…very different things to different people. Let us consult the Oxford English Dictionary:
patriot /n.a person who is devoted to and ready to support or defend his or her country. ../patriotic adj. //patriotically adv. //patriotism n. [F patriote f. LL patriota f. Gk. patriotes> f. patros of one’s father f. pater patros father]
Of course this also rather depends on what you mean by ‘country’
country n. (pl.-ies) 1 a the territory of a nation with its own government; a State. b a territory possessing its own language, people, culture, etc. […] 3 the land of a person’s birth or citizenship; a fatherland or motherland.
And therein lies one of the problems with Patriotism. When some one says ‘I am a patriot’, what the hell does that actually mean? Let’s take me, for example. My mother was American and I have lived about one quarter of my life in the USA. My father was British and I have lived a little under half my life here. For purely accidental reasons, I was actually born in the Netherlands. I feel both/neither British and/or American. So much for the complicated heredity and biology. Now for some ideology: I personally reject as illegitimate any function of the state which is not related to the defence of the individual liberty of people within their area of control, within a broad reasonable definition of those terms. I see the State as, at best, a provider of a service (security) in much the same way as I see the Pepsi-Cola Beverage Company as a provider of cans of fizzy brown liquid. I do not accept the very notion of ‘citizenship’ as I regard that as tantamount to denying me free association with non-citizens and implies the State somehow owns me in some way.
So can I be ‘patriotic’?
To the State? Absolutely not. Try to make me pledge allegiance to Old Glory or the Union Jack or the Tricolour with the intention of extracting an admission of loyalty to the state and I will set it on fire instead. And if it is on a tee shirt saying “Try to burn these colors asshole”, the wearer might just get their wish. Try to conscript me and the state will discover that I am not a pacifist and have no problem with using force against someone who tries to impose servitude upon me: starting with the guy who tries to serve call up papers on me.
I live in London at the moment but I have ‘Old Glory’ displayed in my front window for all to see. Try walking down Upper Cheyne Row in Chelsea and you will see which is my house. It has been there since September 12th 2001. I do indeed feel an affinity for what James Bennett aptly calls The Anglosphere. I regard myself as a member of a cosmopolitan, English speaking global community, a civil society far greater than any mere nation state. For all its flaws, that extended society is the best hope for freedom and liberty the world has ever known and that is something worth defending. Unlike British society, which has a myriad cultural and regional symbols redolent with meaning, only Old Glory, the Stars and Stripes, the Star Spangled Banner, truly represents not just the American state but also American society, warts and all. Truth is I much prefer the Gadsden flag (see side bar of this blog) but most people would not know what it means. And so that is why the Stars and Stripes is stuck in my window for all to see. It was not just the people of New York who were wounded, it was all of us and that is a point I think well worth making publicly.
So is that ‘patriotism’? Opinions vary.