On a serious note let’s talk patriotism – which these days becomes almost indistinguishable from nationalism.

The more time I spent outside my the country, the more uncomfortable patriotism, and flags in particular, make me. Sure, I grew up among the hippy culture of the San Francisco Bay Area and have never really been one for waving a flag, but nowadays even less so.

Being abroad makes me ever more uncomfortable with patriotism, not because I think there’s anything particularly wrong with my country (though with it’s government yes) but because I look at where I live and realize there’s nothing particularly wrong with this country. Or with the one next to it, or the one next to that. There are plenty of nasty places on earth but plenty of wonderful ones too, the U.S. is not the only one. And praising one’s country for merely being one’s country smacks of an irrational arrogance.

And not just coming from Americans. I have been plenty irritated with Spaniards who, in the face of all reason, go on and on about how this or that thing they have is sooooo much better than what we could ever produce (especially with wine and food, they’re impossible). And there’s only one word for it: obnoxious.

I love a million things about the beautiful and unique place that I am from, which is only a small part of a huge country largely unknown to me. But, more than ever, the sentiments expressed by Howard Zinn on Alternet today ring true for me:

Is not nationalism — that devotion to a flag, an anthem, a boundary so fierce it engenders mass murder — one of the great evils of our time, along with racism, along with religious hatred?

These ways of thinking — cultivated, nurtured, indoctrinated from childhood on — have been useful to those in power, and deadly for those out of power…

…We need to refute the idea that our nation is different from, morally superior to, the other imperial powers of world history.

We need to assert our allegiance to the human race, and not to any one nation.

I am going to spend this evening at a party with people from Spain, France, Panama, Germany, Mexico and lord knows where else. And that is a true blessing. Amen.

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