Patriotism vs. nationalism: an important difference

Jul 13, 2020 by

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This is the time of year when many Americans show love and support for our country. This is the definition of patriotism. It is a recognition that we are thankful for a past that has brought us to this point in time, and we can grow further. There is no hatred of others involved.

Patriotism is defined in the hymn “This Is My Song” written between the two world wars. It states: “This is my home, the country where my heart is; here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine.” But it humbly recognizes that “other hearts in other lands are beating, with hopes of peace for their land and for mine.”

And while we become accustomed to our familiar surroundings, and feel “my country’s skies are bluer than the ocean, and sunlight beams on clover leaf and pine. But other lands have sunlight too, and clover, and skies are everywhere as blue as mine.”

As Olympic teams march into the stadium — next year — led by their national flags, those countrymen in the audience rise to honor their team. We ­appreciate their recognition of their hopes and dreams, as we are thankful for ours. There is no need to hate. They love their children, as we love ours.

But nationalism is a different matter. Yes, nationalists identify with their country and support its interests. But they exclude the interests of people from other nations and devalue foreigners’ lives, customs and status as fellow humans.

Nationalism can easily be described in one historical phrase translated from German: “My fatherland right or wrong, my fatherland forever!”

Many movements in history described themselves as nationalists. The Nationalists of the Spanish Civil War were led by Gen. Francisco Franco, dictator of Spain until 1975.

The Nationalist Party of South Africa was the Afrikaner ethnic party that sustained apartheid based on white minority rule, racial segregation and white supremacy.

The Nationalist Party of China (Kuomintang) was founded in 1894 by Sun Yat-sen, who ­intended it be democratic. He died and was followed by ­Chiang Kai-shek, who converted it to a warlord alliance that, when defeated, fled to Taiwan.

The National Socialist German Workers Party (Nazi Party) was the most egregious and from which the “My fatherland right or wrong” is translated.

Japan had likewise grown ­nationalistic, building up its self-image of racial and cultural superiority. The nationalism of Germany and Japan eventually led to World War II.

America’s wars have been wars against nationalists.

July 4 is a time for patriotism.

John Richard Schrock
Emporia, Kan.


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