It's a fine line between patriotism and nationalism. According to Webster's dictionary, the only distinction between the two is degree, that nationalism is an "extreme" form of patriotism. In my mind, a patriot is someone who loves his or her country, someone who is willing to serve his or her country, and someone who sees his or her country for what it is, warts and all, and still wants to be here. A nationalist is someone whose love has become fanatic, contingent almost on being number one. Someone who believes that no matter what happens, fidelity to the motherland is more important than anything else. To a nationalist, it is more important to win than to be right.
If it weren't so bloody clear that McCain is going to get trounced in November, last night at the Republican convention would have given me an ulcer. While the Democratic party convention (to my surprise actually) was filled with speeches about what we, the patriots who love this country, can do to serve and make it better, last night the Republican convention was filled with statements that demonize anyone who dares point out the things that aren't going so well, and they're willing to lie outright to do it. I almost threw up when I heard Sarah Palin say "There's only one man in this campaign who has actually fought for this country," referring to McCain's military service and implying that dropping bombs on people is somehow more virtuous than any other public work.
It reminded me of the words of another great American, who hit the nail right on the head:
Tell me who's the real patriots
The Archie Bunker slobs waving flags?
Or the people with the guts to work
For some real change
Rednecks and bombs don't make us strong
We loot the world, yet we can't even feed ourselves
Our real test of strength is caring
Not the toys of war we sell the world
Just carry on, thankful to be farmed like worms
Old glory for a blanket
As you suck on your thumbs
Real freedom scares you
'Cos it means responsibility
So you chicken out and threaten me
Saying, "Love it or leave it"
I'll get beat up if I criticize it
You say you'll fight to the death
To save your worthless flag
If you want a banana republic that bad
Why don't you go move to one?
-Jello Biafra, The Stars and Stripes of Corruption, 1985