Fourth of July is upon us and we set out celebrating our victory in releasing man from the bonds of the Monarch. It is also a day to remember those who have served our country in combat or support services. It is a time when nationalistic and patriotic sentiment is high and people celebrate with fireworks, social gatherings and lots of flags.
To laymen nationalism and patriotism conjure up the very same image but have dramatically different meanings. A patriot sees a moral duty to the people of a nation while a nationalist identifies with particular race, religion, or political party that advocates for nation independence. It seems like splitting hairs but the difference can be significant.
It is beneficial to define the two for understanding.
Patriotism involves (Nathanson,1993, 34-35):
- Special affection for one's own country
- A sense of personal identification with the country
- Special concern for the well-being of the country
- Willingness to sacrifice to promote the country's good
According to the Stanford Dictionary of Philosophy Nationalism is (1):
1. The attitude that members have when they care about their national identity.
2. The actions that members take when they seek self-determination.
Patriotism is focused on the beliefs of people within a nation while nationalism is more concerned about national identity. The difference can be further elaborated by saying patriotism is awareness of our moral duties to a political community while nationalism is more of a connection with race and natural identities (Action, 1972, 163).
As you celebrate Fourth of July consider what you believe and why you believe them; most never question. Try and remember those who fought and sacrificed for their nation. Did they believe in an image of America as represented by symbols or did they believe in human truths as manifested in their moral sentiments? Either way, celebrate and do your part to further the nation's legacy.
Acton, L. (1972). Nationality, Essays on Freedom and Power. Gloucester: Peter Smith, 141–70.
Nathanson, S. (1989) In Defense of ‘Moderate Patriotism’,” Ethics, 99: 535–552. Reprinted in Primoratz (ed.) (2002).