It’s the Fourth of July, which means it’s time for barbecues, fireworks, and celebrating America. I’m definitely in favor of the first; I’m iffy at best on the second (though not necessarily as opposed as Josh). But I’m adamantly against the last one.
There have been a lot of famous, pithy criticisms of patriotism: George Bernard Shaw said, “Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all others because you were born in it.” Bertrand Russell said, “Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons.” And, of course, Samuel Johnson most famously called patriotism “the last refuge of a scoundrel.”
And yet none of that wit has changed the fact that people generally regard patriotism as a virtue. Every year—most vocally on the Fourth of July, but not just during this time of year—we hear about how important loving your country is. Pundits and politicians are constantly arguing over what constitutes “true patriotism,” and attacking each other for not being sufficiently patriotic. And if you start questioning someone’s patriotism…well, few things piss people off more.
But why is this? Why should someone love his country? I’ve never understood why patriotism is seen as an admirable quality. Continue reading