loyalty is to the nation-state.

"The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality." - George Orwell.
It's been fascinating to listen to the various concepts of patriotism put forth in this election. It has helped me clarify for myself my own feelings and thoughts on the subject.

I'm a Christian. Philippians 3:20 - "Our citizenship is in heaven." (ASV). As the son of an U.S. Army officer, as someone who spent three years in high school ROTC, I've struggled with what that verse means to me. I balance it with Romans 13:1 - "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities."

I love my country. I'd sacrifice for its welfare. And when I say that I love my country, I have something to compare it to. I've lived in Germany, Australia, Malaysia, and Singapore. I've visited a few dozen countries. America, even at its worst, is a pretty nice place. I like it.

Patriotism is often confused with another -ism we don't mention much in America: nationalism. Nationalism is at least partly an ethnic concept. People submerge their identity into some larger community ideal. Patriotism doesn't require that kind of death of self.

It's been a while, but I've read The Light and the Glory. I remember thinking it was a crock. I can't tell you exactly why now. Because it's been a while. But I don't see America as God's newly chosen instrument or people. It's a nice place and I love it. I leave it there.

Not all of my friends have always been Americans. I've had friends who were Singaporeans and South Africans, Filipinos and Australians, New Zealanders and South Koreans, Samoans and Brazilians. I didn't figure it was their fault. I never thought they were somehow inferior to me. That would go beyond even my usual arrogance.

Patriotism is not a military concept. It doesn't go away when there are no wars to fight. Your credentials as a patriot are not somehow damaged by inability (or even refusal) to serve in the military. Patriotism is more basic. It is love of country - plain and simple.

I've lived and worked in places nationalism was common. I recognize it. It makes me uncomfortable. I'm a patriot. But I'm not a nationalist. And you don't have to be one to love America...


Lynette said...

I saw your blog while on line looking to make reservations at McKever Lodge.
I just wanted to thank you for your thought on Patriotism.
My daughters and husband are all Republicans idealogues and they make me feel as if I am neither a patriot or a Christian. It is time for better in America.
I took the liberty to forward your blog to friends both D and R.
Lynette Willis

Anonymous said...

Remember what Mark Twain once said: "Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it."