Debate:Why is patriotism so important in US politics?

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Question: Why is patriotism so important in US politics? As an outside observer, I find the attacks on Barrack Obama on the grounds he may or may not have placed his hand over his heart during the national anthem and/or the pledge of allegiance absolutely mystifying. What is it about the being patriotic that makes one a better suited to any job? The nearest controversy I can think of in British politics is when a politician fails to wear a poppy on remembrance day, and even then the outrage is at best fairly weak. --JeεvsYour signature gave me epilepsy... 08:41, 28 February 2008 (EST)

Patriotism appeals to people's emotions (pathos in the rhetorical sense), which can be persuasive, even if it's not rational (logos in the rhetorical sense). I think the polarization of the country has made such attacks with emotion and attacks on character much more common, especially as we no longer really look at issues in the primary, for some reason. (Probably because many candidates in the same party have more in common with each other than not.) Sterilexx 08:52, 28 February 2008 (EST)
Maybe it is the fact that by European standards the USA is a new country and has experienced a lot of immigration. Now immigrants have both emotional and cultural ties to the land of their birth. To prevent divided loyalties there has been a strong emphasis on the pledge of allegiance and comitting oneself to the new country. The flag itself has become a substitute for a monarch but because there are so many flags in the USA compared to the number of monarchs in other countries the patriotism concerned with worship of the flag seems to have attained almost a religious status. To an outsider, the reverence for the flag seems overblown, but because of it I can understand why Americans get so upset when foreigners burn it in public. However, I believe that it goes much deeper as politicians have sought to use patriotism for their own nefarious ends for centuries. In the USA it has become part and parcel of the political scene and has been a handy fall-back weapon for quite a while. The whole concept of being "un-American" may seem strange to most Europeans where such attitudes are usually associated with the far-right. What is noticeable is that the constant emphasis on patriotism has a brainwashing effect. My own take on the issue is that the USA is a teenager nation and needs to establish its own identity both for itself and to the rest of the world. To a lesser extent we can see similar things happening in other young nations like Australia. Jollyfish.gifGenghis Marauding 09:33, 28 February 2008 (EST)
The US was founded on patriotism, unlike many of the former kingdoms of Europe, which were founded on militaries or feudalism. Our "founding fathers" declared independence unanimously, and our victory in the war that ensued caused a lasting sense of nationalism. After that, the precedent was set, as America emerged victorious in its Civil War, WWI, and WWII, patriotic nationalism became commonplace in America. A dark period before the Cold War ensued, when McCarthyism was practiced, which led many Americans to become even more patriotic. Ever since the Cold War victory, any percieved lack of love for the country was thought to be very un-American. This public belief led the civil servants and leaders to take the same stance, and so the American public will generally not like a candidate who they percieve does not like the country enough. It is a very sensible belief.
Please excuse my Latin, but this is absolute 'bullpucky'. The United States was _not_ "founded on patriotism". It's creation was brought about as the direct result of the very jealously guarded economic interests of a wealthy and influential mercantile class whose primary motivation was the preservation of the existing economic order in the colonies, a preservation of what was by and large the existing status quo. At the time, their intention was that only white, land-owning males were actually people under the law; they were certainly not willing to extend any power to the general hoi polloi of the times.

Also, since the US is a nation of immigrants, it is very important that residents keep up the sentiment that the "new arrivals" stay American, and not form (forgive my phrasing) some little country of their own. Lyra § talk 16:36, 25 March 2008 (EDT)

America fought itself during its Civil War, so it was bound to be victorious. In WWI and II, America was only one of the victorious countries. Spica the HiverThe Embassy Centre 16:51, 25 March 2008 (EDT)
Thank you for correcting me. Victory in terms of the American Civil War is defined as "not annihilating itself." Also, most Americans don't actually know of the existence of Winston Churchill, let alone that Europe had anything to do with WWII. We probably have CP to thank for that. Lyra B Communique Delegate scorecard 16:56, 25 March 2008 (EDT)
You're welcome :) We Brits also have a habit of trying to eradicate ourselves, namely the War of the Roses (Lancaster vs York) and the Civil War (Parliamentarians vs Royalists). Sadly, your comment about Churchill is echoed here in the UK - my boys (ages 6 and 10) don't know the name of the US President during WWII :( With regards to the US being founded on the basis of patriotism, it should be remembered that at the time, The Colonies were taking a bit of a heavy handed beating socially and financially from the UK (undeservedly, I agree) and a large impetus for the Revolutionary War came from the fact that The Colonies were not represented in the UK government of the time, yet were taxed to high hell. Also, and again quite rightly, the idea at the time that one small island could govern an enormous continent such as America from across a vast ocean was and is an idiotic concept. It's my personal belief (not backed up by any evidence, I admit) that, had the UK adopted a more relaxed manner to The Colonies, government and taxation, the war would never have erupted and the US would be in a similiar position as Canada is now. However, that is pure conjecture on my part. US patriotism at the time stemmed essentially from the outright injustices inflicted upon The Colonies by the Crown of the time and one of the few ways colonists had to fight against the Crown was to adhere together as one unit. Spica the HiverThe Embassy Centre 17:18, 25 March 2008 (EDT)

May I make the little point that the U.S.S.R. played a little bit of a role in winning WWII? You know, 20 million of them died, so they were probably a pretty significant part of the war. Just sayin'.

Heh, WWII in the European Theatre was won more by Russia than the rest of the allies, easily. The U.S.'s primary contribution was the Pacific fighting, and the U.K., while it certainly had a major role, especially with the Western front and the African front, experienced nothing compared to the Battle of Stalingrad. The four bloodiest battles in human history are all on the Eastern front of WWII.-- 02:09, 9 July 2008 (EDT)

I believe that it comes from the propaganda when the nation was founded. The Boston Massacre was an event that was blown out of proportion by the US media, where the British soldiers were demonized and the victims were "innocent". Events like this fueled the war.

Also, a significant part of the US was against the war on Britain. As a result, a lot of British loyalists emigrated from the States during and after the War of Independence and those who stayed were harassed. These frantic displays of patriotism might have first began as a way of simply proving you were not a loyalist and were magnified by a desire to not be labeled as one (remember the Salem witch trials were neighbors were accused of witchcraft over jealousy).

This has continued over the centuries through Manifest Destiny. The assertion that America was the rightful master of the continent gave reason to it's rapid expansion. Patriotism was essential here because loses such as the Alamo could have a negative effect on the expansion process. So instead, we get stories of their loyalty and bravery as well as dismissal of any other record of events.

The matter of patriotism comes down to one thing,faith. Without faith, America could not have become the nation that it is today. In any event such as the War of Independence, western expansion, the Cold War and most recently the War in Iraq is based upon uniting the people behind the cause, portraying it as just and demonizing the enemy and all who disagree.--Nate River 21:03, 21 February 2009 (EST)Bunny.gif

The government is fundamentally a religious institution. It is a completely religious faith-based concept rather than one based upon logic so therefore maintaining its believers faith is of paramount importance in maintaining the mass delusion called the "state", that is to say, the invisible higher power of thegovernment religion.LogicMaster777 (talk) 03:31, 19 December 2014 (UTC)

Patriotism is fine, but...[edit]

...what bugs me is the unspoken assertion by some self-declared 'patriots' that the most important part of 'patriotism' is to support the current government no matter WHAT they do. That's not patriotism, that's idolatry. --Gulik 04:12, 9 July 2008 (EDT)

I agree. Supporting the government's WRONG decision is not only unpatriotic, but the very opposite of patriotism. Its an old relic from the days of knights and kingdoms.--Bobby 16:31, 13 July 2008 (EDT)
And, of course, it only applies to the current government. Once Obama is in, the self-proclaimed "Real True Patriots" will be the ones criticizing his every hiccup and threatening armed secession. --Gulik 22:54, 7 December 2008 (EST)
Yes, of course they will. Patriotism means 'hard-line fundamentalist neoconservative white male attitudes' way too much these days. --"ConservapediaSubwayResistorcan't spell criticism (yes I can!) 17:13, 1 February 2009 (EST)
Yes it is idolatry in the most literal sense. The government belief system is in the most literal sense of the word a religion unto itself.03:33, 19 December 2014 (UTC)LogicMaster777 (talk) 03:33, 19 December 2014 (UTC)

Something to add[edit]

Another factor involved in the patriotism issue has long been the question of "what does it mean to be an American?" Americans have obsessed over this for a long time, because the traditional definition of what a nation is doesn't apply so well in America's case. Unlike the European nation-states, there is not one dominant nationality for Americans. Instead, it is "Americanism" that binds us, and what little shared symbols we have. Researcher 09:06, 12 November 2008 (EST)

Without patriotism there'd be little to keep states in the union. Comparing states it can be difficult to find any other common bond. ToastToastand marmite 09:18, 12 November 2008 (EST)
Agreed the seeking of the "American Ideal" is what binds the union. Nothing else really holds the union in shape, we are one the most culturally and geographically diverse places on planet Earth, with every group holding sway over what others can and can't do. It's the American experiment, and it's gone surprisingly well, and I love being part of it.--Snotbowst 23:37, 30 November 2008 (EST)
There is no naturalistic scientific principle by which something is or is not "American". "The United States of America" is only a mental abstraction. In other words, there is no actual physical object like a rock or tree that we can prove by a naturalistic principle of science to be "The United States". What is or is not "state" or "States" is a projection by means of associative magical thinking which believers in statism engage in as part of their religion.03:36, 19 December 2014 (UTC)LogicMaster777 (talk) 03:37, 19 December 2014 (UTC)


I've seen a few people saying that patriotism is a rallying point to replace a monarch or ethnolinguistic nation in the context of enormous immigration, but New Zealand has the same multicultural basis without a strong patriotic impulse. How can one explain the difference? Wazza (Not Wazzock, Wazza)Approach the Presence 23:44, 30 November 2008 (EST)

I don't know a lot about New Zealand, but I think there are few observations I would make about the United States. I think one of the most important ones is that it is founded in a very real sense on a philosophical experiment in classical liberalism. Most states in the world are also nations, that is less true of the United States. I think often when people assert their patriotism, I think they are supporting their view of what that founding philosophy is, which is very relevant to politics.
In most states, which are entities that rule nations, and where legitimacy is derived from national history and national law, the equivalent would be nationalism, which tends to smack of racism. This is, of course, unfair. It is thoroughly reasonable to have pride in ones nation without being racist. Nevertheless, since WWII, it has been looked on less favorably.
Further, the philosophical foundations of the United States are hotly debated around the world. They are reviled, loved, studied, conspired against, supported, attacked and defended. Yet when people do these things they do them to one of the chief sources of US legitimacy, and so it is easy to see how these might elicit a patriotic response from a US citizen.
Finally, the US has a rich history. The US has fought many wars, and some roles are for the US citizen to be proud. Of course other states have fought wars, but many of the wars that the US has fought were fought in defense of a philosophy. Again, this philosophy being a source of US legitimacy as well as politically relevant today, it can elicit a patriotic response.
In Europe, for instance, the nation is still very much the foundation of the state. As such, philosophies can be debated without calling up an emotional affront to what some person believes is the founding philosophy of that state. (This is, of course, too broad to be fair and accurate, but I think it's roughly true). BlueSprite 21:04, 7 December 2008 (EST)
The state as such is a mere mental abstraction which is reified in the mind to be "real" through the process of magical thinking, or "the secret", that is to say imagining a thing into existence through magical/wishful thinking. This abstraction is then projected onto the world through the religious associative magical thinking of statism.03:39, 19 December 2014 (UTC)LogicMaster777 (talk) 03:39, 19 December 2014 (UTC)

The purpose of nationalism[edit]

In Marxist terms, Patriotism is a method for the ruling class to control the working class by making it appear that the different classes have common interests instead of the working class being in solidarity with itself and other working classes.

In our world, the Republican party uses patriotism to get support from poorer segments of society. The use of patriotism ( along with xenophobia, homophobia, racism etc ) gets large swathes of people to vote against their own economic interests. Not that the Democratic party is immune; they will play the same cards when necessary.

Obviously, one reason it is so important now is that it has worked in the past, so it's easier to get away with. The actual mechanism is the country always having an underclass of immigrants. This makes it easier to have an "us vs them" mentality and prevents the underclass from becoming organized and politically influential. The constant cycle of immigrants with their scary languages ruining America provides a great way to exploit the differences to keep the focus on how we are all Americans and equal, instead of questioning why things are the way they are ( wealth distribution, tax burden, foreign policy, labor laws etc. ).

As an aside, this is why immigration reform is a crock of shit. If they wanted to get all the illegal immigrants out, they would just raid the chicken plant and ask for IDs. (They do do this occasionally for show) Neither party has an interest in any more than minor changes to policy. A pool of powerless, cheap workers is a valuable asset in an otherwise expensive, first-world country. Teabag 20:34, 21 February 2009 (EST)

I agree with you, up to a point--it's not merely the Republicans who do it (although one could probably argue that they're *better* at it...). It's the ruling classes more generally, whether it's in their right-of-centre incarnation (the Democrats0 or the more-right-of-centre incarnation (the Republicans). TheoryOfPractice 20:47, 21 February 2009 (EST)
(EC) In some other people's terms, secularism is a method for atheists to control Christians by making it appear that moderate Christians and atheists have a common interest in upholding religious freedom, instead of moderate Christians being in solidarity with each other and with fundamentalists who oppose it. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 20:57, 21 February 2009 (EST)
I made that comment about the Democrats in my first post. However, while the Democrats will take a little flack due to flagpins or not saying the Pledge of Allegiance, they quickly back down in case of war or a (made up) threat to national security. In the same way, if I was a Bush apointee who did something illegal, I wouldn't worry about the Obama administration trying to indict me. Teabag 21:02, 21 February 2009 (EST)
About the rest of this debate page, people have thrown some random historical examples together to make vague points. The important thing to remember is that nationalism is important in a lot of countries. "uniting the people behind the cause, portraying it as just and demonizing the enemy and all who disagree." is nothing unique to American politics. Teabag 21:13, 21 February 2009 (EST)
Yeah, but the US does it so well with media such as Fox News.--Nate River 21:47, 21 February 2009 (EST)
Or the New York Times. TheoryOfPractice 21:51, 21 February 2009 (EST)
I was hoping this would be more than just a circle-jerk of random assertions which is what a typical internet debate entails. Your mom hates goat Teabag 21:00, 22 February 2009 (EST)
Rude much?--Nate River 21:27, 22 February 2009 (EST)
I take back the your mom hates goat criticism. That was uncalled for. You made a post somehow linking the patriotism phenomenon with references to the Salem witch trials and the Alamo. Instead of directly criticizing you, I moved my post and changed it so it was a general comment on the "debate" on this page in order to avoid personal confrontation. The goat reference was supposed to demonstrate the uselessness of random assertions in a debate. I stand by my claim that the internet is filled with useless exchanges just like this. I apologize if that offends you. Teabag 21:44, 22 February 2009 (EST)
Ok, let me clarify:
  • Salem: Some people accused others in their community out of jealousy. Just think of that Simpsons Halloween episode where Marge was a witch. One of the claims against her was her sheets were always whiter than the rest of the villages. This was a comparison to McCarthyism, where peoples careers could end just on accusations of being communist. Remember the Rosenberg trial where red jello was used as evidence?
  • Alamo: The Alamo is one of the most legendary events in American history. Americans maintain that their side fought bravely to the very end, yet Mexican history is entirely different. Could America have grown as large as it is if the Mexican version was the one told in schools?

And I was upset about being compared to CP--Nate River 22:57, 22 February 2009 (EST)

I think you are missing the point. Regardless, this debate is worthless and I apologize for reviving it. Teabag 01:55, 28 February 2009 (EST)

Patriotism vs. Country-worship[edit]

I have no problem with patriotism, my problem that people think it means worshipping the country, flag, symbols. If you really love your country then you try to improve, not WORSHIP it.

What is ironic is that most country-worshippers are CHRISTIANS!

Thou shall have no other gods before me - Yahweh

In fact, I want to improving be removing all the brainwashing in the classroom. The War on Drugs, Union(War for Southern Independence) was right, Country-Worship are all being brainwashed to children in schools. I am a child, or tween whatever, and I am worried that my friends are being brainwashed(which they are). Colbert|FanBritons are people too! 19:34, 9 March 2011 (UTC)

True, but that's not the point. The propoganda used in stuff like the PATRIOT Act is ridiculous. Basically, patriotism and nationalism sucks.Bazer63 (talk) 09:38, 12 July 2014 (UTC)

Patriotism is state worship. That is to say the worshipful "reverence" for the invisible higher power of "state" which statists worship as their religion.LogicMaster777 (talk) 03:42, 19 December 2014 (UTC)