Patriotism, to me, simply means love for one’s country – a supportive, respectful love that is big enough, and secure enough, to also question, challenge, and face the shadows of the past or present, without fear of rupturing that deeper connection. If your love for country, like your love for a person, is based mostly on ideals and images, it is unstable and therefore needs to be rigidly defended. It may be loyal, but it isn’t wise.
For me, healthy patriotism is somewhat like the healthy, intimate love one has for one’s husband or wife: you have a strong commitment to their well-being, and you have an intimate knowledge of their strengths and weaknesses that grows out of relationship rather than ideals or wishful thinking. In our present age of global interdependence and multi-culturalism, patriotism is ideally balanced by worldcentrism: a recognition that our beloved country is part of a larger world community, and that we are part of a larger human family (as well as an ecological community). These two loves, for country and for world, can check and inform each other.
But it isn’t easy: if we favor worldcentrism at the expense of our country’s needs, we may undermine our security and well being; and if we favor patriotism without regard for the larger world community, we also run risks of ultimately bringing harm to ourselves, either through negatively impacting the planet, or through alienating ourselves in the world community. Love for country is just one ring in a series of overlapping circles of concern, from love for self to love for all, but it is an important one, and should not be forgotten or neglected in our move towards a more global perspective.