I believe patriotism is an evil that has to be rejected consciously and constantly.
I think patriotism invites us to confuse human ideals, like democracy, equality, freedom, autonomy, and integrity, with national ideals.
I think patriotism teaches us to be insular, parochial and isolationist in a world where internationalism and an awareness of our interconnectedness is desperately needed.
I think patriotism teaches us to think of national borders as things that protect us from them -- to divide the world into insiders and outsiders, `family' and `strangers.' But national borders are nothing more or less than the scars of empire, the knife that severs families forever, the barbed wire fence that guards hoarded, stolen grain in a time of famine. They are prisons, not protection.
I think that when we confuse human values with national values, and human ideals with national ideals, we diminish the humanity of those with whom we do not happen to share citizenship. And in doing so, we become less than human. When we betray others, we betray ourselves as well.
And no, I am not confusing patriotism with nationalism. I've read the arguments about how patriotism is about loving your country whereas nationalism is about hating other countries. I think they reek of intellectual dishonesty. It's awfully convenient to be able to disavow the unpleasant consequences of patriotism as products of nationalism. And you'll notice that it's always them that are nationalist - nationalism is never something that we are implicated in. The distinction between patriotism and nationalism is an opiate for the conscience. It is a soporific when we need wakefulness.
Challenging conventional wisdom isn't something that wins many popularity contests - and the idea that patriotism is a virtue is a strong tenet of conventional wisdom. How much easier and much more comfortable, then, to blame war-mongering, xenophobia, immigrant-bashing, and the distortion of history on `those nationalists,' rather than to consider the possibility that `our' seemingly benevolent patriotism is among the contributing causes.
Let me leave you with some quotes - not the usual kind of quotes that you read about patriotism.
"Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all others because you were born in it." George Bernard Shaw
Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons.
Heroism on command, senseless violence, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism - how passionately I hate them! ~Albert Einstein
To me, it seems a dreadful indignity to have a soul controlled by geography. ~George Santayana
If I knew something that would serve my country but would harm mankind, I would never reveal it; for I am a citizen of humanity first and by necessity, and a citizen of France second, and only by accident. ~Montesquieu
I am not an Athenian or a Greek, I am a citizen of the world. ~Socrates
Patriotism, the virtue of the vicious. ~Oscar Wilde
Patriotism is a kind of religion; it is the egg from which wars are hatched. ~Guy de Maupassant
Patriotism . . . is a superstition artificially created and maintained through a network of lies and falsehoods: a superstition that robs man of his self-respect and dignity, increases his arrogance and conceit.
-- Emma Goldman