Recently, I had an exchange with a group of people on Face Book who hold themselves out to be ‘independent centrists.’ In this exchange, this group asserted that patriotism is a vice, and that those who oppose the NFL ‘protest’ are guilty of putting patriotism over the support of free speech. Well, setting aside for a moment that the NFL ‘protest’ has nothing to do with the right of free speech, I’d like to explain what this group and so many like them fail to understand: the difference between patriotism and jingoism.
As always, we start with the definitions in question:
: love for or devotion to one’s country
As we can see, this is one of those subjects where it may seem there is a distinction without a difference. This is why it is so important to understand the meaning of the words we use, because there most certainly is a difference between these two concepts.
First, patriotism is not a blind loyalty or obedience as is so often implied. It is simply a love for one’s country. It is not “My country: right or wrong,: it is, “My country, for better or worse.” It means the love of one’s nation in spite of any perceived faults or mistakes. It is a respect for all those who worked, sacrificed and perhaps died to make and improve that nation, and it is a duty that anyone who wishes to claim citizenship of that nation owes to it in return. This means patriotism is as much a duty as a sentiment.
On the other hand, jingoism is a vice, but it must not be confused with true patriotism. Jingoism is “My country: right or wrong.” Jingoism is blind loyalty and obedience. This is what so many actually mean when they attack patriotism. They mean to attack jingoism. Unfortunately, the majority of people who attack patriotism either do not know the difference, or they are actually attacking the nation, itself (as well as those who support it).
Thus: patriotism is a duty, and, therefore, something to be supported. Whereas jingoism is not only a vice, but a threat to one’s nation and, therefore, something to be opposed.
THE NFL PROTEST AS AN EXAMPLE:
This is where the matter of patriotism vs jingoism becomes cloudy: in trying to determine whether or not a person is sincere in their desire to oppose jingoism but is ignorant as to the meaning of the words they use and, therefore, inadvertently attacks patriotism; or are they actually seeking to attack the nation and it supporters by falsely painting true patriotism as an implied ‘proof’ that that nation and its supporters are morally corrupt. In the case of Kapernick’s protest, it is the latter. This is a fact, not opinion. I can say this because Kapernick said so. When he first started his protest, he specifically said he was protesting the nation. He was not trying to right a wrong, in which case, he would not protest the flag or any symbol of a country he supposedly loved but wanted to improve. No, he said he was protesting the nation while wearing a T-Shirt that symbolized a political ideology directly opposed to the founding ideals of this country. This means Kapernick — and all those who have joined him — are traitors to this country. This then means that the NFL protest is not a ‘protest’ against a wrong that people seek to right, but against the country, itself. That means it is not about free speech, but subversion — an illegal act that can and maybe should be prosecuted.
The only thing that remains to be determined in this particular case — the case of the people on the Face Book page — is whether they are equally opposed to the nation and are trying to hide their true intentions, or are they simply ignorant as to the plain meaning of words?
In fact, this is the question in most of the cases where people are attacked for defending the symbols of this nation. During the 1960’s, the counter-culture (i.e. hippies who sought to destroy the nation — and again, their words, not mine) attacked people who defended and supported the country. They pegged the war in Vietnam to true patriotism and made false allegations of jingoism. The reason their false attacks rang with so much truth back then is because their accusations of jingoism were difficult to distinguish from what our foreign policy actually was: Colonialist and interventionist. The net result was that the leadership of this counter-culture succeeded in undermining this nations support for its country by intentionally confusing the issue through the skillful manipulation of words.
By in large, the accusations were unwarranted: the American people were not jingoistic. They were true patriots, as they demonstrated in the way they righted wrongs in the Civil Rights movement. Nor was our government jingoistic. It was interventionist, and possibly colonial in nature, but it was not nationalistic. Not back then, anyway. So, as I said, those attacks back then were false accusations pushed by people who sought to destroy this nation and amplified by people who were too ignorant to understand the differences. The same thing is happening today, and — in many cases — it is still being pushed by the same people who started this campaign in the 1960’s. But then, you need to know a lot more true history before you can see these connections, and the people behind it are doing everything they can to re-write and erase that history.
For now, the important thing to understand is that there is nothing wrong with being patriotic. It does not mean you have to agree with or accept the moral wrongs of your nation — past or present. But it means you love your nation in spite of those flaws, as you love family members in spite of their flaws. At the same time, however, you must learn to spot jingoism. Jingoism is a problem, and it should be opposed — for the good of one’s nation. It is primarily for this reason that I have kept myself distanced from Trump and his supporters: because I see a danger of jingoism in his thinking and agenda. But then, it was also present in Obama and his Administration, one just had to understand that Obama was a Marxist before one could see it. In both cases, jingoism poses a clear and present danger to this nation, as it does to any nation that becomes nationalist in its sentiments and then carries that extreme sense of “My country: right or wrong” into its foreign policy.