Two flags fly in front of my house. One has stars and stripes. The other has a large red maple leaf.
Merriam-Webster defines nationalism: “loyalty and devotion to a nation.” That can be a very positive, constructive thing or it can be a very negative, destructive thing. Like almost everything in life, it depends on perspective.
If the perspective vis-à-vis one’s country is one of appreciation and gratitude that leads to responsible, caring attitudes and actions, we’re on the positive end of the patriotic log. If the perspective is one of a felt superiority that leads to I-don’t-care-what-happens-to-any-other-country-as-long-mine-benefits-and-remains-first-and-best, we’re on the very negative end of the log.
Compare relationships in a neighborhood. It is natural that one’s first and most important concern be to one’s own family. But if the residents of each home acted on the notion that it is legitimate to neglect and plunder neighbors for the benefit of self, city blocks would quickly become war zones. Similar national attitudes in the global neighborhood are exactly what have led to so many wars throughout history.
The critical realization is that what is beneficial to all is beneficial to me. Put ethically, the claim to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” is meant for me . . . and for everybody. Thinking of all as geese, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander . . . whether it is within a neighborhood, a country, or within the world community.
Along with the practical aspect of mutual benefit, having genuine consideration for others is simply right. The opposite – exclusionary self-interest, bigotry, felt ethnic superiority, me-first neglect of others – are bad.
I am an American/Canadian dual citizen. I have also traveled to some two dozen countries around the globe. Everywhere I go, grandparents want to talk about and show me pictures of their grandchildren. Because they are caring people . . . like we all are. In the interest of a peaceful, harmonious world, I hope we can all start acting more like it.