On Patriotism, the Nation, and the State

Yesterday was Veterans Day, which Matt thoughtfully addressed, so it seems like an appropriate time to address the subject of patriotism.  Opposition to the state and its wars is typically criticized as being “unpatriotic,” which is clearly the worst thing anyone could ever be in the whole world </sarcasm>.  Who doesn’t recall, to cite an easy example, the backlash to the Dixie Chicks’ declaration of their opposition to the War in Iraq?  The good business sense of stating political opinions of any sort at a concert is certainly in question, but the vicious and swift reaction to this statement — which included death threats and eventually resulted in an apology from the lead singer — was disproportionate to the situation.

What’s interesting, though, is the text of the apology.  While she (unfortunately) backed down on her criticism of then-President Bush, the singer tried in a slightly confused manner to maintain both her opposition to the war and her own patriotism.

She’s exactly right.  One of the frst things one learns as a political science major is the difference between a nation and a state.  A nation is a body of people that considers itself unified, often by language, religion, philosophy, ethnicity, or some combination thereof.  A state is a government.  Some nations do not have states, and some states may rule over only part of a nation or more than one nation.  Maintaining the distinction is key:

Patriotism means you love your [nation], its people, its ideals. It doesn’t mean you love the F’ing government.

Patriotism doesn’t mean you love the state or war.  In fact, since the state is typically the enemy of the nation, proving itself divisive and destructive again and again, patriotism more often than not means opposition to the state — opposition unrelenting until liberty is acheived.

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