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What’s the difference between nationalism and patriotism?

IndiaWhat's the difference between nationalism and patriotism?

Social media profiles with fierce assertions of “Proud Nationalist” along with the national flag seem an important defining tag today.

Jeering and mocking seem to be the ploy of the days while people are sinking in clouds of gloom, overcome by an impending sense of doom.  There is constant animosity and rudeness, something not very evident in the earlier days because some sets of people suddenly believe they are truly nationalistic while calling others anti-national for no real reason, but rather because they don’t agree with their point of view.

As an observer of the political turbulence in India, it has become abundantly clear that nationalists are starting to fervently accuse certain people with words such as “anti-nationals”, “traitors” “international conspiracy” and other such words.  Bitter streams of vitriolic words have even escalated to dreaded violence.

While nationalism is power-hungry, angry, aggressive, and hates people, even their fellow citizens who don’t agree with them, patriotism embraces all its country’s people and does not hate other countries.  Of the two, nationalism emits negative angry energy that leads to destruction.

The ubiquitous usage of “proud nationalist” is entwined in aggression, almost making others feel they are “anti-nationals” and they openly say it.

Ayn Rand the great writer wrote, “Nationalism is the belief that the nation, not individuals, is the primary unit of existence and the ultimate standard of value.”

“Nationalism is an infantile disease; it is the measles of mankind.” – Albert Einstein.

“Nationalism is power hunger tempered by self-deception,” said George Orwell

“Nationalism… is like cheap alcohol. First, it makes you drunk, then it makes you blind, and then it kills you.” – Dan Fried

On praising patriotism, “The happiness of any country begins with the well-being of the citizens.” – Thomas Jefferson.

“Patriotism is not a short and frenzied outburst of emotion but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.” – Adlai Stevenson

So, what is the difference with the Patriots?  True patriots are those who contribute to the formation and ongoing development of a nation. They embrace diversity, exhibit tolerance, and exude grace – these are the genuine nation builders.

Conversely, those who incite riots, sow bloodshed, and spread venomous division come in the category of nationalists.  “People constitute a nation. People are invaluable. Without people, a nation cannot exist, and patriotism becomes an empty concept. Uninhabited lands are desolate, bereft, echoing, and despondent. What would we be without humanity, without people!”

Patriots are individuals who rise within a nation to construct, nurture, and uplift. They are passionate, noble souls who do not inflict harm, take lives, or destroy. They could be anyone – a farmer, doctor, nurse, police officer, builder, carpenter, political leader, spiritual guide, teacher, writer, soldier, and so on. Judging a patriot by appearance is as futile as judging a book by its cover. Some patriots may need to defend their nation in times of war, even resorting to combat, but this is an exception, not a way of life. War never ceases unless someone puts an end to it.

True patriots are those who construct, heal, guide, repair, restore, mend, and fortify foundations, adding value to everything around them. They are not petty, whining, or hounding, nor do they participate in mass hysteria to bully fellow citizens.

In the present day, we observe the rise of a fervent form of nationalism driven, in all likelihood, by incentives from higher authorities for their confrontational actions. These individuals mistakenly think their anger is authentic nationalism. However, what does this enraged nationalist accomplish? Nothing more than a perpetual cycle of rage, bitterness, possible loss of life, and endless accusations. This angered form of nationalism only serves to deepen the divisions within the nation, providing a fertile breeding ground for external adversaries.

Angry nationalism is triggering militant nationalism, bordering on the brink of rising fascism. People who follow this path of mob hysteria and emotionalism label anyone who doesn’t conform to their ideals as anti-national or traitors.

Those who wield the sword of pseudo-nationalism expend considerable energy ranting and raging against those who fail to meet their expectations, leading to profound divisions within the nation.

This is precisely what external adversaries desire! They insidiously exploit these divisions, leveraging caste, religion, ethnicity, culture, and race to turn a nation into a battlefield.

Fighting fellow citizens over perceived offenses is a form of militant nationalism, which can eventually lead to ideological fascism. Pseudo-nationalists sow division, destruction, and polarity in a country, hindering its development.

Today, there is a tendency to label fellow citizens as traitors or anti-national at the slightest provocation, without substantiation.

“True patriotism hates injustice in its own land more than anywhere else.” – Clarence Darrow
“The patriot’s blood is the seed of Freedom’s tree.” – Thomas Campbell
“Patriotism is the virtue of the vicious.” – Oscar Wilde
“Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president.” – Theodore Roosevelt


“Patriotism is when love of your own people comes first; nationalism, when hate for people other than your own comes first.” – Charles de Gaulle

“Nationalism is a refuge for scoundrels.” – H.L. Mencken

“Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism.” – Emmanuel Macron

“Nationalism, like schoolyard bullying, offers a temporary comfort, a fleeting sense of belonging and strength, but at the expense of curiosity, complexity, and true community.” – Timothy Egan

While nationalism stands as a political ideology and belief rooted in the pride and identity associated with one’s nation, coupled with a fervent desire to champion and safeguard that nation’s interests, patriotism is a profound and unwavering devotion, an ardent love for one’s own homeland or nation. It is a sentiment that readily extends to support and defend one’s nation, particularly during times of adversity or crisis.

Patriotism finds expression through diverse avenues of civic engagement, encompassing service in the armed forces, active participation in civic endeavors, and contributing to the overall betterment of one’s country as farmers, teachers, entrepreneurs, doctors, scientists, and much more.  Importantly, patriotism, while fostering a deep connection with one’s homeland, need not harbor hostility or animosity toward other nations and never against the people of its own nation; it can harmoniously coexist with genuine respect for the sovereignty and rights of other countries.

if we love your country, we should also love our country’s people, said American President Ronald Regan, This embodies true patriotism, transcending mere nationalism. Patriotism does with actions, it does not need to prove anything to anyone, and most of the one rallying a flag around are on an imaginary trip to prove their loyalty to the nation.  True patriotism brings unity and builds a nation, while angry nationalism divides, breaks, and hates.

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