There is a centuries-old cancer debilitating all of humanity, stunting its growth and threatening the peaceful coexistence of its members. I, of course, speak of our beloved “core democratic value,” patriotism.
Though, in some ways, patriotism encouraged positive global political development, in many more ways it’s hindered it.
Needless wars have been waged and countless lives lost, all because we have been conditioned to view ourselves, first and foremost, as citizens of nation states instead of, more appropriately, as individual members of a global community.
It’s especially evident in the United Nations. Often when a country is expected to inconvenience itself with global concerns such as international human rights or global warming, its representatives argue it has no obligation to comply, because it is a nation state in an international community based on sovereignty. Rationally, this is simply a bombastic way of saying, “Go to Hell. We’re gonna do what’s best for us.”
On a smaller, nation-to-nation level, it’s had a similarly toxic effect. Governments use patriotism to justify the bombing of civilians in distant lands, the institutionalized economic subservience of foreign workers, etc. It is a tool used to nullify morality in pursuit of selfish agendas.
When a state conditions its people to feel an overwhelming sense of pride simply for living within the borders of its territory, it becomes much easier to manipulate their sense of responsibility toward the people of other nations. Their compassion becomes limited to their national brethren.
Don’t be mistaken that we are somehow immune. As Americans, we are bombarded with imagery conditioning us to believe blind love and devotion to our country is a moral value, a sign of character. We rally around the asinine political mantras that are carelessly exclaimed by political and cultural figures alike – the cheesy campaign slogans, the arrogant lyrics to radio-friendly, country-pop songs.
The grave reality is patriotism is not a hallowed democratic value. It is an overglorified manifestation of ethnocentrism. Beneath the rhetorically null appeal to pathos, used and reused to the bitter point of redundancy (as though repetition increases validity), is an eager motivation to prioritize the well being of a few over the common good of all.
This might seem like a radical, perhaps even anti-American, argument. After all, we are the land of the free and the home of the brave; the brightly shining, crazy diamond of liberty blinding the rest of the world with our magnificent splendor. Why shouldn’t we be mildly narcissistic?
Regardless of the legitimacy of that evaluation of America, patriotism is valued subjectively. Imagine our foes, past and present, shouting the same ideas toted by our good old American heroes. “Country first.” “Give me liberty or give me death!”
“I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country.”
Doesn’t it all start to sound a little less noble when viewed from that perspective, when you imagine Nazis, terrorists and all your garden variety wackos spreading this rhetoric? What makes it benevolent when we say it?
As time passes, the world will only become more interconnected. Therefore, the future harmony of human existence will be gravely jeopardized if we don’t collectively abandon this archaic nationalist concept. For the sake of humanity, we must ignore the hyper-symbolic cultural imagery associated with patriotism and re-evaluate its significance from a more practical perspective.
Realistically, nationality serves the sole purpose of establishing the political and economic system a person participates in, based on the region she or he inhabits. The childishly sentimental connotations are so commonly associated with it serve no healthy purpose in the progress of the international community.