Patriotism vs Nationalism
Genuine patriotism is very different from Nationalism. Nationalism is the complete subjection of human individuality to the service of racial, ethnic or tribal group interest. It is itself the ancient echo of tribalism within the world of the modern political society. In a tribe there is little awareness or acknowledgment of individualism, the group is all. The world in general is divided up simply into “the tribe” and "outsiders". Within the tribal mentality, an individual outsider is in turn identified completely with a (different) tribe of his own. Just as the tribesman does not see himself as an individual, but as a representation and asset of his tribe, he sees the outsider not as an individual, but as a representation of his own tribe. This helps explain the peculiar nature of tribal violence. To strike down any individual is simply to strike at the tribe of which he is a representation .
In the contemporary Middle East we find societies heavily steeped in tribalism. What we also find, is the wide use of the tactic of terrorism against the innocent. Terrorism by it’s very nature is a reduction of the individual human being (the victim of terrorism) to nothing more than a representation of a tribal group; specifically, one against which the terrorist has some particular grievance. The fact that the victim has played no direct role in the actions that provide the basis for that grievance does not matter: they are an American, they are an Israeli, they are a Shiite, they are a Sunni, therefore they are guilty. The Individual humanity of the victim is not factored in, because there is no deep concept of human individuality in play.
We have seen the remnant of this impulse in the Western world in the form of Nationalist political states, most notably during the 20th century, but of course not restricted to this period. In it’s more extreme forms it has lead to the persecution, abuse and sometimes even the destruction of various “outsider” groups. Again, In these situations innocents are thoughtlessly persecuted because they are seen not as individuals, but as mere representations of a different tribe toward which there is some particular suspicion, or animus.
Now as opposed to denying individualism, Patriotism within a free society actually emanates from Individualism. American society was built from the bottom up, and it was the intention of the framers of it's Constitution that it continue to work in precisely this way. Individual families ventured out as pioneers into untamed land to build a life for themselves. They developed close relationships and understandings with neighboring families, and began to build communities. These local communities in turn expanded into county, and then finally state sized communities. Eventually, in the face of a foreign threat (Great Britain) the American states, all sharing a common way of life (which differentiated them from the nation states of Europe at the time) combined into a nation to defend that way of life. All of American society can therefore be thought of as a series of concentric circles, extending outward from the individual. The individual American is uniquely loyal to his family, therefore he is uniquely loyal to the community that houses that family; a community that does not exist in the absence of the cooperative efforts of the many families that constitute it. He identifies with his state, because it in like manner is to be an expression of the interests of the various communities and counties that constitute it. Lastly, the nation itself embodies the interests of the states collectively.
Patriotism also consists of an attachment to the historical narrative of a country. This is not like a connection to a tribal history, which involves an allegiance to an elaborate set of cultural elements, permanently fixed in time. It is more like the unwavering allegiance that I have to a close friendship with a very long history. Such a friendship is marked not only by common values, common interests and common goals, but by a strong sense of devotion forged by time and a common past.