Patriots and Nationalists

Trigger Warnings – Strong language in some places.

I remember when I first heard the word ‘patriot’, it was in school, I must have been about ten years old and my teacher said it meant someone who was proud of their home nation, to put it simply. I thought this was true of most people and indeed it is but it was a word that I rarely heard being used, even in a country like Britain, for most of my life I never heard people refer to themselves as patriotic because it was just a given but now? Patriot is one of those words you just can’t escape any more and the problem with a common place word is that it is open to being used in the wrong context, this is the fate the word irony suffers at the hands of hipsters, or the word random suffers at the hands of those sorts of girls who shout out their love of dinosaurs and cheese and pink hair. I think we need to define the difference between a patriot and a nationalist, they are similar but not the same and so many people I encounter claiming they are ‘British Patriots’ are in fact, nationalists – nationalism being an irresponsible and selfish viewpoint whereas patriotism being perfectly fine and commendable.

Here’s some food for thought to start the discussion:

Patriotism is proud of a country’s virtues and eager to correct its deficiencies; it also acknowledges the legitimate patriotism of other countries, with their own specific virtues. The pride of nationalism, however, trumpets its country’s virtues and denies its deficiencies, while it is contemptuous toward the virtues of other countries. It wants to be, and proclaims itself to be, “the greatest,” but greatness is not required of a country; only goodness is – Sydney J. Harris

That’s a good quote but that was just the appetiser, here’s something to really sink your teeth into:

The difference between patriotism and nationalism is that the patriot is proud of his country for what it does, and the nationalist is proud of his country no matter what it does; the first attitude creates a feeling of responsibility, but the second a feeling of blind arrogance that leads to war – Sydney J. Harris

Now, do you notice a recurring theme here with his quotes? Granted, same guy said both quotes but this man was no fool, he was a widely respected columnist and author, as well as an advocate for women’s rights, pro-choice stances and bringing an end to the death penalty, which might land him in the eyes of a lefty-tosser to some of you but this man held honorary doctorates, awards from the National Conference of Christians and the Chicago Newspaper Guild, I think that earns him some merit. Even without it, he makes a good point about patriotism and nationalism, one that reminds me of something a friend of mine once said in that patriotism is rooting for the home team and turning up at their matches, nationalism is believing the team to be infallible and destroying the stadium at away games. A patriot feels a sense of responsibility to their country and even love has the ability to step back and tell someone they have failed or done wrong, you do not truly love someone if you blindly agree with everything that comes out of their mouth. You have to take pride in their achievements and feel the shame of their shortcomings, encouraging them to do their absolute best.

I hear some people speak of a foreign threat, this was what UKIP appealed to and it’s what Republicans appeal to in America, making people cautious and wary of those that are different in colour or religion or way of life, accusing them of stealing from your country’s resources or trying to bring their culture into your home and ruin your old traditions for you with their strange new ways. Ok, straight away, no white person alive has the right to say “You come over here with your foreign ways and try to make us change? Fuck off!”, that’s what our ancestors did to three quarters of the globe, I think we can overlook building a mosque when we had them baptised and decapitated once upon a time. If you are proud of your country and it’s traditions, you needn’t feel threatened when these changes come, the traditions will live on through you and all traditions need to adapt anyway, that is how we advance as a society from traditions of sacrificing lambs to idols into gathering in churches on a Sunday, someone has to say “Actually, how about we don’t do that any more? It seems a bit primitive/cruel/unfair/silly”. As for patriotism, well, you should be proud that your country is growing and attracting more people and encourage everyone to work together, but it becomes nationalism when you expect them to become like you to be allowed to live amongst you. I remember my stepmother taking her citizenship test to live here, the stuff she had to know was more than nine out of ten Brits actually did know about the country but even so, just because someone has moved to a new country, they haven’t left their heritage for dirt, what they must adhere to in order to live somewhere is the law, they don’t have to adopt the national stereotype to prove themselves worthy.

I’m mostly speaking to Britain here, I was inspired by a UKIP MP actually tearing down his own party for their racist views and that they need to avoid thinking about isolationist views because Britain became ‘Great’ through its allies and neighbours, we didn’t get given the prefix by God as if to say “Yep, you guys are really on the ball with that society you’ve got there, top job, God is British too, keep it up lads”. After all, that term in its most basic form was coined almost two thousand years ago and literally just meant “The bigger bit of the British Isles”, with Ireland being called “The smaller bit of the British Isles”. Don’t get it twisted, I love Britain, I really do, but it is because I’m proud of these isles that I don’t want it become a hive for hateful ignorants telling people to go away and never bother trying to change anything. I know some may strive for the traditions of old but as I said yesterday, that includes bear baiting, where do you want to draw the line? Britain, before it gained friends overseas, was a struggling little island with an infant mortality problem and an 80 hour work week in some instances, is that what we want to bring back?

Charlie Brooker made a good joke about this a while ago about how he liked Britain before the Romanians and the Poles and the Irish and the French and the Normans and the Vikings and the Anglo-Saxons and the Romans, that was proper Britain, clearly exaggerating nationalism to the most radical extreme but perfectly valid. Nationalism is a related philosophy to tribalism when you think about it, it is not a love of the British public as a whole, it is a love of their allies. I mean think about it, really think, could you imagine Nigel Farage calling the left-wing political parties his brethren and respected allies, or even addressing them as good people? Boris Johnson called the left-wing party ‘tossers’, and admittedly I refer to my fellow Brits of wealth and status as entitled pricks, which is a tribal view point, a sort of “If you’re not one of us, you’re against us” mentality more befitting the Great Khans of Fallout than a political party. If you dare speak against the tribe, you’re disloyal, you’re disrespecting your great homeland, you’re a sympathiser with an imagined foe and should be shunned and loathed. Nationalism is essentially thinking your tribe or country deserves the status of the best, which is silly, we’re not in competition, not really, we all share a planet and at the end of the day, countries are invented concepts and if God exists, he won’t gather us all together in a thousand years and say “So it turns out the USA did the best at being a good country, all Americans shall get to go to VIP Heaven and hang out with Jesus, the rest of you get to go to Commoner’s Heaven and polish halos for a living!”

I know there’s an air of ridicule in this post but we need to be clear, you are not a patriot if you support a nationalistic party or believe you live in the best country ever or that your current society is what people should aim for, there is no set guideline as to what a country is supposed to be, a lot of people say we all want to be America really but that’s because it’s a rich nation and everyone wants to be rich. Support your nation, by all means, love it and wear the colours, but respect that people aren’t obliged to take part, even if they’re your next door neighbour, and if you ever start dismissing people for having a different cultural background to you or a desire to practice their own religion or language despite living in a place not reflecting that background, take a step back and imagine it the opposite way round. White people fear a white minority because they’re worried we’d be treated the way we treat them – racism, intolerance and ignorance bordering on being abused simply for existing. In time, maybe we can live in a world where no minority need ever live in constant fear, where every man and woman is a valid peer as should be true of democracy, and lord knows we all love a good democracy.

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