Jingoism is not Patriotism

I have always been reluctant to embrace the word patriotism. It’s not that I have a problem with having some pride in where you are from or the impulse to make your country better. I just think it’s a short step from patriotism to jingoism and people often conflate the two. Witness this recent quote from Liz Cheney:

“…I would say one of the things that is troubling to Americans, I think, is extent to which this administration is focused on the president’s popularity overseas. We’ve now seen several different occasions when he’s been on the international trips, where he’s not willing to say, flat out, ‘I believe in American exceptionalism. I believe unequivocally, unapologetically, America is the best nation that ever existed in history, and clearly that exists today.’ Instead we’ve seen him do what we saw him do in the speech in Cairo, which is sort of, ‘on one hand this, on the other hand that,’ and then attempt to put himself sort of above it all. I think that troubles people.”

For people like Cheney, it isn’t enough to say, “I love my country.” They must also assert, “And it’s better than yours!” This may sound harmless enough at a summer BBQ, but jingoism and the whole idea of American exceptionalism are dangerous. When you take it for granted that your country is the best and that you are thus better than anyone from a different country, it has a toxic effect on the politics of the nation. It enables the sort of rank hypocrisy that has made America so despised in many parts of the world. It led to the “Bush Doctrine” of preventative war. It fuels the neoconservatives who believe that American diplomacy should be a dick swinging contest instead of a meaningful engagement with other nations. And it flies in the face of Thomas Jefferson’s words, “All men are created equal.”

Jingoism is not patriotism. On today of all days, let’s remember that.

6 thoughts on “Jingoism is not Patriotism

  1. It should also be noted that Jefferson didnt mean that everyone was equal, he only meant that those in power were equal to everyone else in power. You only had the right to vote if you were 1) White 2) Male and 3) land holder. Which was really less than 10% of the population at the time, so where was Jeffersons equality? We have always been an ethnocentric nation, and dont believe that is going away any time soon.

  2. Jingoism is the equivalent of two six year olds arguing over whose Dad can beat up who. Even for the six year old whose Dad can beat up the other Dads, is that really why he or anyone else loves his Dad?

    Jingoism isn't patriotism, because jingoists would stop loving their country if it failed.

    The US isn't "great", it happens to be the one Western nation that enjoyed the benefits of the Industrial Revolution without suffering the debilitating European wars that dragged Europe down.

    With the east now experiencing the Industrial Revolution, the US is reaching the end of its dominance.

  3. When Obama won the election I felt proud of my country for the first time in my life. It was my first brush with patriotism.

    Jingoism is a fish of another color though. That falls into the, "I love my country right or wrong" sort of mentality. Which isn't healthy for the person holding the ideal nor the nation at large.

    No nation is always right. And America has had what could best be described as checkered past.

    I love the ideals that America says it stand for. I am endlessly disappointed in their failed execution however.

  4. Very well said.

    I found the Liz Cheney quote very depressing, doubly so as I come from one of the inferior countries (the UK), which in turn might explain Obama's overseas popularity.

    Though of course we have our own weird national pride – something along the lines of knowing that we are intrinsically the best, whilst happily acknowledging that when it comes to the details we are in actuality a bit shite.

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