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Patriotism or Nationalism?
Sobran's ^ | 10/16/2001 | Joseph Sobran

Posted on 10/30/2001 8:56:40 AM PST by sheltonmac

Patriotism or Nationalism?

October 16, 2001

This is a season of patriotism, but also of something that is easily mistaken for patriotism; namely, nationalism. The difference is vital.

G.K. Chesterton once observed that Rudyard Kipling, the great poet of British imperialism, suffered from a “lack of patriotism.” He explained: “He admires England, but he does not love her; for we admire things with reasons, but love them without reasons. He admires England because she is strong, not because she is English.”

In the same way, many Americans admire America for being strong, not for being American. For them America has to be “the greatest country on earth” in order to be worthy of their devotion. If it were only the 2nd-greatest, or the 19th-greatest, or, heaven forbid, “a 3rd-rate power,” it would be virtually worthless.

This is nationalism, not patriotism. Patriotism is like family love. You love your family just for being your family, not for being “the greatest family on earth” (whatever that might mean) or for being “better” than other families. You don’t feel threatened when other people love their families the same way. On the contrary, you respect their love, and you take comfort in knowing they respect yours. You don’t feel your family is enhanced by feuding with other families.

While patriotism is a form of affection, nationalism, it has often been said, is grounded in resentment and rivalry; it’s often defined by its enemies and traitors, real or supposed. It is militant by nature, and its typical style is belligerent. Patriotism, by contrast, is peaceful until forced to fight.

The patriot differs from the nationalist in this respect too: he can laugh at his country, the way members of a family can laugh at each other’s foibles. Affection takes for granted the imperfection of those it loves; the patriotic Irishman thinks Ireland is hilarious, whereas the Irish nationalist sees nothing to laugh about.

The nationalist has to prove his country is always right. He reduces his country to an idea, a perfect abstraction, rather than a mere home. He may even find the patriot’s irreverent humor annoying.

Patriotism is relaxed. Nationalism is rigid. The patriot may loyally defend his country even when he knows it’s wrong; the nationalist has to insist that he defends his country not because it’s his, but because it’s right. As if he would have defended it even if he hadn’t been born to it! The nationalist talks as if he just “happens,” by sheer accident, to have been a native of the greatest country on earth — in contrast to, say, the pitiful Belgian or Brazilian.

Because the patriot and the nationalist often use the same words, they may not realize that they use those words in very different senses. The American patriot assumes that the nationalist loves this country with an affection like his own, failing to perceive that what the nationalist really loves is an abstraction — “national greatness,” or something like that. The American nationalist, on the other hand, is apt to be suspicious of the patriot, accusing him of insufficient zeal, or even “anti-Americanism.”

When it comes to war, the patriot realizes that the rest of the world can’t be turned into America, because his America is something specific and particular — the memories and traditions that can no more be transplanted than the mountains and the prairies. He seeks only contentment at home, and he is quick to compromise with an enemy. He wants his country to be just strong enough to defend itself.

But the nationalist, who identifies America with abstractions like “freedom” and “democracy,” may think it’s precisely America’s mission to spread those abstractions around the world — to impose them by force, if necessary. In his mind, those abstractions are universal ideals, and they can never be truly “safe” until they exist, unchallenged, everywhere; the world must be made “safe for democracy” by “a war to end all wars.” We still hear versions of these Wilsonian themes. Any country that refuses to Americanize is “anti-American” — or a “rogue nation.” For the nationalist, war is a welcome opportunity to change the world. This is a recipe for endless war.

In a time of war hysteria, the outraged patriot, feeling his country under attack, may succumb to the seductions of nationalism. This is the danger we face now.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial
KEYWORDS:

1 posted on 10/30/2001 8:56:40 AM PST by sheltonmac
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To: ouroboros; Snuffington; Greg4TCP; Loopy; cva66snipe; Askel5; ppaul; kidd; JohnHuang2; sauropod...
Bump
2 posted on 10/30/2001 8:57:23 AM PST by sheltonmac
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To: sheltonmac; snopercod
Which is why the liberals, "liberal media," Clintons, Clintonistas, and unfortunately too many Democrats are more accurately, nationalizing socialists: their focus or reason d'etre is rivalry, the pitting of people against each other, most typically by employing fear and state excesses, out of which adversity or anarchy, such politicos locate themselves to be seen, to appear to be, the solutions ( ... to the very problems they created).

They are government supremacists, nationalists.

3 posted on 10/30/2001 9:15:44 AM PST by First_Salute
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To: sheltonmac
BTTT
4 posted on 10/30/2001 9:17:44 AM PST by Marianne
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To: sheltonmac
Which view would embody Decatur's toast? "My country, may she always be right, but she is my country, right or wrong."
5 posted on 10/30/2001 9:19:42 AM PST by DeaconBenjamin
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To: sheltonmac
We're not really trying to force-feed our ideals hither and yon; but we do insist that, in the interest of liberty and pursuit of prosperity, other nations leave other nations (including us) alone, in peace, to pursue our own goals. We do this because when we don't, tyrants arise and will always come back to haunt us.
6 posted on 10/30/2001 9:21:24 AM PST by Migraine
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To: sheltonmac; snopercod
"...and he is quick to compromise with an enemy."

Nope.

And my apologies, about my previous reply; it was meant in the context of where I had first, in my error of reading too fast, thought the article was headed.

Very sorry.

7 posted on 10/30/2001 9:21:34 AM PST by First_Salute
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To: Agrarian; Mercuria; diotima; sheltonmac; Either/Or; Askel5; mrustow; UnBlinkingEye...
OUTSTANDING COLUMN BUMP. Sorry if many of you are getting double bumped, I'm sure Shelton's list and mine have a lot of overlap.
8 posted on 10/30/2001 9:25:56 AM PST by ouroboros
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To: sheltonmac
what the nationalist really loves is an abstraction — “national greatness,” or something like that.

BTT
9 posted on 10/30/2001 9:40:59 AM PST by sendtoscott
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To: sheltonmac; *Paleo_list
Ties in with a thread I posted last night, Notes on Nationalism. I think I actually was born in the greatest country on Earth, America, but I still think I'm a patriot in the sense he means because if I had been born Danish I would love Denmark, military might or no. But then, it's doubtful that "greatest" necessarily has anything to do with the military. I'd say the greatest country is the one with the most freedom (which, I suppose, is a very American thing to say). In that case, America is still at or near the top(it's a little more subjective than who can kill more people and break more stuff). He's right that confusion between nationalism and patriotism are easy, but he passes one of the reasons over. An American patriot must love America partly because of abstract ideals, because those ideals form an important part of our particular identity and history.
10 posted on 10/30/2001 9:59:38 AM PST by A.J.Armitage
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To: ouroboros
I don't mind being bumped twice. This article deserves it.
11 posted on 10/30/2001 10:02:19 AM PST by A.J.Armitage
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To: sheltonmac
Any country that refuses to Americanize is "anti-American" - or a "rogue nation."

This is fine in theory, but written as it is, in the middle of the War on Terror becomes demagoguery. That is because what is currently termed "rogue nation" has a precise connotation: a nation that would assist terrorists is a rogue nation; a nation could be as unamerican as a fig pie, if it cooperates with us, it is a legitimate nation.

12 posted on 10/30/2001 10:30:14 AM PST by annalex
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To: ouroboros
A thanks-for-the-ping BTTT
13 posted on 10/30/2001 11:17:46 AM PST by Constitutionalist Conservative
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To: sheltonmac

Aw, Shucks!


14 posted on 10/30/2001 3:31:09 PM PST by shuckmaster
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To: ouroboros
Of Kipling: "He loves England because England is strong, not because it's English."

I love America because she is strong AND because she is America. In fact, an America that isn't strong, isn't America.

15 posted on 10/30/2001 3:43:00 PM PST by IronJack
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To: annalex; ouroboros
This is fine in theory, but written as it is, in the middle of the War on Terror becomes demagoguery.

A War on Terror is a demagog definition of war.

That is because what is currently termed "rogue nation" has a precise connotation: a nation that would assist terrorists is a rogue nation;

We assisted and trained the Taliban and Bin Laden not to mention the KLA.

a nation could be as unamerican as a fig pie, if it cooperates with us, it is a legitimate nation.

What a ridiculous assertion. You should be ashamed of yourself. Think about your statements I quoted and apply them to other points of view.

16 posted on 10/30/2001 4:37:53 PM PST by UnBlinkingEye
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To: IronJack
I love America because she is strong AND because she is America. In fact, an America that isn't strong, isn't America.

That would depend entirely on how you define the word "strong". Before America became an Empire, she was "strong" in the sense that her people and her "small r" republican virtues gave her strength. Being a huge "superpower" with a "place in the world" second to none, might be things that one would point to as evidence of America's strength. I wouldn't.

I would submit that the events surrounding September 11, show us that this "strong" Empire that we still call America is very, very weak. The true strength of America resides in the American people and that strength will be here regardless of how "important" we are in the world or how grandiose our military-industrial complex is.

America was a good country long before it was a "great" country. One should not confuse the trappings of State and Empire with "greatness" as I believe far too many conservatives -- from Kristolites to Keyesters -- do far too often.

17 posted on 10/30/2001 5:07:48 PM PST by ouroboros
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To: UnBlinkingEye
I don't like the term "war on terror" myself, but I am not in a position to give it a different name. Whether we traned some of the thugs that now pester us is not very relevant. We trained the mujaheddeen for a concrete and legitimate purpose to facilitate their fighting the USSR. We owe them nothing and they have not earned a right to murder our civilians. As to the unamerican nations' ability to behave themselves and consequently not be characterized as "rogue nations", contrary to Sobran's assertions, I just don't understand what your trepidation is, exactly.
18 posted on 10/30/2001 6:37:07 PM PST by annalex
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To: sheltonmac
Good article.
19 posted on 10/30/2001 6:47:22 PM PST by Aerial
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To: ouroboros
Thanks for the bump. It is a good article and the distinction needs to be drawn, though I will admit I'm not as negative towards nationalism as the author but I do see his point nonetheless.
20 posted on 10/30/2001 7:17:49 PM PST by mafree
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To: sheltonmac
SM, I've never read better. Even from Sobran. IT'S GOOD!!! And WELL reasoned. I am a patriot. Peace and love, George.
21 posted on 10/30/2001 8:09:28 PM PST by George Frm Br00klyn Park
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To: ouroboros
I recall reading the other day, A patriot is someone who loves his country, a nationalist is someone who hates all other countries.
22 posted on 10/30/2001 8:21:52 PM PST by Valin
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To: ouroboros
Who was it who said "America is great because she is good, when she stops being good she'll stop being great."
23 posted on 10/30/2001 8:24:00 PM PST by Valin
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To: ouroboros
Thanks for the bump, ob.

This is a well-written, terse attack on neoconservatism, and I suppose, a defense of paleo-conservatism.

The nationalist has to prove his country is always right. He reduces his country to an idea, a perfect abstraction, rather than a mere home. He may even find the patriot’s irreverent humor annoying.

Although reading Sobran is always a joy, I am distressed to see that he has apparently been hit with a case of Rockwell Flu, which causes the patient to obsessively rail against neo-conservatism, to the detriment of his judgment.

24 posted on 10/30/2001 11:11:32 PM PST by mrustow
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Comment #25 Removed by Moderator

To: sheltonmac
This is a season of patriotism, but also of something that is easily mistaken for patriotism; namely, nationalism. The difference is vital.

It's nationalism if we start it, it's patriotism if the other guys start it.

26 posted on 10/31/2001 3:39:03 AM PST by Gamecock
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Comment #27 Removed by Moderator

Comment #28 Removed by Moderator

To: A.J.Armitage
An American patriot must love America partly because of abstract ideals, because those ideals form an important part of our particular identity and history.

Couldn't have said it better. America is more than dirt and trees, it is ideas and believes. I love America because it is good and right and it is my home. It is the greatest nation on earth because patriots are willing to sacrifice to make it so.

29 posted on 10/31/2001 4:15:34 AM PST by dpa5923
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To: ouroboros
Thanks for the ping, O. No time NOW to read it but I'll be back.
BTW, I coincidentally just finished a posting of A.J. Armitage's here: Notes On Nationalism

It's long but EXCELLENT!

30 posted on 10/31/2001 4:26:34 AM PST by SusanUSA
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To: A.J.Armitage
Just skimmed the replies. Guess I should have known you'd beat me in posting a link.
LOL
31 posted on 10/31/2001 4:28:33 AM PST by SusanUSA
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To: Valin
Who was it who said "America is great because she is good, when she stops being good she'll stop being great."

I believe it was Alexis de Tocqueville.

32 posted on 10/31/2001 4:48:02 AM PST by Steve1789
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To: tex-oma; UnBlinkingEye
answer my entire question

On occasion, I put a fragment of the original post in italics, just like I did now, to explain which part of the post my comments refer to. This practice shouldn't be novel to you.

Usually, it is sufficient, when responding, to point out a thing or two in the original post and not repond word-by-word. Many do that: put the entire original post in italics and sort of annotate it but I find this practice very irritating. If you think that I do not address something in your post as I should, feel free to focus on that and ask again.

TRAINED [...] What does that mean?

That is the word used by UnBlinkingEye but I heard it before. I am sure you can't just give a Stinger to someone and expect him to be able to use it without training, so I assume some training of the mujahedeen by us did take place.

Concrete purpose?

The purpose was "to facilitate their fighting the USSR", as my post #18 says. That is concrete enough, to my mind. It is true that now they use the acquired skills and some of the materiel against us, although I haven't heard of them having any success with the Stingers lately. Why they do it? Beats me. I don't think they should. I think they're wrong.

Legitimate purpose

The USSR invaded Afghanistan in 1979 after their attempt to install a pro-Soviet government there ended up in a coup. The mujahedeen were a classic case of indigenous guerilla trying to repel a foreign invasion; assisting such group is of course, legitimate. Besides, any effort to thwart the advances of Soviet Communism was a legitimate effort in the Cold War context.

Let me know if I left anything unanswered.

33 posted on 10/31/2001 5:57:46 AM PST by annalex
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To: IronJack
That has been said before in a different language of course.
34 posted on 10/31/2001 6:17:00 AM PST by junta
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To: sheltonmac
An attempt to pervert language... Be ware of being branded a NATIONALIST.
Do we close our borders?...NATIONALIST!
Do we kick out certain foreigners for a period or permanently?... NATIONALIST!
Do we scrutinize certain people because they fit some character profile?... NATIONALIST!
35 posted on 10/31/2001 6:35:01 AM PST by Godfollow
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To: annalex
From prior posts on this thread:

You: That is because what is currently termed "rogue nation" has a precise connotation: a nation that would assist terrorists is a rogue nation;

Me: We assisted and trained the Taliban and Bin Laden not to mention the KLA.

My point was that your above definition of a rogue nation could be applied to the United States given the fact that we assisted, armed and trained the Taliban, Bin Laden and the KLA. I can understand the thinking in assisting the fighters in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union, although now it has come back to haunt us, but our association with the KLA and the attack on Serbia is a national disgrace and war crime.

36 posted on 10/31/2001 6:41:26 AM PST by UnBlinkingEye
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To: UnBlinkingEye
our association with the KLA and the attack on Serbia is a national disgrace and war crime.

Close, but not quite a crime as we were ostensibly helping the Kosovar minority that was oppressed by the Serbs. Criminally, we get off on a technicality. It is a disgrace because we did more harm than good in an area unrelated to our national interest.

37 posted on 10/31/2001 6:49:46 AM PST by annalex
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To: sheltonmac
Sobran bump!

Hilaire Belloc in his book 'Survivals and New Arrivals' writes (and warns) a bit on Nationalism:

"But the essence of Nationalism, in its present form as a menace to religion, lies in this: that the nation is made an end in itself. When that mood appears, there is present, in the strictly technical sense of the word, Heresy; there is present false doctrine, and all the dangers of spreading and ramifying evil which spring from false doctrine as from one poisonous seed."

"Let us take a few tests and judge by them the quality of the thing."

"Go to a public park on two successive Sundays. On the first, stand upon a chair and declaim at length against the discipline of religion. Ridicule the doctrine of the Trinity, the Incarnation, the right of a Christian society to enforce the practice of Christian ritual. Nothing will happen to you."

"On the second Sunday get up on a chair and declaim at equal length and with equal zeal against the country and its conduct in the late war. Praise enthusiastically some more specially unpopular foreigners-enemies for choice-laugh at the heroism of the troops, call them cowards and go on to denounce with vigor the obedience rendered to their officers and soldiers and sailors. A great number of things will happen to you. Even after the police have rescued you from the hands of the mob, the State will proceed to deal with you in a fashion which will enlighten you for good upon the limits of toleration."

written in 1929. Imagine what would happen if one were to 'take the test' that Belloc mentions above today.

38 posted on 10/31/2001 7:02:05 AM PST by Cap'n Crunch
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To: Migraine
"We're not really trying to force-feed our ideals hither and yon; but we do insist that, in the interest of liberty and pursuit of prosperity, other nations leave other nations (including us) alone, in peace, to pursue our own goals."

Tell it to the Serbs.

Brigadier

39 posted on 10/31/2001 7:17:37 AM PST by Brigadier
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To: Cap'n Crunch
Imagine what would happen if one were to 'take the test' that Belloc mentions above today.

What do you think would happen? I think, nothing would happen to the speaker in both cases. A veteran or two will swallow hard and move on.

40 posted on 10/31/2001 8:18:07 AM PST by annalex
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To: susangirl
There's nothing wrong with two links. :-)
41 posted on 10/31/2001 9:33:03 AM PST by A.J.Armitage
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To: annalex
Hard to say, judging by incidents around the country, and some comments I've seen at FR, I believe one would stand a better chance mocking religion than mocking the nation and its military.
42 posted on 10/31/2001 1:17:49 PM PST by Cap'n Crunch
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To: junta
That has been said before in a different language of course.

Dulce et decorum est, pro patria mori?

43 posted on 10/31/2001 1:41:14 PM PST by IronJack
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To: sheltonmac
There is some reality to the distinction, but it's easily manipulated by people to make the points they want to make. For such people, patriotism is whatever they think good, nationalism whatever is bad.

A lot of those who support foreign crusades for "Democracy" or "Freedom" aren't even nationalists, but internationalists. I doubt nationalism or patriotism even enters into their thinking except as something to be overcome. I suppose the neo-cons fit Sobran's or Orwell's label "nationalism", but even there, it's questionable whether nationalism is really at the center of their thinking. Perhaps it is, and defining "nationalism" pejoratively can convince people of that, but I have my doubts.

As Orwell, points out, a lot of the people he calls nationalists are those who derive their self esteem from belonging to some big unit. You don't have to be a nationalist to do that. In our system, some of the most ferocious nationalists in Orwell's or Sobran's sense aren't "nationalists" in Hamilton or Marshall's or Madison's or Monroe's sense -- promoters and supporters of the American federation or nation-state. Rather they choose some other group -- ethnic, religious, regional or political to exalt above all else.

The other side of the coin, though, is that if we vacate all big units like nations and cultures of value to concentrate on the naked individual, important things that go into the make up of the individual are lost. I think Sobran's "patriots" understand this. The problem is that some of people who would call themselves "patriots" in his scheme because they reject nationalism, really don't have this understanding. They define themselves as "patriots" rather than "nationalists" simply because they aren't nationalists. Sometimes it may be precisely the nationalist who brings home to people what nationality or homeland may mean. I can understand the desire to keep the fervent nationalist with his wounded pride or aggrandizing ambition at bay, but I wonder if people aren't also losing that quieter love of country. Or at least I was wondering until last month.

44 posted on 10/31/2001 2:05:40 PM PST by x
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To: sheltonmac
Great article, thanks for the bump!
45 posted on 11/01/2001 11:12:17 PM PST by ashrad
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