"There is no maxim in my opinion which is more liable to be misapplied, and which therefore needs elucidation than the current one that the interest of the majority is the political standard of right and wrong...." ~ James Madison
Patriotism is defined as 'love for or devotion to one's country.' Almost invariably this is taken as being a good characteristic for a person to possess. There are very few who question the wisdom of patriotism, whether it should exists at all, and if it should exist, in what manner or form.
The state is the biggest promoter of patriotism. Politicians love to make patriotic speeches, exhort citizens to do their patriotic duty, and present themselves as shining example of patriotism. The state compliant media mostly parrots the jingoistic patriotism spoon fed it by government bureaucrats. Few people question whether this patriotism is actually in their own best interests.
In many cases, patriotism is used as an excuse to limit or shut down free speech on issues that the state does not want discussed or questioned. Politicians and their media toadies often denounce as unpatriotic, and often as traitors, those who dare question their policies. Most people have never heard this famous quote by Samuel Johnson: 'Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel,' or considered the insight it offers.
Should patriotism exist?
Should one have a love for or devotion to one's country? Where one is born is not a conscious decision that an individual makes; it truly is an accident of birth. An extremely good case can be made for having love and devotion to one's own self, family, and friends, as these are all in the interest of the individual. Is it in the interest of the individual to have the same or greater love and devotion to one's country? While it is easy to understand the emotional attachment people have to themselves, family, and friends, there seems to be no rational reason for such a deep emotional attachment to a homeland.
People living in local communities and regional areas often have interests that vary wildly from community to community and from regional area to regional area. It is hard to see how someone in New York can have the same interests as someone living on an island in the Pacific Ocean ( Hawaii ), or someone living in Arkansas can have the same interests as someone in Alaska . Often people living near national borders have more in common with people in other nations than their own nation. Since interests are so diverse at a national level, it is hard to justify as being in a person's own best interest to have a love for or devotion to one's country, as patriotism can cause a person to give tacit approval to ideas and policies that are at odds with the person's own interests.
On further inspection, it seems that patriotism is just a cover for collectivist thinking. Patriotism promotes the idea that the nation is responsible for any good that happens to the individual, and the individual owes his life to the nation. Patriotism tries to assign any benefit that an individual receives, not to the individual acts of people, but because of the collective good of the nation. Patriotism demands that the individual subjugate his desires to the collective interest of the nation, even to sacrificing himself, family, and friends. Patriotism advocates group responsibility over individual responsibility.
What are the forms of patriotism?
While it is doubtful that we can find a good reason for patriotism, we know it exists. So what do people mean by love for or devotion to one's country, and how is it expressed? Do patriotic individuals exhibit an emotional attachment to their country at the exclusion of all other nations, that their country and its inhabitants have more inalienable rights than other countries and their citizens, and are better? How do patriots view foreign nations and foreigners?
A close assessment of patriotism will show that it often manifests itself as a form of belligerent nationalism. Nationalism is defined as 'loyalty and devotion to a nation; especially: a sense of national consciousness exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups.' People who exhibit patriotism often view their fatherland as vastly superior to other nations, and that foreigners are little more than subhuman. They are often xenophobic and jingoistic. This has manifested itself many times in the past, with Nazism being a classic example. Today the US , and many who claim to be patriots of the US , exhibits these same characteristics.
If patriotism has any value, it would be as a friendly competition between equals who have the same rights, where one hopes that all competitors do well, but hopes that his side does the best. Unfortunately, patriotism as practiced today involves Orwellian doublethink, where 'love for' country is actually manifested as 'hatred for' foreigners and all those who resist the state policies of murder and theft. Many of those who claim to be patriotic resort to orgiastic frenzies of hatred to justify the genocide and war crimes committed in their names. They coin terms like 'collateral damage' to justify the murder of innocent lives. Collateral damage is just a euphemism for murder, and all those who advocate or tolerate it because of some misguided concept of patriotism are murders at heart.
Patriotism and the state
As mentioned earlier, the state is the biggest promoter of patriotism. The state, through appeals to patriotism, inculcates an attachment to the state, instead of the nation. The state advocates complete and absolute obedience to the dictates of its leaders as a sign of love for one's country. It wants people to remain ignorant of this quote by Edward Abbey: 'A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government.'
The state attempts to foster the idea 'my country, right or wrong' as a prime example of patriotism. Any rational, clear thinking individual can see the foolishness of 'my country, right or wrong,' and that it is a recipe for disaster. Senator Carl Schulz responded to those who tried to shut down debate by invoking this inane idea with: 'My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.'
One of the best tools the state employs to instill patriotism in the general public is the state indoctrination centers know as public schools. There young, impressionable minds are brainwashed into accepting the state as patriotic by mindless, rote repetitions of the Pledge of Allegiance. Almost none question the wisdom of pledging allegiance to an inanimate object, the flag ' why not a parking meter, or a tree, or a squirrel? ' or that pledging allegiance is what a servant does to a master, and advocates ideas contrary to the founding principles of America. A more fitting pledge would be:
I pledge allegiance to the principles of the sovereignty of the individual and individual responsibility. I acknowledge that government can rule only by the consent of each individual, and that each individual may choose their own form and manner of government. I agree that each individual, regardless of nation or origin, is master of his life, his liberty, his pursuit of happiness, as each individual sees fit. I declare that it is wrong to commit acts of violence against any individual or group of individuals, or have someone in my name commit acts of violence against any individual or group of individuals, except in self defense. I commit myself to peacefully interacting with my fellow man through voluntary association and trade.
To wrap it up
The merits of patriotism are dubious at best. As practiced, the kindest description is that patriotism is a national psychosis, where those who suffer from it can no longer determine right from wrong, and advocate that the state commit barbaric atrocities in their name. As with all other mental derangements, those who suffer from its delusional effects should not be encouraged to continue or spread their disease, but seek qualified help to overcome their impairment.
Patriotism is a tool of the state. The state uses it to demand blind, unthinking obedience to the dictates of the leaders. It is used to stifle discussion of issues that the state does not want questioned. As practiced today, patriotism is the enemy of free speech and freedom.
A true patriot always questions his government and its leaders. The lover of liberty knows that the state is the greatest threat to freedom, not foreigners in other nations. Freedom lovers know it is wrong to aggress against any individual, and that voluntary association and trade are the only legitimate means of interaction.