Sunday, August 19, 2007


"Patriotism... is a superstition artificially created and maintained through a network of lies and falsehoods; a superstition that robs [us] of our self-respect and dignity, and increases arrogance and conceit." - Emma Goldman

Someone's comment during the weekend got me thinking about this.

She said: "I can't even count on both hands how many times my patriotism was questioned because I didn't happen to agree with everything that's going on." (MsPea)

And I can't even count how many others I've heard say the exact same thing!

Patriotism has always been a bizarre concept to me, largely because I think of national boundaries as being rather strange. While I understand the need from a geopolitical perspective, it makes no sense to me on a "gut" level. There is no feeling attached to it. I don't know what patriotism feels like and I can't imagine it.

I tried to grasp it. Since I've certainly been rather open here about the fact that I will be spending the rest of my life in Thailand, I wanted to get a sense ~ internally ~ of how that feels. Did I feel as though that means Thailand is the best place in the world?

No. It's just right for me.

Does that mean that I must support everything Thailand does in the world?

No. Not at all. Some of the actions of that government are just as useless and stupid as the actions of government everywhere else.

Does that mean I am required to support its national boundaries?

No. I have to obey the laws of the region. I can't go into Laos without a passport but that's legal stuff. I'm talking about internal senses of identity.

Hearing the name "Thailand" is useful for one thing.

It defines location.

Most people, upon hearing it, will know that it is located in southeastern Asia, that it borders the Andaman sea and the Gulf of Thailand. It's south of Myanmar and north of Malaysia. For those who are geographically inclined, it will give information about the weather. Perhaps it will give some information about the kind of land it is and the agriculture it supports.

That's really about as useful as it can be.

Beyond that, it is an arbitrary name, assigned by one government or another in the 1930s. It doesn't tell me anything more than that.

And is frankly meaningless beyond that.

I am drawn to the way of life there ~ but the way of life doesn't end at an arbitrary border. Having made more than one visa run in that region, I feel fairly safe in saying there is no sign at the border that states, "the culture ends here".

But pride in a location?

I don't get it.

What about you? What does patriotism mean to you?



heartinsanfrancisco said...

I was born during World War II. Patriotism ran high, especially as Americans learned about the Holocaust. It was a just war in the sense that we were fighting to preserve freedom from oppression.

I have never personally supported any war since then. Vietnam and Iraq are civil wars that should not have involved this country, in my view.

I have always considered myself a citizen of the world before I ever heard the expression. Boundaries are as artificial as lines on a map because as you stated, cultures do not stop at borders.

Where we are born is an accident of fate, and while I am grateful to have been born in a country with relative freedom, my greater loyalty is to the human race wherever it lives.

You will never hear me say, "My country, right or wrong." Since I abide by a moral code which defines me, I expect my country to abide by one, too. So, while I feel privileged to be an American, I do not support actions by my government which I consider immoral.

enigma4ever said...

It means feeling devoted, loyal and a part of Where I live....but I have to say I have my patriotism questioned daily because of WHAT I believe in....sad really....
No One should ever be called Unpatriotic because they carry Peace in their Heart....
Which shows that I am not a true American anymore...I guess...

I love your blog and your I am adding you to my Blogroll and Round Up....

enigma4ever said...

tooo funny...I was reading and writing my response the same time as the West Coast gal was being insightful ;-)

Snoskred said...

This is a thought provoking post in light of a recent blog post I commented on - a Nigerian who was basically excusing his fellow countrymen for scamming people, saying it was the victims fault.. As always I wrote a really long comment and I won't repost it all here but something I wrote to him has stuck with me because I was writing about an actual scam victim I'd been in touch with, and the police had called me to find out more info.

Maybe you should reconsider your patriotism. Maybe your country does not *deserve* to be loved? I tell you there's a lot of Americans not feeling too patriotic right now because they feel like their country is doing wrong with the war in Iraq.

It is not until enough people stand up and speak out, challenge their patriotism, that any real changes can begin to be made.

That's what Nigeria needs - real change. It won't come as long as you keep blaming the victims for being stupid and greedy - if they had never received that email, they would never have been scammed. That is where the crime begins - with the people who commit it.

The scammers all think victims deserve to be scammed because they are stupid and greedy. That's how they justify their crimes to themselves.

But you tell that to the disabled American man - missing two legs, arrested for check fraud and in debt for the $100,000 that the scammer sent them as a fake check.

How can someone like that ever expect to repay that kind of money? The bank expects him to repay it. He's on suicide watch in the jail - and very likely to kill himself at the first opportunity because he now feels it is hopeless.

He'll be paying that debt off for the rest of his life. He can't work to earn money. All he gets is the small disability pension - neither you nor I could live on that and I don't know how disabled people manage it.

Those are the kinds of people your fellow countrymen steal from. Do you think that is something which deserves patriotism?

pa·tri·ot·ism - devoted love, support, and defense of one's country; national loyalty

I'm with you on never saying my country right or wrong. People confuse questioning things with being unpatriotic. It is our patriotic duty to question our leaders, isn't it?


slouching mom said...

I agree with heartinsanfrancisco that WWII inspired a lot of patriotism. What was being fought against was so starkly and obviously evil. It is perhaps the last clear-cut war this country has known. But that's my mother's generation, not mine, and I see a strong patriotism in her borne of living through that war.

Me? I don't feel patriotic. Nor do I feel unpatriotic. It simply is not a concept that's relevant in my life.

Anonymous said...

Patriotism is to love and like and care enough to praise when it is right and right when it is wrong. Simple as that.

Just like children. You do not love them any less nor are you less loyal or caring towards them when they are wrong. But, you praise when they are right, and you right when they are wrong.

By the way, I love the new look of the blog.

maria at

painted maypole said...

This is an interesting topic. When I see the "Proud to be an American" bumper stickers, I cringe, because there is so much about America that I am not proud of. When I read Barak Obama's book, The Audacity of Hope, it made me think of patriotism in a different way - of the love of the ideals America was founded on (not that "we" had it all right at the beginning, either). I do think that patriotism is a fierce love of one's country, and that fighting for that country - particularly to right wrongs within that country - is patriotic. For instance, I think Roger Moore is patriotic. I think he loves America and wants to make her better, and uses the rights America grants him to speak up loudly and try to effect change. I think mindlessly going along with the regime is UNpatriotic - it's confusing the leader(s) with the ideal on which a country is founded.

thethinker said...

I can't really define what pariotism is because I have never been motivated by any sort of pride in my country. I don't support everything that America does. There are times when I am proud to be an American and other times that I'm ashamed. Just look at what we're doing in Iraq right now.

But without going too far into that issue, I'll just admit that I'm clueless when it comes to patriotism.

Christine said...

i guess a basic sort of patriotism and love of a land and its people is in many of us, but there is a very fine line between patriotism and jingoism. i do like living here in this country and enjoy the privileges i have here. but i refuse to whole heartedly follow my government blindly because of it.

Anvilcloud said...

I guess patriotism means different things to different people. I consider myself a patriotic Canadian in the sense that I appreciate many of the values of the country and the somewhat stereotypical view that I have of what we are like as a people. I feel much more positive about this nation than most in the world. OTOH, I could probably transplant quite nicely to a number of other countries too and feel very good about them , so I take your point in part at least.

QT said...

I really don't think patriotism has anything to do with lines on a map or borders - it has to do with ideals.

I strongly believe in the ideals this country was founded on, and that is one of the reasons that much of what is going on in the US today makes me want to cry.

The lines that delinate the borders of the US don't really have much to do with the way I feel.

Robert Rouse said...

Wow. Great blog. I have to thank Enigma4Ever for directing me to you. I love it when I get a new addition to my blogroll.

Cecilieaux said...

I have long thought patriotism is an extremely silly idea.

jen said...

I agree w/ Cecilieaux in short order. however, if i had to define my personal "patriotism" it would mean standing up hard for what i believe to be right for my community.

Anonymous said...

Patriotism means nothing to me. Waving a flag or playing an anthem doesn't affect me on an emotional level at all. I no longer feel pride or shame when Americans do anything.

I don't feel connected to this country in any way, shape, or form. Nor do I particularly want to be.

Anonymous said...

I was all set to write something like Slouching Mom's conclusion - blind patriotism is just not relevant - but then I remember something.

I was watching a BBC movie recently (one of the Cracker series), and the anti-American sentiment surrrounding the Iraq war expressed was so distracting, I almost wanted to turn it off. That's not what I'm looking for in entertainment, but ultimately it made sense for the plot, and it was useful in reminding me that by comparison to the rest of the world, the dissent we experience here is pretty mild.

Aliki2006 said...

At the risk of sounding redundant, I will agree with S.M. that patriotism just isn't too relevant to me, personally. I feel a responsibility towards the country in which I live, in terms of feeling invested, of course, in the educational system, and in keeping the communities clean, etc. but I think I would feel that same responsibility no matter where I lived. When I think about what it means to be an American I feel pride about some aspects of the American spirit, but I wouldn't call that patriotism, necessarily.

Mary said...


I feel patriotic when the country, the government, the people are proud of what it represents. Patriotism, for me, goes out the window when I listen to the news. No, I'm not patriotic. Maybe if I lived on the other side of the fence, I would be.

Suzy said...

I love my home, my neighbors, the physical attributes of this landmass we call the United States. Do I consider myself to be a patriot? Absolutely not. I choke on the word and the concept. People try to differentiate between blind patriotism and OK patriotism. I believe that patriotism quickly slides into nationalism and from there jingo-ism is just a hop skip and a jump away. Then there's the whole question of forced patriotism: daily recitation of the pledge, singing the anthem at sporting events. The animosity I feel when I choose not to participate in those things (as is my Constitutional right) is palpable. The freedoms and rights we enjoy in this country have NOTHING to do with patriotism; witness how willing people are to give them up in the name of patriotism. (Ooh, Chani -- this subject touches a nerve with me.)

As an aside, several people mentioned that WW2 was a just war. That is the popular view, but if you care to read more, there IS another viewpoint. Check out what Studs Terkel or Howard Zinn have to say. There is also an excellent book by Mark Kurlansky called Nonviolence: The History of a Dangerous Idea. If one war can be sold as justified, it is that much easier to sell the rest.

Emily said...

Living in another country has given me a bit more pride in my home than I had before. I wouldn't call myself patriotic, but I am more able to see what is good about the US. I used to only focus on the bad, and now I realize there is so much to be celebrated. A lot to be fixed, A LOT, but good stuff, too.

Like ice cream shops, open on summer evenings, where I can take the kids. We don't have those here.

crazymumma said...

I think the idea of patriotism extends into more things than land and national identity. It is about how one thinks abput the larger paradigms of conventional mainstream thinking.

Thinking outside the box nearly always makes one dangerous. I, as you know found out how dangerous my thinking was considered within my husbands family.

Funny, I have a whole post that has been brewing about my Mothers experinces in Italy during WW2. And what it meant to be patriotic back then.

great post Chani.

Julie Pippert said...

Currently, IMO, the connotation of patriotism is simply grown up peer pressure.

For some reason, some people need absolute agreement. And they'll cudgeon and bully those outside their box.

I think on all levels we need to find the good abut where we come from, but not use it as a weapon.

Ravin' Picture Maven

Anonymous said...

Patriotism: Love for or devotion to one's country.

I love my country and the freedoms that come with it. I would fight for my country in order to keep my freedoms. I do not agree with a lot of the governments actions, misinterpretations of the constitution by way of the laws, most people in the deep south or even some of my neighbors. I may be called unpatriotic by others because I voice my opinions of dissent, however, that is their ignorance of patriotism. It can't be measured; just like love can't be measured. Everyone has a different level of expression and expectation.

thailandchani said...

Susan, WWII was another gnarly one. I can't help but ask this quesation: If the US was involved in the war because of the Holocaust, why is it that, even though recon photos showed the train tracks to Auschwitz as early as 1941, they couldn't spare a bomb to stop the trains?

You know, there are good things here. I don't deny that. It is probably the most geographically beautiful country on the planet.

I really like the way Americans come together when something happens. 9/11 is the most recent example I can think of at the moment.

Americans *care*. I believe that. There is a lot of empathy in the US. And Americans are very generous. (I'm talking American people here, not the government which only gives when it has an agenda.)

Just a few thoughts to show that I am not completely anti-American. I can't stand propaganda or historical revisionism.


Enigma, patriotism should really be irrelevant, as a few people here have already said. It's no longer useful. If it's true that the "world is flat", maybe it's time for all countries (including even my beloved Thailand) to start thinking globally.


Snos, it never fails to amaze me how people will rationalize rotten behavior. "He deserved to be scammed" is something I can't wrap my mind around at all.

Those 419 scams... are they even illegal in Nigeria?


SM, it's basically irrelevant in mine, too. My spiritual life is more prominent in my thinking.

See above about WWII. I simply can't believe the allies couldn't have stopped the murder of 11 million people if they had wanted to do so.


Maria, I see what you are saying. That could be true for the world as a whole, too. :)


Maypole, one of the things I liked in Obama's book, too, IIRC, is that pride isn't the issue.. but gratitude is.


Thinker, that's the core of the issue. I can't seem to be motivated that way ~ not even about thailand. That whole pride thing ~ group identity ~ doesn't seem real to me.


Christine, makes sense... I could never blindly support any ideology. When I see it going on around me, I'm just plain dumbfounded! :)


Anvil, I get you. I wonder if some of that will develope in me in Thaialnd. It's awfully hard to call that one.

Pride. I need to really examine that issue.


QT, it is rather amazing, isn't it? You know, reading the writings of the founders... even given the historical context, it was never supposed to turn out the way it has.

Wasn't it John Adams who said that capitalism without morality is evil?


Robert, thank you. I was unable to find your blog. Can you let me know where it is?


Cecileaux, me too.... It is a silly idea. It's a bonding method used to create a herd.


Jen, that's a good definition.


Thomas, I'm with you. Those methods don't work on me, either.

In Thailand, they play the national anthem twice a day. Everyone stands still to honor it. I followed custom our of respect but must admit that I just thought it was kind of... silly.


De, I know. Propaganda, no matter what the source, is just distracting.. and when recognized, annoying.


(next template)

thailandchani said...

Aliki, I'm with you about our surroundings. Respecting the environment is important.. and respecting the customs of any culture is important. I don't really see those things as related to patriotism.

Even though I have chosen something else, I think it would be tacky to show disdain ~ or be disrespectful. That kind of thing is just childish. :)


Mary, I can't feel much of anything but disgust when I listen to newscasts here.

I listen to Democracy Now which isn't too bad.. but even that's kind of thick with propaganda and spin.


Suzy, I hear you. I also don't participate in those things because I don't believe them. Aside from standing and showing respect *to the other people present*, I don't participate.


Emily, that sounds like a good balance.


CM, isn't that interesting though that nations that say so much of about freedom of thought are actually afraid of it? This is happening in Thailand right now, too.


Julie, I think that's about the best description I've ever seen! Grown up peer pressure. Yeah! :)


Reflecting, I have to think about this. You've raised some very good points. :)


Peace, all :)


MsLittlePea said...

Another good post and I loved all the comments. I do consider myself patriotic- the idea of patriotism is real for me but perhaps I define it differently. For me it is a pride in the people who live in this country with me and the hope for a better future. That one's origins can be from anywhere in the world and that person can still consider one's self an American. I feel like 'patriotism' has been hijacked and turned into a means of 'thought coercion' by a large number of people who have clearly lost what it means to be patriotic. I was always taught that a real patriot loves her country enough to speak up when some thing's not right.

Open Grove Claudia said...

I think patriotism is the acknowledgment that we are a product of a certain place and time thus owe some loyalty to that place. No matter how much I expand my consciousness, I can only do that through the frame of my culture, community, and experience (had in that culture and community).

I read the posts here and smile. Only in America can someone say they don't believe in the country while speaking their mind (in writing no less) as if it was a God given right. It's not. Speaking our mind is a product of being an American.

kaliroz said...

Patriotism means not a lot to me.

I'm proud of the people who founded this nation ... but not of what's being done in their name now.

I'm proud of the thinkers and scientists and artists this country has produced, but not a whole lot of its history.

I'm an American by birth. But don't feel this passionate urge to declare that from the rooftops and never have.

thailandchani said...

Ms Pea, I agree in the largest sense. All countries have limits on political agitation.. but speaking up within those boundaries is essential. Without that, we all might as well go back to feudalism.


Claudia, I get what you are saying.. but there are actually 160 countries that have freedom of speech ratified in their constitutions. It's all in a gray area of course because each country has its limitations. Example: most countries have some "hate speech" laws.

As they should.. of course.

There's also the power equity that has to be considered. If one can shoot off his or her mouth.. but not have the power to change anything, then freedom of speech becomes a useful tool for venting, but not much else.

Just a few thoughts. I am not being argumentative. :)


Kaliroz, I get you completely. There are some awesome American artists and authors. Scientists and so on. That's a really good point. I think we can honor those people all over the world... the thinkers, the scientists, the artists, the musicians.. from all over the world.

Thank goodness for them. Life would be really hollow without them.




Wayfarer Scientista said...

I am a citizen of two countries & lived many places. But over time I have to decide that patriotism to me means caring enough about the place you call home to be an active particpant in the poltics and to stand up and be heard and striving for justice and a better reality for all people. It means holding your government accountable. It does not mean what so many US citizens lately seem to think of it as: non-questioning loyalty to the people in power. To me this is not patriotism, it is blindness. I think Benjamin Franklin said something like that, that true patriotism is to question and challenge the authority.

blooming desertpea said...

I think as long as people can live peacefully along the side of one another, they don't think about patriotism. I've been singled out as a kid because I was an immigrant - that excoriates patriotisms. Today here we are invaded by ex-yugoslavs - that scares and increases patriotism ..

Patriotism is something we can do without, one country isn't better than the other. What is good here is bad there and vice versa. And myself, I only ever feel patriotic when soccer championships are on ... :)

thailandchani said...

Wayfarer, that reminds me of something Julie said in a comment a long time ago about the difference between loyalty and devotion.

Maybe we go through phases. When I first "discovered" Thailand and knew it would be my home, I was slavishly devoted to everything about it.

Then I started to grow up about it.. and to understand that it is still a community of human beings with flaws.

Perhaps that's the key to all of this. No place is perfect.


DesertPea, that's really interesting. Ex-yugoslavs?

I think you're right though. Really.




blooming desertpea said...

Well, yugoslavia as a nation is not existing anymore as it has split into Serbia, Kroatia, Montenegro etc. But this historical fact is not that remote and still very much in our minds. I guess that's the reason we call the people from all these countries "ex-yugoslavs" to shortcut the listing.

Susanne said...

Patriotism is a hard one for Germans. We were taught that there is nothing to be proud of because we started and lost the war. (You know, the war, WWII.) And I agree with that. On the other hand I can't go around in shame forever because I didn't start the war.

I'd love to live in a world where a label like "I'm German." just points to a place called home and gives a hint about a certain culture. And that's it.

What I perceive to count as patriotism in the US feels much like chauvinism to me. The belief that one's nation is superior. And that's not a good belief to hold.

And I don't agree with:
"Only in America can someone say they don't believe in the country while speaking their mind (in writing no less) as if it was a God given right. It's not. Speaking our mind is a product of being an American."

On the other hand, I don't think anybody over here thinks that God had a lot to do with our legal rights. They were made by men. In Germany if you were saying that you believe in Germany people would suspect you to be a Nazi.

And as Chani said, there are a lot of countries with freedom of speech out there.

thailandchani said...

Desert Pea, now I get you. Okay. I do remember that now. :)


Susanne, that's my primary argument with the whole concept as well. When it becomes a vehicle for nationalism and superiority, I have a problem with it. The US is not the only country worth living in.




Suzy said...

"Aside from standing and showing respect *to the other people present*, I don't participate."

I respect each person's right to demonstrate in a way they feel compelled, but I show my respect by sitting quietly. And I must say, my views are hardly respected. I get glares, admonishments, insults. Last year my daughter's high school handbook contained a phrase threatening that attendees at games who refused to stand for the anthem or pledge would be asked to leave. I went around and around with the school district lawyer over that one, who insisted it was just words and wouldn't be acted upon. It's just assumed that it will be done "out od respect for others." I have to listen to the Pledge daily. It just burns me up. I have a sense that people who live in places that have experienced fascism have a much better perspective on this.