Friday, April 17, 2009

Patriotism v. Nationalism

While a boisterous minority of Americans prepared for and engaged in the Tax Day Tea Party That In No Way Should Be Equated With Or Positively Compared To The Actual Boston Tea Party, according to a recent Gallup poll nearly two-thirds of Americans think the taxes they paid this year are fair. There are more Americans (48%) that think their taxes are about right than Americans that think their taxes are too high (46%). This represents the most positive feelings that Americans have about their taxes since 1956.

Pres. Obama's approval and favorability ratings are holding steady around 60% nationwide. A majority of Americans feel the economy is on the right track. Even in Utah, land of the religious conservative, the latest data (discussed here) show that a majority of Utahns approve of the job Pres. Obama is doing.

So how do we square these generally very positive feelings about the president and taxes with the Tax Day Tea Party That In No Way Should Be Equated With Or Positively Compared To The Actual Boston Tea Party, where so many protesters toted incendiary and offensive posters? (Go ahead and Google Image search Tax Day Tea Pary, or go here. Note: I understand they are the small minority of the protesters, who were in turn a small minority of conservatives, who are in turn a minority of Americans. Disturbing nonetheless).

I think what we are seeing is how thin the line is between patriotism and nationalism. I came across a nice summary of the difference:
The love of country—patriotism—is a very different sentiment from nationalism. A fine book by Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities, beautifully distinguishes between nationalist and patriotic sentiments. Nationalism is an aggrandizing, tribalistic sentiment that defines one’s own group as opposed to alien groups, which are seen as potential rivals or enemies to be overcome or excluded. Patriotism, by contrast, implies love of country without necessarily implying hostility to anybody else. American patriotism is built of shared knowledge, attitudes, loyalties, and values, including the values of nonexclusion, toleration, and respect for other religions and cultures. Americans have proved that it is possible to feel patriotic about a cosmopolitan, diverse country, which is loved more for its vital diversity than for its racial or ethnic purity.
More Americans are patriotic than nationalistic, no question. I suppose you get more nationalists on the right, whereas the complaint about the extreme left is that they are internationalists who want to give up American sovereignty. But with all the rhetoric lately about Pres. Obama being a socialist, communist, fascist (the irony), tyrant, anti-American, mixed with the over-the-top language by Glenn Beck and Texas governor Rick Perry about sucession from the Union, I think it is important to step back every once in a while and contemplate the difference between nationalism and patriotism.

In American patriotism we embrace diversity, the political process, peaceful dissent, democracy, the good we see in each other, and ways we can improve. The nationalists embrace homogeny, power, and exclusion. Peaceful tax day protests, or any other peaceful protest, is patriotic. Mean-spiritedness and fear-mongering (from both sides, things were regularly said about Pres. Bush that were not patriotic) have no place. Criticizing our leaders is patriotic, vitriol is not.

We are absolutely not in danger of becoming socialist, communist, lead by a dictator, or any of the other silly things we are hearing from the extreme right. Americans employed the democratic process and elected a government that most closely aligned with the views of the majority. In time, as is always the case, conservatives will find a voice that appeals to the majority and come back into power. We are constantly searching for an equilibrium and never finding it, which is perfectly healthy. But seriously, enough with the sensationalism (synomym: nationalism).

1 comment:

Chad said...

See last comment on previous posts.