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Switch to Forum Live View Is Patriotism a Virtue? Or a Vice?
5 years ago  ::  Feb 03, 2010 - 6:59PM #1
Scott
Posts: 88

Is patriotism good or evil? Is it ethical or unethical?  Is it a virtue or a vice?  I'd like to know what you think and why.


Thanks in advance for the input!


- Scott

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5 years ago  ::  Feb 04, 2010 - 10:49PM #2
Justme333
Posts: 1,101

Feb 3, 2010 -- 6:59PM, Scott wrote:


Is patriotism good or evil? Is it ethical or unethical?  Is it a virtue or a vice?  I'd like to know what you think and why.


Thanks in advance for the input!


- Scott




"All things in moderation" has been the basis of plays and written literature from the time of the 9th century BC historian, Hesiod, through the works of  Euripides, Plato, and Aristotle, onto more modern Chaucer, also found in the works of Mark Twain and I am sure many others today.  The reason, IMO, for the longevity of such a simple concept is because it is - well - true.  Your question is a perfect example of this.  Patriotism is fine (good, ethical, and a virtue) in moderation.  But it seems that when patriotism becomes almost divine to some people (excessive) and ends up hurting innocent people, then it becomes not so good (evil, unethical, and a vice), as does anything that is taken to the exclusion of anything and anyone else. So I guess I really do not have an answer to your question, or else my answer would be "both".


Justme

"Even if you are on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there."  Will Rogers

"Give to those who ask, and don't turn away from those who want to borrow."  Matthew 5:42

"Charity is no substitute for justice withheld."         St. Augustine

"Your love for God is only as great as the love you have for the person you love least."  Dorothy Day

"If you want peace, work for justice." Pope Paul VI
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5 years ago  ::  Feb 05, 2010 - 9:11AM #3
Scott
Posts: 88

Thank you, Justme, for your considered and thoughtful response.  I can understand your argument for excessive patriotism being evil.  I think we can agree that causing harm to innocents is an evil thing to do.  However, it is not so clear why moderate patriotism should be considered a virtue.  What good comes of it?


Thanks again for taking the time to respond.  I hope you'll continue to help me out by responding again.


- Scott

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5 years ago  ::  Feb 05, 2010 - 6:12PM #4
Justme333
Posts: 1,101

Hi Scott,


Well maybe a *virtue* or even *good* was not the best choice of words and *not harmful* would have been better, but I do think that patriotism is fine - in moderation.  I am an American, and I am proud of my country and of the opportunities that it has afforded me and others.  I have taught my children to be proud of their country and how to be good citizens (maybe a virtue?) - and I think that is a good thing.  I think it becomes not so good if I then think that someone from another country is *less than*, and it becomes evil if I decide that anyone in my country, who does not believe exactly as I do about a plethora of things, is therefore un-American.


Justme

"Even if you are on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there."  Will Rogers

"Give to those who ask, and don't turn away from those who want to borrow."  Matthew 5:42

"Charity is no substitute for justice withheld."         St. Augustine

"Your love for God is only as great as the love you have for the person you love least."  Dorothy Day

"If you want peace, work for justice." Pope Paul VI
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5 years ago  ::  Feb 05, 2010 - 8:47PM #5
Scott
Posts: 88

Thanks again, Justme, (I feel like I should address you as Justyou!) for responding once more.  Your clarification is appreciated and helps me understand better your view on patriotism.  I think most everyone would agree that being a good citizen is good.  But I might question whether it is necessary to be patriotic in order to be a good citizen.  I'll keep asking the question and see what kind of answers I get.  In any case, thanks to you for enaging my curiosity.


- Scott

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5 years ago  ::  Feb 06, 2010 - 12:52AM #6
Justme333
Posts: 1,101

Probably one does not have to be patriotic to be a good citizen, but I am thinking that one does need to be somewhat patriotic in order to teach their children to be good citizens, otherwise why bother?  Being a good citizen is not necessarily the same as being a good person - a good citizen should be knowledgeable about their country, about the history, about the laws, and should vote when they are of age. If I were not patriotic, I doubt that I would know or care about those things, and why would I care or bother to teach those things to my children?  I generally do not teach my children things that I do not care about, and I do not think that I would care about good citizenship if I were not somewhat patriotic. If I ever were to live in a different country, I would need to teach my children about that country, but I also would teach them about the USA, because I love it and would want to impart some of the culture and things that I love the most - to me that is patriotic. I know of immigrants in my area who still love their homeland and teach their children about their culture as well as about this country, and I think that is absolutely fine.


 Why, if you do not mind my asking, is this an issue for you?


Justme

"Even if you are on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there."  Will Rogers

"Give to those who ask, and don't turn away from those who want to borrow."  Matthew 5:42

"Charity is no substitute for justice withheld."         St. Augustine

"Your love for God is only as great as the love you have for the person you love least."  Dorothy Day

"If you want peace, work for justice." Pope Paul VI
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5 years ago  ::  Feb 06, 2010 - 12:17PM #7
Scott
Posts: 88

It makes sense that you need to love your country if you are to teach your children to be good citizens.  But that's only true if a love of country is necessary to being a good citizen.  You stated that being a good person is not the same as being a good citizen.  I wonder if that's true, than being a good citizen might not be a virtue.  If one can be a good person without being a good citizen than why bother being a good citizen?  Or does being a good citizen turn a good person into a better person, i.e., make that person "gooder"?  And can one be a good citizen and be a bad person?  That is, can an evil person be a good citizen?  Conversely, can someone who is not a good citizen be a good person?  (I apologize for going around in circles here, but you've really got me thinking with this good citizen angle that you've broached.)


I think most would agree that part of being either a good person or a good citizen is making a positive contribution to one's society (country?).  If one is not making life better in some way for others, than it's probably going to be difficult to argue that one is good, either as a person or a citizen.  But you suggest that there are further requirements of good citizenry: "understanding your country, its laws, and voting." 


By the way, it has been my experience that few Americans would qualify as good citizens because so few of them have even a cursory understanding of our history or our laws.  And many of those who think they have a strong knowledge of our history actually grasp only the fundamentals and the rest of what they 'know' is actually misinformation or mythology.


You ask why this is an issue for me.  Befor I answer that let me say that our discussion has made it less of one for me.  So, thanks for that.


Over the last decade or so I had noticed that my friends who professed the greatest patriotism were coming to conclusions about various governmental issues that were leading to actions that were clearly evil.  When I questioned these friends, who are good people, about how they came to these conclusions they inevitably provided some vague and illogical argument that fundamentally depended on patriotism for its support. 


I had always been very patriotic (I still get goose bumps when I hear Lee Greenwood sing God Bless the USA), but my government's immoral actions were leading me to question the morality of my patriotism.  I began asking my friends to explain why patriotism should be considered a virtue.  They could never provide anything approaching a reasonable answer.  (Maybe I need smarter friends!!!)


In any case, you've provided sufficient food for thought.  I now see that I was confusing government with country.  Patriotism, as you pointed out, in moderation is okay.  Extreme patriotism (let's call it chauvinism, jingoism, or xenophobia) will lead to evil outcomes.


I do love this country, the beauty, the cultures, the diversity, the hope it inspires, and the individuals who comprise it.  I do not like our government or the American people.  It's a contradiction, I know: I love individual Americans (regardless of their politics or religion, I've truly only met two or three in 58 years that I didn't like) but I dislike the American people as a whole. 


Well, there you have it.  Thanks, Justme, for helping me sort this out. 


- Scott


 

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5 years ago  ::  Feb 21, 2010 - 3:45AM #8
arielg
Posts: 9,116

Feb 3, 2010 -- 6:59PM, Scott wrote:


Is patriotism good or evil? Is it ethical or unethical?  Is it a virtue or a vice?  I'd like to know what you think and why.


Thanks in advance for the input!


- Scott




It depends on what your principles are based on.   Patriotism, tribalism or any groupism divides us against them  It is exclusivist.  It is centered in oneself and one's group.


The best of humanity is inclusive.  It encompasses  and respects every human being on the same level. (every living thing, actually)   No religion or superior teaching divides people into us versus them or puts one's own group above another.  (which is what patriotism does).


 

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5 years ago  ::  Feb 21, 2010 - 2:49PM #9
Scott
Posts: 88

Thank you, arielg, for taking the time to share your views.  I agree with you.


Peace and Love!

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5 years ago  ::  May 25, 2010 - 4:15PM #10
shawnf
Posts: 73

Feb 3, 2010 -- 6:59PM, Scott wrote:


Is patriotism good or evil? Is it ethical or unethical?  Is it a virtue or a vice?  I'd like to know what you think and why.





I think the Tao Te Ching [verse 18] says it best:
"When the country falls into chaos
Patriotism is born."


Patriotism can really only exist as an abstraction, and it is therefore different for each person.  One person may consider it patriotic to fight against the loss of what they perceive as their country's underlying values, to prevent their country from being lost to forces of repression and control.  Another person might see those very forces of control as the means to subdue unpatriotic traitors and keep their country secure.  Who is the more patroitic?  Depends on who you agree with. 


I think some generalizations can be made about patriotism, though.  It cannot exist without an "us versus them" mentality.  This mentality of separation and struggle justifies and makes possible a wide range of behaviors that I would call evil. 


Patriotism   is a vanity.  People claim the title of patriot so they can stand in self-righteous judgment of other people's beliefs and actions.  But as I said before, the word "patriotic" has no objective meaning, so these judgments aren't based on anything more than "this is what I think, and if you don't agree with me, then you are wrong."   Therefore, I would consider it a vice.

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