All Men Are Created Equal (Terms And Conditions May Vary)

This is actually from 2010. I didn't bring Neville with on this trip.Happy Fourth of July!

Presumably, I’m wandering around Washington, D.C. by now. (This is a scheduled post, written several days beforehand.) If I could be bothered to look at the schedule I’d tell you what I’m doing, but I won’t. (Sorry if I sound snarky – I’m tired.) I do know that my group gets to watch the rockets’ red glare (oops, I mean fireworks) on the Mall tonight! Hmm, I wonder if the President will be there. I should look that up. Anyway.

Fourth of July is a difficult holiday when you’re not a patriotic person – like me. Many people confuse patriotism with nationalism and on this day especially, one has to listen to loads of people misguidedly claiming to be patriots, talking about how their country is the bestest. Let’s take a look at their definitions, shall we?

Nationalism: (1) loyalty and devotion to a nation; especially : a sense of national consciousness exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

Patriotism: (1) love for or devotion to one’s country (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

This confusion is frustrating for two reasons. Firstly, it’s annoying that people are too stupid to know the difference or too unmotivated to look in a dictionary. Secondly, I can’t understand this idea of your nation being better than any other. I think all countries have both good and bad points. For example, India has amazing food but a high rate of poverty. Great Britain has fantastic authors and the most wonderful food names ever* but also the sport of cricket. (I’m being goofy here, OK?) Australia is beautiful but it also has lots of creatures that will sting you / rip you limb from limb / kill you in some other equally horrid manner.

*Mom, I’m still disappointed that you wouldn’t let me buy a can of spotted dick in the British / Western European section of the grocery store.

I realize that I only focused on more material objects and not values there, but I think that’s valid. I don’t think any one country has better people than another, or that one country is the most trustworthy, the least hardworking, etc. That sort of thing has nothing to do with where you were born or live now. It depends on just, well, you.

Because I believe that no country is perfect, I can apply this line of thinking to the USA. I can be happy for my country and yet still think that there are things we need to work on. Sure, I’m very happy that we have freedom of speech – but I’m not happy that flag-burning is still considered “problematic” when it’s just a piece of cloth. I’m happy about the filibuster on the Texas abortion bill, but find it unfortunate that anyone had to speak for eleven hours without a break just to keep their lawful rights. I’m overjoyed that DOMA and Prop 8 were struck down (and on the same day!) but I don’t have to be happy that they were even around in the first place. You can love your country and criticize it at the same time.

So that’s why I won’t call myself a patriot, although by the true definition I am one. In the vernacular “patriot” has a meaning closer to that of “nationalist” and that’s not me. I won’t automatically defend my country until they automatically defend all their citizens. Until they stop saying, “Land of the free… with some exceptions.” Until they stop making distinctions between man and woman, white and color, straight and LGBTQ+, and more. I believe we can do better.

Have a nice day and enjoy the music of fictional nationalists for me, OK?

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About nevillegirl

Elizabeth, University of Iowa class of 2019. Double majoring in English & Creative Writing and Journalism. Twenty-year-old daydreamer, introvert, voracious reader, and aspiring writer. Passionate about feminism and lesbian positivity.
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11 Responses to All Men Are Created Equal (Terms And Conditions May Vary)

  1. Amanda says:

    I agree about the definition difference between “patriot” and “nationalist.” I like my country, and yet I think there’s plenty wrong with it that should be fixed…and that no one country is completely awesome and the rest aren’t. 🙂

  2. Lydia says:

    Great post. Nationalism is something I have a hard time tolerating, and I really like seeing someone point out the difference between nationalism and patriotism. I have friends who tend more towards nationalism, and sometimes I have to remind myself that I am NOT unpatriotic, simply because I don’t think our country is the best part of world history.

  3. Charley R says:

    Well said, my friend – and I agree! I’m a proud Brit, but I am more than happy to admit that we, as a nation, have made some truly epic mistakes, and continue to make some, to this day. You can love your country and still admit its flaws.

    (also that filibuster just about made me spit bloody nails. oh my stars i was about to swim across the atlantic and burn texas to the ground i was so angry)

  4. Artgirl says:

    We literally spent the entire second semester of my Honors World History class focusing on nationalism, recognizing nationalism, the effects of nationalism, nationalism as it is and was present in the world, nationalism as a potential cause for World War 1 and 2, etc. I even made a t-shirt with some of the defining factors of/things impacted by nationalism written on it for a final project. I’m happy someone else knows what it is.

  5. orphu44 says:

    (This isn’t quite on-topic, but I saw ‘All Men’ at the beginning of the title and thought for a second that it was an All Men of Genius post.)

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