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.