Patriotism should not be a partisan issue


Graphic by Jordan Lee.

Stuart Lombard

Graphic above by Jordan Lee.
A popular refrain that I have heard many on the political right saying is that Democrats and liberals hate America. That idea could not be further from the truth. Patriotism is not a partisan issue.
But I understand why many think it is. It is a common misunderstanding of the difference between patriotism and nationalism. They are easily confused and the consequences necessitate a proper understanding of the difference.
The etymology of the word comes from the Greek patrios – ‘of one’s father’ and patris – ‘fatherland’. The word patriot comes from the French patriote – ‘fellow countryman’. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a patriot is defined as ‘a person who vigorously supports their country and is prepared to defend it against enemies or detractors.’ The word patriotism means ‘the quality of being patriotic’.
The word nationalism, in contrast, means ‘identification with one’s own nation and support for its interests, especially to the exclusion or detriment of the interests of other nations.’ The key distinguishing factor is that patriotism is one’s love of their country, while nationalism inheres a sense of superiority over other nations.
Much of the debate over who loves or allegedly hates America has centred on the act of kneeling during the national anthem. While none of the sports players have explicitly said that they hate the United States, some have taken their act of kneeling in protest against systemic racism and police brutality as shorthand for saying it.
I do not think that this is a valid inference to make. To illustrate my point, I find it helpful to think about a young college student, ready to mingle. Some relationships are great, but once the first argument happens, the rosy façade is shattered and the relationship crumbles.
Something I have learned from my parents is that true love is in spite of arguments. You love each other enough to be motivated to repair the relationship. Love can mean acknowledging the faults and working to fix them. Would you really fight to save something if you did not care immensely about it?
People who kneel during the national anthem may care so much about  their country that they are willing to stay in the relationship and strive to make things better.
Our country is not perfect. Right now, we are rightly facing a reckoning on our long history of racism. For 400 years, our country has enslaved, killed and oppressed people of color. Righting these wrongs can seem like a daunting task.
It may feel like things are changing too quickly, too drastically. But this change is necessary if we are to live up to our country’s highest ideals as immortalised in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
You can love your country and still recognize that it is flawed. You can love your country and acknowledge that it needs to be fixed.
Refusing to see and understand  the reality of our country will only make healing a more immense task in the future. If you, like I do, want to see the United States have a bright future, then you must recognise that problems like systemic racism only endanger that future. Patriotism is not a partisan issue. Love of country means being devoted to the long-term health of the country.