Discussion: Understanding Patriotism

Yesterday, one of my fellow bloggers made a post about how he doesn’t get all the drama surrounding national anthems, whether you stand, sing along, put your hand over your heart etc.  I share his sentiment.  I’m not much for forced rituals that are supposed to have meaning, but seem so common place, overdone, and generally practiced by so many people who don’t even seem to share those values that it just feels superficial.

I’d like to go a step further and say, I just really don’t understand the sentiment that people of your country are somehow more important than people from any other country.  This has been on my mind with the migrant crisis at the border.  You see so many comments from people who at best demonstrate indifference for refugees, to what essentially boils down to disgust.  I can’t for the life of me how the first reaction can’t be one of compassion.  These people are literally dying to get here, being made to suffer in intolerable detention centers because of the conditions that they are fleeing.  Instead of accepting that an entire political party simply uses any excuse to see them as people who need help.  Forget about accepting the fact that we made this problem through our fruitless war on drugs and that we should bear at least some responsibility for helping them now.

And nevermind the fact that when Syrian refugee crisis existed, the most moderate of Republicans well still like…”I won’t take them here, but we can help them over there.”  Meanwhile, I’ve heard when it was suggested that we provide aid to the central American countries as a way of keeping people there, people now say why should we give money to other countries?  Conservatives will talk about all the help American’s need here at home, but they won’t support welfare programs, they don’t put homelessness at the top of their political platforms, they won’t support first responders from 9/11.

I find the disregard for humans in need just insufferable.  Like being American was something most of us tried to do.  It wasn’t a choice, most of us were just born here.  If there is anybody who actually wants to be American it’s the people coming to our borders in need of help.  Accidents of geography are no basis to deny people who are suffering help.  Yet this patriotism banner is being waved like it actually means something.  Just maybe if such people were interested in helping Americans I might just believe it, but it’s all talk.  There are the people who can help, and those that need help.  That’s all.  Nationalism is meaningless to me, unless through that structure you can use that power to make lives better for other people on the planet that sustains us all.

Honestly I just don’t understand.  Anybody else that can help me to understand, I’m all ears.

29 thoughts on “Discussion: Understanding Patriotism

  1. It’s all superficial crap. And to make it worse: if we look at the Syrian crisis many of the weapons are supplied by superpowers. Britain for one. Theresa May’s husband has interests in a company that makes fighter jets I believe.
    Nothing like bombing the shit out a nation to bring them to heel, right?

    And all this hoopla conveniently forgets that superpowers like the US almost annihilated the indigenous population out of existence; reckoned to be one of the worst cases of genocide in human history.

    And do we need to mention the exploits of most of the colonial powers during the times of expansion?
    Well, maybe we do.

    Be proud? Hmm… sometimes I wonder.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Yeah, I mean the levels of hypocrisy and ignorance here are without measure for all the reasons you’ve mentioned as well. So much of the high standard of living that many western nations enjoy is built on so much blood from aboriginals and slaves, it’s hard to imagine feeling pride before having pay a lot of penance first.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. I’ve never been a red white and blue patriot, I find the entire business embarrassing and tedious. When the Iran crisis was in full swing, even in this relatively remote part of the country it reached a point of ferocity: someone put yellow ribbons on every damn telephone pole along one highway (“Tie a Yellow Ribbon’ has become the song of choice for that sort of behavior), gigantic American flags were draped over clotheslines, nailed to barns, and some were seen whipping themselves to shreds at 60 MPH on cars, some flags big enough to obstruct vision in both directions.
    None of this did a thing for the hostages in Iran, but it made some companies a great deal of money. I told my husband, thank goodness no one can see us from the road–we were the only house in the neighborhood not flying a flag ‘in support”.

    I think a lot of this jingoistic ‘local’ pride comes from the fact that most of our population is of ‘immigrant” stock themselves, and they remember stories about famines and wars and oppression and how proud Grampa was when he became a citizen. And we still have that ‘new shoes’ shine about our patriotism. Not to excuse it, but perhaps to explain it.
    It’s narrow, it’s mean, sometimes, and it’s also very very close to being a religion.

    And yet for all of that every new wave of immigrants, from the Irish to the Cubans to the Chinese and Spanish is treated with a disdain and jealousy that’s embarrassing. “let them go back to where they came from” is common. We even join forces against another state “invading” our state, and locals put up a wall of reistance, even at that level.

    In thinking about it, it seems territorial, and maybe with such a violent birth as this country had not that long ago, historically, we are still afraid to let go . Most of the older countries have functioning buildings that were old before we were ever a country. Their population has learned to make room for outsiders. When you’re sure in your own skin, you’re more generous.
    Maybe we just haven’t been a country long enough to relax, and learn some manners.

    and yes, Trump and his toads is an embarrassment to me, as well.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I think a lot of this jingoistic ‘local’ pride comes from the fact that most of our population is of ‘immigrant” stock themselves, and they remember stories about famines and wars and oppression and how proud Grampa was when he became a citizen. And we still have that ‘new shoes’ shine about our patriotism. Not to excuse it, but perhaps to explain it.

      I think I agree with you, it’s just still hard to wrap my head around how that nationalistic pride can be built on escaping oppression, famine, wars, etc, and not therefore have sympathy for groups of people doing the same thing.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I mean that’s funny…but it also wouldn’t be funny…because sadly that’s what is happening.

      Oh and somebody tried to convince me that conditions really aren’t that bad there…all CBP are just people like you and me trying to do good for people. And then that 9500 member facebook group that was making fun of the refugees and people who support them came out…I’m not convinced that there are that many regular people among them.

      Liked by 3 people

        1. Agreed John. I’m listening to a podcast that is talking about what strategies humans for cooperation. I was thinking about making it a topic for another blog post. It seems that there are both positive and negative ways of getting people to work together in a group. Dehumanizing others is certainly a strategy, but as you point out, it is a self defeating one, Because if dehumanizing others becomes the basis for a society, it can easily dehumanize from within.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. this is such a passionate plea to people to be humans. how has it been so had to be humane?
    we are in a border dispute court with Somalia and every few days I see tweets which are a short call to making a war cry and the irony is many woke people admit these borders are colonial in origin as there were no fixed borders before.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I think our hunter-gatherer selves find the idea of a border confusing. As climate changed and availability of resources changed many of our ancestors simply migrated elsewhere. Such things still happen today, except now borders change. We haven’t chosen a sustainable lifestyle, and I don’t think humans were ever really good at that simply because we did have more freedom to move.

      The hate is extra hypocritical given that we are a country of immigrants who are now saying that people fleeing persecution don’t deserve a chance at being here. The fear mongering campaign has been successful apparently.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Well not to my knowledge…although I don’t know that there are enough illegal Europeans in the country to round up. lol In the small town my university is in there were some Roma people there for awhile who immigration placed in the town until their asylum cases could be heard because they figured putting them in a detention facility for a prolonged period of time was unfavorable. Of course this was also before Trump was president. Roma are European and not white and they at least received some humane treatment. But there isn’t a big propaganda campaign against Hispanic people and I don’t know how widespread that practice is of placing people in other towns in temporary housing instead of detention centers.

          Of course this country has a bad history of treating the next wave of immigrants as scum. Whether it be Italian or Irish. We also denied asylum to Jewish people during WWII as there is a good streak of antisemitism here as well.

          The big difference here, in my mind, is how our policies on drugs are directly related to the crisis here. Way back when marijuana was made illegal the U.S. also put pressure on Mexico and other central American countries to make drugs illegal, and this in large part has been what has caused those countries to fall under the weight of drug cartels, while we here at home can use the drug laws to be more punitive to African-Americans and Hispanics. We have this on tape from two people who used to work in the Nixon administration.

          The drug pathways from South America come up either Central America or the Caribbean. So many countries in both those regions have been taken over by drugs and cartels. It’s clear as day that the war on drugs is a failure, and that we would be far better off if we legalized drugs. Cartels would lose their highest paying customers, less people would be in our prisons and would have a chance to contribute positively to society, and we could actually create revenue from regulated legal drugs, and using the surplus for education and addiction treatment.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. I don’t think patriotism is the cause for what is going on, it is the cover.

    Down here in the south you can tell the most patriotic people from the highway. They are the ones with confederate flags flying, “Don’t Tread on Me” bumper stickers, and empty beer cans overflowing the beds of their no longer running pickup trucks.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. All I can do is agree with you 100%.

    One of my favorite mantras is, “nobody is that special.”

    If that makes me un-American, so be it. It’s a shameful thing to be anyway, these days. And I’m not so sure our history is as stellar as many would like to believe. It’s not unusual as countries go, but subjugation of others in order to expand empire and fill the pockets of the uber wealthy is unsustainable and disrespectful of human differences. And it can never lead to any viable solutions.

    Aloha, Swarn.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Honestly I don’t think it’s very un-American given that the idea behind this American experiment is to be open to all those who have experienced persecution in their country of origin, to have a home based on values rooted in liberty and justice. The average asylum seeker isn’t coming to take away freedoms, but to have them. Yet the fear mongering by the conservative crowd would have you believe that they are a huge drain on our economy at best, criminals or terrorists at worst.

      But I think you’ve hit on an important point, is that there really isn’t enough honesty in how we view our history and policies. This dishonesty can even be found in many democrats as well. Perhaps because it is political death, even on the left to admit that America isn’t perfect. That lack of humility will be our undoing.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh gosh, amen to that. Hubris has caused the downfall of many a civilization. And again, I cannot but agree with all you have said here, Swarn. Shameful, this hatred of differences which can only enrich the whole. Aloha. 🙏🏽💕

        Liked by 2 people

  6. Patriotism seems to me a distraction from the actual global class distinctions. Rosa Luxemburg wrote along these lines in her passionate effort to persuade her working class compatriots to abstain from fighting in what we now call World War I.

    The fact is that the working class has no country as such, but rather global working class compatriots. To Luxemburg’s thinking, when working class people go to war on behalf of a nation state then they fight their own kind (class) on behalf of the true enemy, which is the controlling class of wealthy oligarchs in any and all cultures. To engage in such then is not only to fight against one’s own interests,but worse yet is to kill one’s own social kind so to speak.

    But that type of thinking commences at the level of national identity and how one relates to the concept itself. I realize that in the contemporary geopolitical structure that we have to recognize national identity just in order to be able communicate must less function. Thus I have no problem identifying myself as member of the USA, or even more specifically as a Texan. But I believe that I do humanity a disservice when and if I think in terms of American exceptionalism or as a member of a superior State within the USA.

    I have for years refused to stand for the Flag, or worse yet to take a loyalty oath to my country by pledging my allegiance to the USA.

    It seems to me that depatriotizing is a concept fundamental to any concept of world peace or just decent human relations.

    For as the original post references, there is no distinction between the value of any region, race, or nationality.

    We are just a bunch of people flying through space on a rock.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for reading and for your comment. You make an excellent point about the labor class not really having a country. I never thought of it that way. Thinking of it in that frame it seems more clear that so much effort is made to sell patriotism to that group of people. As a political tool politicians will try to tear down opponents by saying that person or party supported moving all your jobs to China, but very little time is spent criticizing the rich business owner who decided to increase profits by having their goods made in China (Trump being one of those people, and somehow also being a working class hero when he ran for office.) Rather than questioning the patriotism of rich people who have tremendous influence over legislation, take advantage of numerous tax loopholes (that they lobby also to not get closed). Such people are just doing what they must in name of capitalism, the fact that put American’s out of work isn’t a question of patriotism. Patriotism seems only a tool to make money for the oligarchs, if patriotism loses oligarchs money it isn’t valued.

      I agree that there is no harm in necessarily identifying yourself as American or Texan, but I feel like we must always keep in mind that these are just categories. Our brains naturally create categories and there are advantages to doing so, but these boundaries are arbitrary constructs we create and we must always be mindful that there is far more complexity to humanity to say one categorization system is going to prioritize human well-being effectively. While I think the rise of nationalism showed us that we can care about people we don’t know solely based on a national identity, categorization like this can always lead to dehumanization. Ultimately “human” is the category we have to recognize as the only one we all fall under.


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