Proud to Be American

(Photo: The U.S. Army)

(Photo: The U.S. Army)

Watching the Olympics in a foreign country (the U.K.) brings out the super-patriot in me.  I’m cheering for the U.S. athletes in each event, and I don’t even care about the games!

Is this patriotism unusual?  Actually, we Americans are outliers in this regard.  In a recent set of World Values Surveys, 71 percent of Americans responded positively when asked if they were very proud of their country. Among 16 other rich countries in the surveys, the average was only 45 percent.  And only Australians and Irish were as proud as we seem to be. The jingoism of the networks in the U.S. during the Olympics caters to, and perhaps reinforces, our attitudes.


RZ

I think it comes down to absence making the heart grow fonder. :-) I experienced something similar when I moved cross country. Where I used to live in California, I was surrounded by many people of the same ethnic background; however, I didn't attend too many cultural events. Where I live now, the concentration of people in the same ethnic group as me is much smaller, but I find myself going to many more events to be part of the group.

Devin

The Olympics is a great opportunity to compare one's country to others. The US fares a lot better when it is being compared to the likes of Russia and China, and not other first world countries. Perhaps that also has an effect on US patriotism during the Olympics.

Nequelquepart

I'm proud of those who have sacrificed for the country, not those who feed off it. Athletes are a mixed bunch. I am personally prouder of those who excel in fields that benefit mankind like cancer research, neuroscience, and even economists when they are not completely deluded and hyper partisan like the oft-quoted Krugman. And you know what? I am proud of those worldwide who choose to come here and contribute to a rising tide.

Sadly, my faith in Gov't will not be restored until we collectively throw off the shackles of the "we need to create more debt, subsidize sloth, and penalize the industrious for purely political motive."

I will never be prouder then when we throw out the Obama gravy-train party and vacation machine and its enablers both Republican and Democrat.

Martin

I am not always convinced, despite survey data like this, that Americans are that much more "patriotic." My counter is always Canada, which is very proud of not being very proud. I swear there are many more Canadian flags and maple leafs on display per capita in Canada than there are stars and stripes in the U.S.

Average.Random.Joe

So you think the empirical survey results are bunk because you have anecdotal observational evidence to the contrary? hmmmm.

Enter your name...

Self-reports don't exactly produce stellar empirical evidence.

Oliver

First of all I think that in a country that was part of a bigger empire/country/etc. and actively fought for its independence a "heroic" narrative about the country's values is much more present and accepted in every day life, upbringing, and education.
In central Europe the devastating events of the two world wars have fundamentally changed how Patriotism is perceived. Often expressing pride of one's country is seen as being nationalistic and - by implication - borderline racist. Germans often joke that the football worldcup is the only ocassion you can have a German flag without getting some weird looks. Although this has become less of an issue gradually since e late 90s.
The very concept of "country" is problematic, too. When using the word country people can mean a whole conglomerate of elements that include a country's history, famous citizens, economic wealth, judicial tradition, ethical values, and MANY other things up to that really really obvious toupe the prine minister is wearing. Of all the things that make of this abstract "country" or "nation", a lot of things will not be great, some will be outright bad. We don't want to show support for those bad things, we express pride in defined things we deem positive about our countries, for example the way it treats the poorr advances the scieces or how successful their national sports teams are - but it's pride of the sportsteam, not pride of the country as a whole. (I will not go into detail here about if it makes actually any SENSE to be proud of a sports team you have not invested anything in - unlike a football club you invested your time in for years - and have nothing in common but the accintal same country of birth).
Ibalism is a very song factor in societies world wide, be it in the form of racism, religion, patriotism, etc. Sports have always been a very good projection for that, giving people a way to feel a sense of belonging and - trough the underlying social framework/methods - defining oneself by setting one's own beliefs in contrast to others (ingroup vs outgroup).
If you wanted to reduce patriotism to a fortune cookie text, you could try something like this: "Some people are not proud of their country because of its negative aspects. A patriot is proud of his country DESPITE its negative aspects." (If you have a very large fortune cookie you can add "because she sees a central aspect as being fundamentally good and view negative events as a perversion that are not truely part of what defines the country.").
Personally I'd rather put my trust, energy and pride in more tangible things though. Also in general you could always argue that semantically you should be proud only of things you directly or indirectly helped manifest, and feel "joy" or maybe "love" for/about other things - this might of course vary from language to language and for diffent groups of speakers.

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Shane L

Two things strike me.

First, many developed countries had empires and today imperialism is unpopular. Hence old colonial powers like Britain, France, Spain, Italy, etc. have what now seems to many like a rather shameful history. (Germany had a small overseas empire but of course had Nazism and the Holocaust.)

The US expanded rapidly in the 19th century so it's interesting that it doesn't seem to have post-colonial shame, but maybe this is related to the role it played after World War II in supporting decolonisation, and later in confronting communism?

Little Ireland had no colonial history and Irish nationalists could and did depict the Irish as victims of British imperialism. Hence it's easy for modern Irish people to state pride in their country, especially since the end of major paramilitarism in Northern Ireland has removed its association with IRA terrorism.

Second, I guess that in many Old World countries, nationalism has historically been a kind of ethnic nationalism: Germany for Germans, Poland for Poles, Ireland for Irish, etc. In the US, very broadly speaking, there was a national identity built around a notion of liberty that allowed diverse European nationalities, and eventually Asians and black Americans, to integrate and adopt a new American identity. In the 21st century there are now large ethnic minority groups in many Old World countries, but such countries may have struggled to come to terms with the significance of this on their national identities. If being German means being an ethnic German with roots in Germany going back centuries, Turk-Germans may find it hard to integrate and be accepted. I'm guessing there may be some discomfort over national pride in Old World countries because of this: ethnic nationalism is associated with the brutalities of early 20th century and may seem out-dated considering the new ethnic mixes in such countries. The US and Australia may escape this because they were mixing (mixing European groups anyway) from an early period and founding new national identities that were not based on ancient roots in the land.

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Eric M. Jones

Is this patriotism unusual? Well, perhaps not by the numbers.

But dogs and monkeys run in packs. It is probably true that patriotism is similar. It is pitiful to actually believe that America is superior without defining what particular thing we are talking about.

Certainly America is "better" in some areas (even many areas) and worse in others. But "patriotism" seems a pointless celebration. Your Mileage May Vary.

NZ

To get a decent proxy measure of whether country A is objectively better than country B, you can look at immigration (or, via waiting lists, would-be immigration) volume and rates between the two and try to control for variables.

NZ

If the 16 rich countries are basically what I presume them to be, then these are basically all "white" countries. White people are the only people who are taught not to be nationalistic or proud of their ethnicity. So, the survey results would make sense in that case.

nequelquepart

NZ, I think as a general rule this is true, but not exclusive white people. Socioeconomic status in the country one was raised in and the overwhelming culture plays huge roles. Europeans tend to equate nationalism with selfishness and the more liberal regard all cultures as equal. I agree most American students are taught that today because most teachers are of the liberal persuasion(which constitutes an entirely different set of biases).

My overseas experience in Africa, Asia, and Europe tells me that for natives (Africans & South Asians at least), the higher the education level, the greater variability in the degree of nationalism between individuals. I am not convinced any two sets of national masses of people in the developing world think alike in terms of nationalism. Too many variables are involved.

NZ

Fair enough, but surely there are emergent patterns. If American nationalism drops off among those with high school diplomas, let's say, then in Mexico or Kenya it drops off among those with bachelors degrees, and in Guatemala or Tanzania among those with masters and doctorates. (Wikipedia lists 5 institutes of higher learning in Tanzania, four of which look as though they might offer doctorates.)

RonlyBonlyJones

I used to be proud of being an American but not any more.

Not since America started unashamedly killing Pakistani and Afghan children with drone strikes and President Obama, while publicly bemoaning the death of a girl in Chicago from a random shooting, doesn't care at all about the children our drones kill.

Not since Bush authorized a drone strike that killed an American citizen along with the foreign national who was the strike's target and since Obama authorized drone strikes to specifically kill American citizens who had not been indicted for any crime and against whom no evidence has been released. Not since Obama claims he has the right to authorize the murder of any American citizen he deems "dangerous".

Not since we learned the NSA has been spying not only on foreigners but on us as well, even if we have absolutely no links to terrorists. Not since the FBI, without a subpoena, can demand your records from your bank, lists of books you borrowed from the library, etc. and the employees of the institution required to supply that information will be jailed if they tell you about it.

I miss being proud to be American. This used to be the land of the free. Not any more.

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nequelquepart

Pride in country does no equate to pride in gov't actions. The disgust we feel for corruption and despicable people in government should never impact our ability to ridicule and laugh a those miscreants and affect positive change in our communities. I am sure you are proud of the values we were founded upon, ways the majority of Americans live their lives and of the minority who lead truly exceptional lives.

A fellow named Michael Berry said once that anger is not a plan of attack. Persuasion is of the utmost importance. Anger doesn't persuade....

Caleb b

I had a guy in my office the was from Bulgaria. He always noted how "full of themselves" Americans were, noting that there is both a North & South America, so we shouldn't even call ourselves Americans.

I asked him if he spoke German. He said, "no." I said, "you're welcome."

Average.Random.Joe

The Americans calling themselves Americans even when there are two continents named America argument is just stupidity. First, while some say US citizens, most people call them Americans too. It isn't a name used one way. Second, America is in our countries name. So what would we call our selves. Unitedish? Statists? That would be my retort. How many countries have America in their name? What should those from the US of A call themselves?

Oliver H

Well, it all boils down to one's definition of patriotism, doesn't it?

When I lived in the US, I indeed got the impression that frenzied flag-waving and incessant singing of the national anthem seems to be what most people take to be "patriotism". I'm more of the opinion that inflationary use of something devaluates it.

As a counter-model, there's the Hamburg "Patriotic Society of 1765". They saw themselves already back then as a counterweight born out of the Enlightenment period against increasingly irrational nationalism trying to pass for patriotism. Their concept of patriotism was rather selfless promotion of the public weal. Fostering literacy, education, sciences and the arts.

It it's such a great nation, what do you do to keep it that way? Flag-waving, or the "mine is bigger" flags and flagpoles of some businesses you see, and anthem-singing do precious little to make or keep a nation great.

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