George Orwell, in his influential essay Notes on Nationalism distinguished patriotism from the related concept of nationalism:
“By ‘patriotism’ I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force upon other people. Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality.’ Of course, patriotism is Greek in origin and nationalism is Latin in origin.
Orwell makes good points but I nationalism does NOT have to mean ethnic particularism or chauvinism or even jingoism.
Surely nationalism has been associated with a strong desire for NATIONAL INDEPENDENCE which can be a very good thing. Karl Marx famously stated that “The working men have no country”and that “the supremacy of the proletariat will cause them [national differences] to vanish still faster.” It is totalitarian to believe that regional and national differences should be stamped out.
We are all nationalists or nativists to some degree of course. Almost everyone prefers his own language, his own food, his favorite sports, his favorite music, his own religion. I would not say men and women are separated into “nations” or “conflictive classes”. I cannot distinguish between my mother and my father and the entire COMMUNITY when I think of my native land.
Of course, I have a sentimental tie to the wee homeland of my heart which is Scotland and particularly to the Highlands -the Gaidhealtachd. But unlike some, I have never felt separatism was a wise path. Small groups need the protection and security of a national union.
The decline and fall of Celtic peoples, in my view, was directly related to their divisions into clans and tribes and their inability to unite. Their inability to gain unity undermined their culture and essentially doomed their languages.
On the other hand, excessive nationalism exalting one nation, one race, one religion and one language over all others can fall off into true Fascism.
I am an American by choice but I love other nations also and other cuisines and other languages. My religious faith is universalist; it is not bounded by one race or one nation.
But you can’t win a championship without a team. And you can’t win a war without a Regiment, without a team, without an Army.
The only security for the family is the community and the only security for the community is the alliance of communities known as the nation.
To me, patriotism and nationalism are nearly synonymous. The Spanish have a word “patriotero” which means excessively patriotic in a chauvinistic or flag-waving way. We can be excessively nationalistic or excessively patriotic.
But surely love for our OUR TEAM and OUR COLORS is not bad unless it makes us HATE all rivals even neighbors. I love the Dodgers but would never beat up a Red Sox fan (some yobs do). I admire other nations and other people who have skills and traits I lack. I doff my hat to the best team. The Nationals were the best team in 2019.
But we make a fatal mistake if we think our freedom is due to the UN or chance. We are free because soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines were willing to die for the Colors, the colors that represented their homeland, their nation, their security, their freedom. I consider myself a patriot and a cosmopolitan nationalist. I admire our Gallant Allies and know we need friends and allies.
Without national pride and national units, NATO and the UN would not protect me from evildoers, criminals and fanatics. To say “nationalism” is treason as Macron said, is wrongheaded even dangerous. Treason to whom? The EU superstate?
Our freedom is tied to our national independence. So let me say it on Veteran’s Day. I am a proud patriot and American nationalist. We SHOULD DELIGHT in the triumph of the Good but the costs should never be forgotten. We should have gratitude to our nation but also to our “gallant allies” the other nations who had taught us and helped us win wars and protect freedom. To me, true freedom will never mean uniformity but pluralism.