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Gerardo Castillo Ceballos, School of Education and Psychology

The crisis of civic patriotism

Tue, 02 Jun 2020 10:56:00 +0000 Published in El Norte de Castilla

Civic patriotism or patriotic civility has been present since ancient times in the history of most countries, transmitted from generation to generation. It is therefore striking that in the last two centuries this idea and this feeling have been dissipating and entering into crisis.

In the case of Spain, in my opinion, there is almost only occasional patriotism. It is very commendable that many Spaniards get excited when the red and white flag is raised and the national anthem is played in the prologue of an international sports competition; but it is a pity that their patriotism ends there, that they do not feel patriotic on a daily basis, fulfilling their duties of all subject. Moreover, some of them boast of patriotism and attribute it to themselves in a partisan way. In their eagerness for prominence they often fall into extravagance.

The deformations of patriotism are often reflected in comic vignettes. One of Máximo's cartoons contains the following text: "My neighbor is so patriotic that instead of placing the national flag on his balcony, he hangs his tax declaration".

Patriotism is a thought and feeling that binds a person to his or her homeland, seen as the land of his or her birth, with his or her parents, customs, history, language and cultural tradition. Homeland implies pride of belonging. This pride should not be understood as an uncritical idealization of one's homeland. A good example of healthy pride is Quevedo's sonnet that begins with the quatrain "Miré los muros de la patria mía/ si un tiempo fuertes ya desmoronados/ de la degree program de la edad cansados/ por quien caduca ya su valentía".

It is true that Spaniards, throughout history, have been more prone to confrontation than to unity, but it is also true that when Spain has been in serious danger we have known how to react with a joint effort. This was the case, for example, on May 2, 1808, and right now with the coronavirus pandemic, which is awakening our dormant patriotic sense.

The underlying problem is that -in general terms- healthy patriotism is no longer considered a value. Its detractors claim that it is an extremist, intolerant and exclusionary sentiment. This disqualification is due, according to Georges Orwell, to the confusion between patriotism and nationalism: "I understand patriotism as devotion to a particular place and to a particular way of life that one does not want to impose; conversely, nationalism is inseparable from the ambition for power."

Miguel de Unamuno already spoke of the crisis of Spanish patriotism in 1900. He lamented that detachment from Spain was growing in the shadow of an abstract cosmopolitanism and a regionalism focused on the exaltation of the homeland. He did not see in this cosmopolitanism a fraternal love for the human race, but rather a diffuse ideal that indirectly favored "bell tower patriotism", where flags were used to exclude the neighbor from the inalienable project of a common life.

Those who today disqualify patriotism and manipulate the meaning of the term should read the great thinkers of Greek and Roman antiquity, among others Cicero. For the latter, patriotism is "Pro legibus, pro libértate, pro patria". It is love of country understood as a synonym of freedom and law.

The philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre considers patriotism to be a virtue. The homeland is the place where we learn the moral principles that guide our actions in the specific historical and material conditions of each era.

It is urgent to vindicate patriotism as a civic virtue, without ideological prejudices. This is the goal of José Luis González Quirós in his work Apología del patriotismo (2002). This author contrasts the moral fiber of patriotism with nationalism, which he considers an essentially political doctrine that tends to favor feelings of exclusion. On the other hand, patriotism has a high ethical content since it is identified with political freedom and the rule of law.

The virtue of piety has as its object those beings to whom we owe a debt that we can never repay. To our parents we owe life, its preservation and Education. And that same virtue also extends to the homeland in which we were born, and to which we owe cultural and moral inheritances without which our life would have been impossible.