History and Debate of Patriotism
The word patriotism has meant different things over time with a definition largely dependent on the context in which it is used as well as the geography of the region and the philosophy of the inhabitants. Most people recognize that patriotism is defined as devotion to one's country. For many, patriotism naturally comes about because they are a citizen of that country; however, for others, it has a deeper and more emotional meaning. Patriotism is used loosely with nationalism, a term that defines a group of people who identify with a political entity on specific rights, such as the right to statehood or citizenship for certain cultural or ethnic groups. Although patriotism has a sentiment similar to nationalism and the words are sometimes used interchangeably, they do not mean the same thing.
The root of the word, patriot, was first introduced in the Elizabethan era. It was derived from a Latin word "patriota" which ultimately meant fellow countrymen. The Latin word originated from a Greek word that had the same connotation. In the 18th century, patriotism was the topic of debate as loyalty to the State was seen as a contrast to loyalty to the Church. Critics argued that clerics were not suitable to teach in public schools because their patriotism belonged to heaven and not the state. Thus, they were not able to inspire a love of the homeland in their students. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, a Genevan philosopher whose political philosophy greatly influenced the American Revolution and the French Revolution, was an influential proponent of the classical notion of patriotism during this century.
Samuel Johnson, a British author and major contributor to English literature, published a critique of his view of false patriotism titled The Patriot in 1774. He is known for a famous statement he made the following year "patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel." Johnson valued true patriotism but was critical of those he saw using the term falsely.
The act of patriotism is influenced by certain factors, such as devotion to a national or civil religion or theocracy. Some have argued that these are opposing forces rather than symbiotic counterparts. Researchers like Michael Billig and Jean Bethke Elshtain argue that the separation of church and state is difficult to determine and really depends on the perception of those looking into the matter.
Patriotism - Good or Bad
Patriotism is itself a quandary for many people. Some look at it as a notion of which to be proud. Hearts swell with pride at all the things America has accomplished and her journey into becoming the most powerful nation in the world. A solidarity and unity is formed within the country that begets more pride and devotion as emotions spread. Others view patriotism as a result of arrogance, conceit and egotism, that the concept is narrow and instead leads to our country participating in civilized slaughter and a principle that justifies training murderers to impose America's superiority on others.
Numerous surveys have been administered to measure patriotism. A project known as the Correlates of War found a correction between patriotism and war propensity. The results from different studies are greatly influenced by the time they were administered. For example, patriotism in Germany before World War I was ranked high whereas now it ranks extremely low. Cultural influences as well as the emotions experienced during major events, appear to strongly impact the results.