The Difference Between Nationalism and Patriotism

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Tom Page

Nationalism is a word that often has a negative connotation these days.

In fact, the word is often used to attack people. It’s often automatically associated with white nationalism. And lately Trump and others, like PragerU, (clip) are trying to change that. But French President Emmanuel Macron said “nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism.”

Wait, patriotism? Well that word is often glorified. And yet, nationalism and patriotism are two words that people constantly get mixed up. Wikipedia even says this, for crying out loud.

While the two terms are related and used to basically mean the same thing, today they no longer mean the same thing. So let’s clear this up.

Patriotism is love and devotion to one’s country.

Nationalism is love and devotion to one’s country ABOVE ALL OTHERS

Now, nationalism does have other meanings, and there are different kinds of nationalism, but I don’t want to complicate things too much. For the rest of this video, I do want to analyze why so many people think nationalism is dangerous and patriotism is not. Understanding that will hopefully help give you a deeper understanding of the difference between the two.

First of all, nationalism often leads to revolution and war. Patriotism usually does not. In fact, nationalism was one of the primary causes of both World War I and World War 2.

Second, nationalism is exclusionary. Patriotism does not have to be. Nationalism creates this in-group/out-group mentality, and often justifies doing whatever possible to help just one nation while ignoring, neglecting, or even hurting other nations. This automatically makes every global issue an “us vs. them” issue. You’re either with us or against us! Novelist George Orwell was a big critic of nationalism. He once said, “A nationalist is one who thinks...mainly in terms of competitive prestige...his thoughts always turn on victories, defeats, triumphs, and humiliations.”

And finally, the third problem with nationalism is that it often leads to breaking laws of other countries. Patriotism does not. With nationalism, the laws of one country always super cede the laws of all other countries. It also leads to the breaking of treaties. For example, time and time again we’ve seen countries break the Geneva Conventions due to nationalism.

In conclusion, remembering the difference between patriotism and nationalism should is key to recognizing how nationalism could be a threat to world peace. Yes, individual countries should have sovereignty, but cooperation between sovereign nations is the way forward if we want humans to stick around for awhile. And I like humans. I really do! They’re great.

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