I’ve always wondered about this question. It baffles me how ridiculously proud we can become when we read too into our country, and how discriminate and xenophobic we can get when talking about others.
I’m guilty of it myself, especially if England or Honduras are playing football. The opposite team become your worst enemy yet you’re not even on the pitch playing, but sat on the sofa with a beer in your hand, lancing insults and using negative stereotypes against a whole nation of people that you’re probably never going to meet.
You walk away thinking, why. Why did I say that? Why am I using it as an excuse to be obnoxious? Why am I behaving so out of character and irrational?
Don’t get me wrong; it’s so wonderful when your country wins something and you want to be part of the celebration. Seeing Honduras qualify for the 2014 World Cup was one of my most memorable moments I’ve had, seeing the waves of euphoria on the streets. Although the realisation comes crashing down when you realize that you played little part in your country’s victory, apart from getting stupidly stressed about a game which you lost your voice shouting at the TV screen over.
Patriotism also makes us feel foolishly offended when someone says something ignorant or xenophobic against the culture or people; pent up energy over an idiot’s comments. It’s a honeytrap, and we fall for it. Of course, some bigots use negative stereotypes to be discriminating against another nation, which the Hondurans often feel when they travel to the US or Spain, but I then feel like an English snob labelling the Spanish or Americans bigots, when I know plenty of people from those two countries who aren’t like that. It’s a patriotic mess.
Those who don’t show their patriotic duties (not singing the anthem or waving the flag high enough) are often accused of being a traitor, a lack of passion or in some cases stupidity, but then someone who isn’t that patriotic often sits back and laughs at the idiot who falls for the powers that be, flaming the fires of nationalist sentiments to manipulate its people to behave or react in a way that suits them. It’s sometimes funny. It’s sometimes disturbing. Look at Brexit. Look at Trump. Look at Putin. Look at Hitler. Propaganda uses it all the time.
The one thing I feel patriotic about is English culture. For a small island, we’ve left our mark on the world. Literature, music, art; we’ve exported it well. Then I start comparing it with countries and I think it’s better than the rest, and then I realise I’m falling into the trap, knowing the intelligent thing to do is appreciate art for what it is, and not the nationalist narrative about where it’s from.
I know readers might disagree with a lot of what I’ve written. Please leave your comments below, either way. In the meantime, I’m going to end with a quote by the comedian Doug Stanhope, who greatly inspired this post.