I don't get what patriotism means. The dictionary says it is the love and devotion for one's own country. I love my country and all other countries. I don't believe in sacrificing anything in the name of the nation. I care for my country because what happens there affects me and my family. Does that mean I am not patriotic?

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    Patriotism is nothing but a specialisation of the generic Tribalism class applied to the Country type. Most social species have reached a level whereby their members evolve some form of tribal instinct. At the group level it is a factor of cohesion and contributes to its survival in the competition for resources (tribes of a given species compete for the same resources/niche). If you like your country just as well as other countries, you’ve upgraded your tribal instinct to type Species (Humankind). You’re just ahead of standard patriots in evolutionary psychological terms. No worries. – Alain Pannetier Φ Dec 31 '11 at 17:43
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    "What is patriotism but the love of the food one ate as a child?" ~Lin Yutang – MickeyfAgain_BeforeExitOfSO Dec 31 '11 at 21:34
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    This site quotegarden.com/patriotism.html has a few dozen definitions. Pick the one(s) you like best. – MickeyfAgain_BeforeExitOfSO Dec 31 '11 at 21:42

As Humpty Dumpty says in Through The Looking Glass, "When I use a word it means just what I want it to mean". That's especially true of a word like "patriotism".

This is not a site about ethics or politics, so it's not appropriate to go into every nuance; it's enough to say that when one person uses the word, they may have different connotations in mind to when another uses it. Or, the same person may mean slightly different things from one occasion they use the word to another.

Often in political discourse, patriotism is portrayed as an unquestionably virtuous thing. To be "unpatriotic" is portrayed as something bad.

Resist this. The word describes a set of beliefs. It's up to the individual whether or not those beliefs are virtuous.

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    And sometimes, as Samuel Johnson is supposed to have said, "Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel". – RandomIdeaEnglish Dec 31 '11 at 10:59
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    This is oversimplified. There are many words that "should" have objective, scientific meanings but actually always have a value-judgment built in (scientific is another). Being patriotic is never a bad thing; if you disapprove of such nationalist beliefs or actions, you call them chauvinistic or jingoistic instead. – Tim Lymington Dec 31 '11 at 11:14
  • I think being patriotic is almost always a bad thing - why would you love a country? But again, this is not the place for that discussion. Many words have cloudy meanings; patriotism and nationalism are just two. – slim Dec 31 '11 at 13:38

Consider your definition of patriotism. It is a good one:

Patriotism is love and devotion for one's own country

Part 1

You said:

I love my country and all other countries.

Patriotism means allegiance to, or love of, a single country. Loving all countries doesn't make one a lesser person (maybe it makes one a greater person?), but it is not consistent with being a patriot.

Part 2

You care for your country's well-being because it directly effects you and your family. That makes sense, and is consistent with patriotism, in my opinion. It is a logical, honest sentiment-- as good a reason as any to love your country.

You said:

I don't believe in sacrificing anything in the name of the nation.

I guess the issue of patriotism comes into play if there were ever a need to sacrifice something in the name of the nation (as a necessity for taking care of yourself and your family).

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  • so I am patriotic :) – nemoy Dec 31 '11 at 6:01
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    @nemoy: I don't think you can really be patriotic unless your allegiance to your own country is quite significant. Your goodwill towards your compatriots in particular may be no greater than your goodwill towards, for example, people with the same colour eyes as you. Perhaps you're just nationality-blind – FumbleFingers Dec 31 '11 at 14:50

According to dictionary.com, a patriot is:

a person who loves, supports, and defends his or her country and its interests with devotion.

Do you defend your country with devotion? You aren't willing to sacrifice anything for it. You also don't seem to love your own country significantly more than other countries:

I love my country and all other countries.

So by the facts as you've presented them, you aren't patriotic. Your (self-interested) appreciation for your country:

I care for my country because what happens there affects me and my family.

is the same sort of care people give Earth. We love it because it sustains us. Do we pursue Earth-centric policies over, say, Mars, purely because "our planet is better"? No. Do we offer to lay down our lives to defend Earth against Mars? No. We might if damaging the lifeless Red Planet would help the humans on Earth, but that's not patriotism.

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