Nationalism doesn’t sound like a very negative word. Right? The current argument for the word Nationalism is: “What’s wrong with being a proud supporter of my country?”
The answer to that rhetorical question is: “Nothing; if it were only that simple.”
The truth is that we birth words into this world so bright and full of hope and life, but sometimes those words screw up along the way. Sometimes we screw them up. Maybe they fall in with the wrong crowd. Maybe they drink way too much at the rally or post-party. Words, like people, change over time. Plus, we already have a much more accurate word for the ideology of being a proud supporter of your country. That word is Patriotism.
It’s debatable when the word Patriotism was first birthed into the world, but it can be found in written form as far back as the mid-17th century.
Somewhere in the early to mid-19th century Patriotism’s little brother, Nationalism, was born. At first the word-brothers looked and sounded so much alike that it was not uncommon for them to be used interchangeably. But as Nationalism grew it started being used to tout some ideas that Patriotism didn’t want to have anything to do with. Then Hitler came along and tried to match Nationalism up with Socialism in a confusing, unwholesome, and completely evil-as-hell arrangement.
Eventually most people started seeing the once-brothers as two distinctly different words, while some other people still couldn’t tell them apart. Add even more confusion to this picture with the multitudes of smooth-talking, information-bending, agenda-toting propagandists attempting to rehabilitate (or just make a buck off) the term Nationalism without addressing the baggage it carries.
Today the pseudo-word-brothers, Patriotism and Nationalism, are both straight-up old. But the consensus is that the main difference generally lies in one ingredient. Essentially, Nationalism is Patriotism with the added spice of superiority (an intoxicating, but cardiac-debilitating stimulant).
Sometimes Patriotism and Nationalism still independently show up at the same party, and Nationalism starts trying to throw some people out and preventing others from coming in. And that can get a little awkward. But it’s up to Patriotism to be the good big brother and tell Nationalism he’s probably the one that needs to leave before he starts embarrassing both of them or throwing up on somebody.
Current pictures of these once indistinguishable brothers show Patriotism wearing a t-shirt that reads “I love my house and the people in it” while Nationalism photo-bombs it in a t-shirt that continues “… not only because it’s the best house and people EVER, but also because I don’t really like or trust anybody else on the block. And furthermore, no! You can’t borrow a stick of butter.”
Nationalism is typically better at doing keg stands in crowds. But Patriotism just plain shouldn’t drink. Because when Patriotism drinks to excess his nasty alter-ego, Jingoism, takes over. And that dude’s crazy. Jingoism likes brass knuckles and typically ends up punching everybody in the face.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that we can’t necessarily take words at face value all of the time. Because their value is directly dependent on how they’re being used and what actions they’re invoking.
So this is where we stand: You can’t preach to a crowd about the sanctity of Nationalism while Nationalism is doing a keg stand behind you (and, honestly, keg stands are the most benign thing that Nationalism’s doing nowadays). You can’t take Jingoism anywhere without being arrested or worse. And it’s probably a good idea to keep Patriotism out of the radicalized mix entirely, and as far away from the spiked lemonade as possible.