Nationalism and humanism

To be a humanist, as I understand it, is to be concerned with the well-being of all human beings (at the very least–all sentient beings at the most). As a humanist therefore, I’m no fan of patriotism. I understand that patriotism can be ironic in a way–not unlike the team spirit of some sports fans who, in their more detached moments, view their allegiance to this or that team as grounded in ultimately contingent facts. But patriotism often has not been ironic in this way. And, I want to suggest, ironic patriotism isn’t really patriotism. Ask any true patriot.

So tomorrow being the Fourth of July, I’m looking forward to time off work (mostly for my partner, who has a ‘real’ job). I’m looking forward to time with family. If we catch fireworks, that’ll be nice too (actually, I think they’re tonight). But I have absolutely no interest whatsoever in the nationalistic fervor that often accompanies this holiday. And I submit that people with humanist leanings should always accompany their whole-hearted celebration of life, family, food, and even national history, with a wary sense of the way in which patriotic mythology functions to hide from us the ugly truths of this nation’s past and present.

So happy Fourth of July! And remember, you’re not a unique and precious snowflake. And your country is mediocre at best. And yet, may both you and your country improve.

And yes, that includes me too.