The Patriotism Puzzle

(10 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)


Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all others because you were born in it. George Bernard Shaw

The nation is divided, half patriots and half traitors, and no man can tell which from which. Mark Twain

Patriotism is a arbitrary veneration of real estate above principles

George Jean Nathan

Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons.

Bertrand Russell

Just saying you’re patriotic is like saying you have a big cock. If you have to say it, chances are it’s probably not true. Bill Maher

You’re not supposed to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong no matter who does it or says it.Malcolm X

Patriotism is the religion of Hell. James Cabell

I have always had an uneasy relationship with patriotism. As it happens I grew up in a country where the expression of was rather muted. Canadian patriotism has often been infused with a tinge of smugness: hey we aren’t American, as if that was something that conferred moral righteousness.Yay. We aren’t a British colony any more! Indeed much of the debate over Canadian nationalism has been a discussion of what Canadians aren’t. Sharing a continent with the United States can create a sort of defensive resentment that can sound petulant.

Then I moved to the United States. And I started to wonder: Does God bless America mean fuck everybody else? Is America only a “great” country if we are “number one”? Why does a country have to be smothered in greatness to be a decent one? Is patriotism like a gravy that has to be dumped on something to either cover the rancid taste or to enhance the ingredients?

I suppose my ongoing internal reverberations about patriotism have been stimulated by watching the horrific coverage of the Olympics and the realization that much of the election will be dotted by accusations and counter accusations about who is the greater patriot.

Hilarity was abundant during Olympic coverage when I noted that half the time the networks chose to focus exclusively on American who did not even medal which would have been just fine if they had showed the medal performances. Then there was the “cold war” tone when China and the US squared off in events. Do the networks think Americans are so insecure they cannot stand to watch something Americans don’t win?

Are Americans so insecure they cannot watch a sporting event in which Americans don’t win?


Certainly patriotism since the twentieth century has been shaped by the fact that the United States “won” World War II. I suppose 10 million civilians and soldiers in Russia had nothing to do with the outcome.

Add to that McCarthyism, the cold war and now the war on terror and patriotism as a fashion statement keeps re-inventing itself as fast as shifting hemlines.

The central issue that has always fascinated by is why does anybody care about being judged patriotic enough? Is that a uniquely American state or can it be found in other countries. I would guess that patriotism in other countries tends to get hyper under authoritarianism.

At some point I will likely become an American citizen and I have to say I just don’t give a rat’s ass if you think I am patriotic enough especially as long as it is defined in the context of justifying the diminishing of civil rights here and the destruction of life elsewhere.

Not long after moving here somebody asked me the inevitable: Don’t you think America is the greatest country in the world? My answer was : I don’t know I have only ever lived in North America. Certainly, I added I am grateful to have won the lottery and been born on a continent where even the worst government still provides a few services and I am not being tossed in jail for speaking out. If America isn’t the “greatest country in the world” is everybody going to move? Maybe that wouldn’t be so bad, the assholes might decide to check out a new “greatest country.”

Maybe there is a special “patriotism line” in heaven and that gets you in quicker. Actually given the number of people who think they are going to heaven and what I think of them, I won’t be upset to be excluded from the line. I am going to ask to go to the wine and cheese bar instead.

Why is a patriotic American considered more worthy than a kind American? Why does one have to be considered patriotic to be considered a “real” American?

Why will I have to listen to the candidates even talk about this infantile puree? Why do even some progressives long for America to be “great” again? Why is “greatness” the highest good for any one country? I suppose it depends entirely on how one defines “greatness.”

I just don’t get it.


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  1. dump yours on my head….

    • Robyn on August 22, 2008 at 17:36

    Patriotism:  Combustible rubbish ready to the torch of anyone ambitious to illuminate his name.


    • Edger on August 22, 2008 at 18:04

    neocons and wingnuts, you’re not “patriotic” unless you want to destroy your country.

  2. “nationalism” instead of “patriotism” (which I think is a better descriptor anyway), but I think this is a wonderfully powerful quote:

    It isn’t necessary to be ‘anti-national’ to be deeply suspicious of all nationalism, to be anti-nationalism. Nationalism of one kind or another was the cause of most of the genocide of the twentieth century.

    Flags are bits of colored cloth that governments use first to shrink-wrap people’s brains and then as ceremonial shrouds to bury the dead.

    • Viet71 on August 22, 2008 at 19:59

    I know what I’m being.  I.e., until the term is defined in some way.  Or until I know some concrete examples of what it is to be patriotic.

    Is flying the flag in rain patriotic?  If so, I guess there are lots of patriots (businesses and individuals).

    Same as to those yellow magnetic ribbons.

    I hear voting is patriotic, but I would support a boycott of the polls.

    Maybe I’m not patriotic.  Maybe I’m a fucking revolutionary.  That’s a nice thought.

  3. …we need to grow beyond the petty boundaries and demarcations signified by things like nationalism and patriotism.

    Although I love to see finely honed bodies in motion (ie: the Olympics), I have been dismayed by “some” of the blatant one-upsmanship.  While seeing this, I am also seeing growth in good sportsmanship and balance.

    I have to confess I’m asking myself if I am prejudiced as I find myself rooting “against” China.  I don’t like seeing them win this much.  I assuage my possible prejudice by telling myself that I’m not really against the Chinese.  I’m only against their dogmatic nationalism, against the need and the methods used to be The Best.

    The closed mindedness in the entire society, the taking small children away from their families to train in sports camps, the disregard for human rights, health and safety.

    This is what I feel when I find myself hoping that “the other” person or team will beat China.

    Ultimately, I believe nationalism and patriotism are self defeating.  The lack of respect for the other creates a blowback where the other loses respect for oneself.

    Perhaps this is the psychological equivalent for what happened to respect for the United States due to W’s illegal, insane war on the world, starting with Iraq & Afghanistan.

    Pardon my long ramble here; I’ve really been fiddling with these ideas during the Olympics.  

    Thanks, UCC, for posting this subject and provoking an important discussion.  

  4. …I think patriotism, and nationalism, are decompensating family of origin issues writ large :}  I wish I was kidding.

    I do think what it means varies by size.  If pfiore8 is around to chip in, I’d love to hear what she has to say…when I was in NL, a much smaller place than the states, identification with country meant identifying with a system of agreement which actually, after a fashion, sort of works for it’s members.  There are issues of membership, of course…I’ve always had the sense that Canada has some of the same characteristics.  America doesn’t agree on enough, I think, to have much of a commonweal.  There are too many people whose interests are too disparate.

    Anyway, liked the essay, as usual.  

    • Edger on August 23, 2008 at 00:15

    a word?

    globalism” just doesn’t quite seem appropriate, for some reason…

  5. some kind old misplaced tribalism. The Olympic coverage is unbearable. I zone out then watch the Jamaican run. The mute button is best. I like the events that are elemental to humans the running the beauty of watching people do what they are designed to do. Sadly were caught in the on going tragedy of nations, tribes, conquests and winning. Patriotism is another word along with nationalism and winning that leads us all down paths so alienating from the beauty of our being. Our running jumping human bonds.  

  6. Are Americans so insecure they cannot watch a sporting event in which Americans don’t win?

    This has been another edition of short answer theatre.

  7. the promote…

    • TheRef on August 24, 2008 at 02:37

    Are Americans so insecure they cannot watch a sporting event in which Americans don’t win?

    I am more concerned that we suffer the arrogance of patriotism in more than the need to win a sporting event. It seems that we think only Americans can be patriotic about one’s country. Our public view seems to be that others showing similar feelings towards their own country are suffering from some nationalistic disease that threatens our own country.

    Future generations must learn to live in a world wherein more and more people [and countries] are on a more equal footing with America. Some may even pass us on the “good living” scale. Many of these countries will surpass us in education, in economic wealth, quite probably in military strength, social and on other scales. Do Americans have the internal strength to withstand placing 2nd, 3rd, 4th or even lower on the weights and measures scale. I hope that we do…. I suspect that we will do even further harm to this country before we come to grips with our changing place in the global community.

    Many Americans today are in a state of denial. Some of us think that we can fight off the global changes by bombing the hell out of somebody [no particular target …just somebody]. Some think that we are in a death spiral with no hope of changing our future. A few of us [I hope more than a few …a majority] believe that we can change our ways and modify for the better our outcome. Some see us able to change while others believe that we must fight to return us to yesteryear. Some argue that this turning back the clock mentality is patriotism. I, on the other hand, believe that a true American patriot is one who looks into future possibilities and begins the planning, the hard work today that assures a strong, free and prosperous America even if the ride includes a multitude of countries riding along beside us as global community partners.

    American patriotism does not preclude other countries enjoying the same [or even better] lives than our won.  

    • Viet71 on August 24, 2008 at 02:54

    Americans win?

    Sorry.  My deal is the environment.

    Everything else is a distraction.

    Without a healthy environment, all life dies.

  8. watched have I.  Something about a year of re-education through labor for seventy year old women who merely applied for a permit to protest being thrown out of their homes.  Games, corporate at that, bread and circus maximus for the commoners, the proles.

    Twisted genius lies in the neo-con plan.  Wrap yourself in the flag while plotting to create the North American Union, take 1/4 of the wealth of three nations for the banksters and wrap yourself in the flag once again.  Yea, let’s drill in Anwar so we can sell it to Japan at full what the market will bear price.

    I mainstream Illuminati primer book.

    Brought to you by mythical unicorns and riders of Apocalyptic horses.

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