What do history's most notorious despots have in common with many of the flag-waving, patriotic politicians of our day? Both groups rise to power through the exploitation of fear, which has become a societal plague. There have been widespread casualties. We need an antidote. Feardom offers its readers a much-needed immunization.
photo credit: ilmungo
William N. Grigg, formerly of the John Birch Society, has an excellent post about the distinction between patriotism and nationalism:
While the terms patriotism and nationalism can refer to the same thing — the love of one’s native country — in practice they have acquired very different meanings. Nationalism, in practice, describes not to the love of a country but rather the veneration of its central government.
As historian John J. Dwyer notes, nationalism is a degenerate impostor of patriotism. "The patriot says, `I love my country,’ works for its good, and defends it if necessary — against enemies within and without," writes Dwyer. "He strives and prays not primarily that God will bless his country, but that his country will bless God. The nationalist, meanwhile, says, `My country is better than yours.’ `My country is the greatest there has ever been.’ `The greatest nation on God’s green earth.’ `They hate my country because it is so good.’"
Nationalism focuses on the State, rather than the community. It is unambiguously based on zero-sum assumptions about power, and nationalists define victory in terms of imposing their will on others.
As Ron Paul mentions, what once was true patriotism has evolved (or degenerated, rather) into nationalism:
The major obstacle to a sensible foreign policy is the fiction about what patriotism means. Today patriotism has come to mean blind support for the government and its policies. In earlier times patriotism meant having the willingness and courage to challenge government policies regardless of popular perceptions.
President Theodore Roosevelt eloquently stated how we might differentiate between patriotism and nationalism:
Every man who parrots the cry of ‘stand by the President’ without adding the proviso ‘so far as he serves the Republic’ takes an attitude as essentially unmanly as that of any Stuart royalist who championed the doctrine that the King could do no wrong. No self-respecting and intelligent free man could take such an attitude. (via Quoty)
President Benson taught the end result of nationalism, guised as patriotism:
If America is destroyed, it may be by Americans who salute the flag, sing the national anthem, march in patriotic parades, cheer Fourth of July speakers – normally good Americans who fail to comprehend what is required to keep our country strong and free – Americans who have been lulled away into a false security. (via Quoty)
Surely a false sense of security is engendered upon parroting America as a great nation that can never fall. The Lord has stipulated upon what grounds we may enjoy liberty in this land. Promoting an American imperialist empire as we currently are operating is wholly contradictory to the commandments we have been given, and we will certainly reap the consequences of such actions.
Nationalism—unquestioning loyalty to the current form of government—does nothing to restrain tyrants, uphold the Constitution, and secure the blessings of liberty for all of God’s children. Only patriotism—founded on true, eternal principles—can afford us that outcome.
I think it would be beneficial for each of us, in light of this distinction, to analyze whether we truly are patriots or nationalists. Wisely did Thomas Jefferson once say “The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.” Are we allowing liberty to yield?
As Chalmers Johnson said in Why We Fight, “Nowhere is it written that the American empire goes on forever.” We must stand by the principles this nation was founded upon, and not the current corrupt government that has abused these principles.
True patriots fight against those who lead us down the slippery slope to tyranny. Nationalists are the cowards who follow the path of least resistance and think that all is well.