Depending on who you ask, Patriotism can be a virtue or a vice.
For those that believe the former, pride in country should be celebrated – “My country, right or wrong.” For the latter, patriotism is synonymous with jingoism and xenophobia, a vestige of our tribal roots to be replaced by a more broad-based humanism. Like everything else, it’s not quite that simple.
A recent study, via the Atlantic, highlights an interesting and important distinction between types of patriotism, and links it to personal happiness and well being. Patriotism founded only in ethnicity or nationalism has little effect on personal happiness. On the other hand, where patriotism is connected to respect for the institutions and policies, citizens are much more happy on average.
While the United States is certainly not unique in possessing that kind of “civic” patriotism, I think that our history has forced that kind of patriotism on us. In most of the rest of the world, nationality and nation are (roughly) synonymous – French people live in France and Chinese people live in China*. I can’t move to China and all of a sudden become Chinese – I’ll be an American living in China until the day I die, and my children and grandchildren will be Americans until the day they die.
America (or at least my America) is not like that – if you live here long enough or were born here, and you believe in the Constitution, baseball and apple pie, you get to call yourself an American. It’s why I love America and proudly call myself a patriot – America is an idea as much as it is a place.