Patriotism vs. Nationalism: The resounding difference


Across America the U.S. flag is proudly adorned with an unwavering sense of patriotism. New Hampshire, where I have been residing for the past two months now, is no exception. Gas stations, homes, parks, liquor stores, and malls are all hung with red, white and blue. ‘Old Glory’ or the ‘Star spangled banner’ can only be described as a symbol of unity overcoming, and yet preserving, diversity. Thirteen stripes representing the original thirteen colonies and fifty stars to represent each state; the U.S. flag maintains its historical roots whilst holding out its arms to those in search of the American Dream. Perhaps a poignant example is the following passage, depicted on the Statue of Liberty:

The New Colossus, as originally written, was produced by Emma Lazarus in 1883 and engraved onto the Statue of Liberty in 1903. Although not intentional, the poem soon became a message to immigrants from around the world. Therefore, it goes that ‘Old Glory’ followed suit as a symbol of patriotism, pride and a philosophy of solidarity. As I think back to my English homeland I cannot but help to feel something different about the way we venerate our two countries. The St. George’s Cross appears to conceal a very different, sinister message, wrapped in a patriotic façade of red and white.

The St. George’s Cross flag is vastly becoming less and less regarded as a symbol of patriotism. Amongst those interviewed in a survey about how people perceive the St George’s Cross, 80% of people identify the Cross with racism, whilst comparatively a mere 60% identified the flag with ‘Englishness’. Rather, the flag has become a symbol of nationalism. The difference, you might ask? To be patriotic is to be proud of one’s country, its customs and beliefs. To be nationalistic, however, it to perceive one’s own country, its customs and dogmas to be superior to others.

Identities are binary. They infer that where there is a good there is an evil, a knowledgeable, an unknowledgeable, and with superiority comes inferiority. Who better to stand up for the outlandish oppression suffered by the English people? Who will come to the defence of the English people? Armed with messages like ‘Don’t unpack because you’re going back’, the English Defence League “march because [they] want Britain to back British” of course.

The problem? Against a backdrop of a sea of flags a young man exclaims: “they are trying to put their laws down on us.” ‘They’ infers Muslims, and Muslims are identified as a broad category for anything that isn’t ‘British’. What is this tyrannical law infringing upon our civil liberties? The ‘Muslamic law’. Those seeking more information for sound logic of this ‘law’ should bang their head against a brick wall, repeatedly. It will all make sense. Trust me – I’m British. In all seriousness, you can view the enlightened ethos of EDL youths on the following link:

As those terrorists who happen to be Muslim represent a minority, thankfully so do the ignorant views of our misguided EDL members. Hence it would be unfair to conjecture that every person who waves the St George’s Cross flag is a vehement racist. Now, one might draw parallels with the fact that England is but one country that makes up Great Britain in the same way that there are 50 states to make up the United States.

Therefore, it would be unfair to pit the U.S. flag, which symbolises 50 states collectively, against a flag that represents one country in a United Kingdom of countries. My point simply would be the following – the U.S. flag takes preference over the 50 individual state flags as should the Union Jack over St. George’s flag. This behaviour, even by a minority, serves to isolate our small island from the rest of the world at a crucial time when the world increasingly becomes affected by globalisation. My overarching point simply is that it is time to be more welcoming of other cultures and to find a better balance between preserving our historical roots whilst opening up our arms to other nations. It is time we learnt how to better overcome diversity and celebrate unity.

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