Patriotism is love of and devotion to one's country. The word is derived from the Latin word for "father"; and it literally means love of the fatherland, or the land of one's fathers. A true patriot is an unselfish lover of his country. His sincere desire is to serve its best interests in all ways possible to him.
Robert Browning expressed true patriotism in his words - "Here and here did England help me; how can I help England?" He is proud of his country; but, just because he loves it, he is not blind to its faults. He does not hesitate to expose its sins, denounce its abuses, and, if he thinks it necessary, criticize its policy. He is more anxious that his nation should be right than that it should be powerful.
While he loves his own country first, he loves other nations too, and gladly recognizes their virtues and achievements. He would, therefore, cultivate international friendship, and he hates and opposes wars. But if war breaks out, then he will be the first to fight for his land, and will willingly sacrifice his life in its defence. Such patriotism is one of the noblest virtues.
But the word "patriotism" has been so misused to cover the most selfish aims and narrow passions that Dr. Samuel Johnson said in disgust, "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel". We must, therefore, carefully distinguish between true and false patriotism. False patriotism is an enlarged selfishness and a narrowed nationalism. False patriots support their country simply because it is to their own private interests to do so; and they do so blindly. Their motto is,
My country, right or wrong". This means that, whatever foreign policy our nation adopts, whether it be just or unjust, we must support it without criticism, simply because it is the policy of our country.
Such spurious patriots are narrow nationalists, and they teach that we cannot love our own country without despising and hating all other nations. They form the "jingo", or war-loving party, which is always crying out for war with other nations on the slightest pre-text Their motto is, "Might is right". "Patriotism", too, is often used as a cover for mean personal greed, as when profiteers and munitions-makers are the loudest to sing.
"Rule Britannia" when there is a prospect of a foreign war. The existence of false patriotism, however, does not disprove the existence of the real thing. There are true patriots; and the soul of one who feels no love for his fatherland is, said Sir Walter Scott, ‘dead’:
"Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said?
"This is my own, my native land'?"
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