Monday, November 26, 2007

More musings about patriotism

Liberal Eagle's post, On Patriotism, has been the subject of my thoughts a lot over the last couple of weeks. I agree with the post in all its detail, but I think there's a central kernel of truth that has to do with how American patriotism differs from the way other countries see themselves.

American patriotism is all about strength and superiority; both a belief that our country is the best in the world, and that part of what makes it the best is that we have the most powerful military. The idea, held by many patriots, that America is where it is because God favors us over other nations only encourages this belief.

To use an analogy, Americans love their country the way a young boy loves his dad; he just knows his dad is the best dad in the world, and can beat up anyone else's dad. Any kid who claims otherwise is likely to get a fist to the gut.

Similarly, American patriotism often takes the form of a cult of personality around our President; a good American patriot, it seems, ought to be willing to follow the President anywhere as long as he's focused on keeping America strong, and as long as he never, ever admits that the U.S. has been wrong about anything. To question such a President is to risk being publicly accused of treason, as has happened to many Iraq War critics.

This sentiment is not unique to America, but other countries where it's found tend to be ones we'd prefer not to compare ourselves to.

People in less jingoistic countries love where they live, too; but often it's a love born of preference and familiarity. They love their countries while acknowledging their faults; they don't feel they have to prove their love by angrily denying that those faults exist. They love their countries not in the unquestioning, prickly way that a kid loves his dad, but in the sort of exasperated way you might love an eccentric relative who does a lot of nice things for you but also sometimes embarrasses you in public.

Americans have always been prickly about their country's status in the world, and our sense of patriotism reflects this. This isn't surprising in a new nation, but maybe after 231 years it's time we grew up a little.

Hosted by KEENSPOT: Privacy Policy