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Of all the moral topics on this website, this topic is more foundational than all others. Other moral areas can easily be a subset of this one because how we choose to see other humans in the world is the cause of most of our other moral problems. Do we see other people in the world who are not American as less than human? Do we see them as worthy of less dignity, respect, or self-determination than Americans? Is it easier to go to war with people we have dehumanized? Is it easier to support sweat shops in foreign countries simply because they are foreign countries? Do we not support civil rights in other countries so that we can get cheaper labor? If people look different, speak different languages, or have different cultures and religions, is it easier in our minds to dismiss them as less valuable than ourselves?
America is certainly the richest country in the world. Money is also power in this world. Does this make us the "best country?" A country can only be judged by what it does with what it has been given. To those who have been given more comes both the power to do greater good and greater evil and no nation has greater potential for good and evil than America. That potential alone is not what makes a great nation.
What is Patriotism?
One of the largest temptations of any country is in sliding from patriotism to nationalism. This can happen in the blink of an eye with almost any large scale event or tragedy. What is the difference between these two?
Patriotism can best be described as a love for or devotion to one's country.
Let's read Oxford for Nationalism:
patriotic feeling, principles, or efforts--an extreme form of this, esp. marked by a feeling of superiority over other countries. patriotism, patriotic sentiment, flag-waving, xenophobia, chauvinism, jingoism.
Nationalism includes many other words which deserve definition. Oxford continues:
intense or irrational dislike or fear of people from other countries
evaluating other peoples and cultures according to the standards of one's own culture.
bigotry, narrow-mindedness, small-mindedness, illiberality, parochialism, provincialism; prejudice, bias, partiality, discrimination; injustice, inequality.
extreme patriotism, chauvinism, extreme nationalism, xenophobia, flag-waving; hawkishness, militarism, belligerence, bellicosity.
not tolerant of others' views, beliefs, or behavior that differ from one's own
concern for one's own area or region at the expense of national or supranational unity. narrow-mindedness, insularity
ignorant of or uninterested in cultures, ideas, or peoples outside one's own experience
Quotes on Nationalism
All of these words above describe nationalism over patriotism and they are all immoral sentiments and behaviors. So much has been written and said about the immorality of nationalism. Here are some of the best quotes that are worth reading:
Just as love for one individual which excludes the love for others is not love, love for one's country which is not part of one's love for humanity is not love, but idolatrous worship."
Erich Fromm (German born, American philosopher)
"Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind."
Albert Einstein, The World As I See It, 1934
If I knew something that would serve my country but would harm mankind, I would never reveal it; for I am a citizen of humanity first and by necessity, and a citizen of France second, and only by accident.
I am not an Athenian or a Greek, I am a citizen of the world.
It is lamentable, that to be a good patriot one must become the enemy of the rest of mankind.
Voltaire, Philosophical Dictionary
Can anything be stupider than that a man has the right to kill me because he lives on the other side of a river and his ruler has a quarrel with mine, though I have not quarreled with him?
Blaise Pascal, quoted by Tolstoy in Bethink Yourselves
"Patriotism is proud of a country's virtues and eager to correct its deficiencies; it also acknowledges the legitimate patriotism of other countries, with their own specific virtues. The pride of nationalism, however, trumpets its country's virtues and denies its deficiencies, while it is contemptuous toward the virtues of other countries. It wants to be, and proclaims itself to be, "the greatest," but greatness is not required of a country; only goodness is."
Sydney J. Harris 1917-1986
"Nationalism is power hunger tempered by self-deception."
"(Nationalism is) a set of beliefs taught to each generation in which the Motherland or the Fatherland is an object of veneration and becomes a burning cause for which one becomes willing to kill the children of other Motherlands or Fatherlands"
Howard Zinn quotes (American Historian, Author, Professor and Political activist, b.1922)
"Traditional nationalism cannot survive the fissioning of the atom. One world or none."
Stuart Chase quotes ( Writer and Economist, b.1888 (Tragedy of Waste)
Born in iniquity and conceived in sin, the spirit of nationalism has never ceased to bend human institutions to the service of dissension and distress.
The difference between patriotism and nationalism is that the patriot is proud of his country for what it does, and the nationalist is proud of his country no matter what it does; the first attitude creates a feeling of responsibility, but the second a feeling of blind arrogance that leads to war.
Sydney J Harris
Pervading nationalism imposes its dominion on man today in many different forms and with an aggressiveness that spares no one...The challenge that is already with us is the temptation to accept as true freedom what in reality is only a new form of slavery.
Pope John Paul II
The love of one's country is a splendid thing. But why should love stop at the border?
To me, it seems a dreadful indignity to have a soul controlled by geography.
Now ask yourself honestly which party leans toward nationalism and separatism? Which party is more likely to see all other humans on the planet as equals and fight for their civil rights? Which party is more likely to care about acting in concert with other nations? Which party is more likely to support the efforts of the United Nations, world courts, and the support of international law?
On the March 27, 2006 edition of his nationally syndicated radio program, Michael Savage repeatedly called on his listeners, " [b]urn a Mexican flag for America, burn a Mexican flag for those who died that you should have a nationality and a sovereignty, go out in the street and show you're a man, burn 10 Mexican flags, if I could recommend it. Put one in the window upside down and tell them to go back where they came from!" Savage added that, "If I were more than one man -- and I'm not, I'm only a radio host --I would organize a march this week where we would burn Mexican flags in the street."
Mr. Savage also said,
"I think these people [Arabs and Muslims] need to be forcibly
converted to Christianity ... It's the only thing that can probably turn them into human beings." (05/12/03, on his radio show The Savage Nation)
This idea was also trumpeted by Ann Coulter who said,
"We should invade their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity."
Many Americans today have no interest at all in understanding their neighbors in the world. We do not study their languages or their cultures. We know very little if anything about their religions, geography or history.
How can we hope to have peace in a world full of people that we have no interest in understanding? If communication is one of the keys to peace, we are failing horribly. If anything should be required in schools it is the study of these cultures, languages, and religions.
According to the NVTC (National Virtual Translation Center) of the Federal Government, Only 9% of Americans can speak their native language plus another language fluently, as opposed to 53% of Europeans.
According to the NVTC (www.nvtc.gov) "An FBI Report of July 2004 shows that there is a critical shortage of translators in languages associated with counterterrorism and counterintelligence. Despite increased hiring, the agency is having a hard time finding people with high level skills in these languages, resulting in a backlog of untranslated materials."
The reason for all this indifference is nationalism. There is a fear in coming together in the world with other nations. The fear is based on America losing some of its sovereignty. However, when a nation goes astray, who polices them? If America is the world's policeman, then who polices the policeman? An unwillingness to admit that the country we love can possibly go astray is one of the evils of nationalism.
The gardens of the United Nations has a statue of a man beating his sword into a plowshare while on the wall across the street is a quote from Isaiah:
"They shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks,
nations shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war anymore."
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Links and Further Reading
History Lessons: How Textbooks from Around the World Portray U.S. History This book will bring you into a strange, alien world where you will see the United States from perspectives you never thought possible. How does the world see us? Why do they act toward us the way they do? Why are we mistrusted. The surprising part of the book is that there is no editorialism. It simply quotes the textbooks fo other countries. Read about Viking Exploration as it is taught to children from Norway and Canada, work your way through the American Revolution as taught to the British, slavery as taught to Nigerians, World Wars I and II as taught to Germans, visit Cuba and Vietnam, and end up in the Philippines, North Korea and the Middle East, as taught to young Israelis and Saudis.