Pride, July 4, and Nationality

crossed-flagsToday is July 4, the day when many Americans blare out their pride of being American. And as always on this days, I ask myself, why on earth? In fact, this pride on nationality and one’s own country is something interesting: I ask myself why Americans, like Russians and French, are always so proud of their country? I would not the least think about in a similar way of my being Austrian. Proud of an artificial construct called country? Furthermore, in recent times there is not much to be proud of in America (PRISM and here, drone killings, …). But it is not at least better in Austria, or in Japan, or anywhere else.

Don’t get me wrong, there are many things one can be proud of that came from America. The history of America is rich on people who fought for their rights, who stepped up for others. But does this allow us to be proud now? It should be a reminder to do similar things now, when it is necessary? Who in the American government or political landscape stepped up to speak up for Assange or Snowden?

Historical facts don’t create reason for pride, only for shame not to follow in the steps of the forefathers.

So where does this sickness (yes, I think it is a sickness) of most big countries and their inhabitants come from? Russian would kill you when you criticize Russia, French will spit on you. Austrians? Most Austrians would join in in bashing Austria and telling how bad it is.

Do we need pride for the country where we carry a passport? What does it mean to carry the nationality of a country? I don’t feel myself as being Austrian. If at all, I feel my self as “one coming from the area around Vienna”. Many times I felt myself ashamed carrying an Austrian passport: Haider’s stupid anti-Slovenian shows, the long ignorance of our Jewish heritage, just to name a few. I don’t be proud for the fact that Mozart was an Austrian. Why should I?

Historical facts don’t create reason for pride, only for shame not to follow in the steps of the forefathers. And some countries seem to be more prone to forget this. Let us all be reminded on this day, that improvements do not come from being proud, improvements come from self-critic and awareness of one’s own shortcomings. Pride is contrary to this.

5 Responses

  1. Sarah Forbes says:

    Being American, I don’t feel so different from you about pride in nation. Especially as an eager visitor to far away lands, I’m often painfully aware of the negative effects of America’s “pride” on the governments and people of other countries. In fact, today I was just reading Persepolis with my graphic novel class reading about the Iraqi bombs, courtesy of the U.S., that shattered lives in Iran. Not so long after, we turned our own missiles against Iraq. For all we have to be proud of, we certainly have a lot to be ashamed of too. I had no hand in fighting our civil wars, standing up for equality for women and African Americans, or writing the constitution, just as a I had no hand in arming our missiles or meddling in foreign affairs to claim control over oil and foreign markets. Yet, this day is for sure a day of reflection, a recognition of those who have fought for our freedoms, and a day to feel bonded to our fellow citizens. Our small town parades and fireworks shows hold special places in our hearts because we feel a part of something bigger and better. And, I think that we are all in the process of realizing that what we honor is under threat if not already critically injured.

    I think many Americans are also critical of the government and the pride, but, tradition is powerful. We have a tradition to honor the day which set us apart in history and gave name to our united, yet, diverse ancestry and culture as well as our forefathers’ struggle towards a free nation. By honoring those who came before us in the endeavor towards a free democracy, perhaps we can remember and feel just enough to pull ourselves back to a place where we held the government accountable and demanded our personal freedoms more loudly.

    Finally, I think pride can be defined in two ways. On the one hand, we feel “proud,” or maybe “lucky,” to be a part of this history and a free country, and we try to respect that through our everyday actions, our participation in our local governments, school and communities. This pride is one that draws us together, despite differences of opinion, language or culture. This pride allows for criticism because it sees it as a natural part of the process of democracy. On the other hand, there is a pride that is illogical and blind, where we feel we are better than others, and that sets us apart. I think it is within individual Americans which pride they feel. Pride in a nation is pride in a belief that we carry with us about our nation, about our community. It doesn’t have to mean we are better than other nations.

  2. Sarah Forbes says:

    Here’s something I read today that helped me be reflective about the current situation in the U.S.:

  3. Thanks Sarah for the comments. Your last lines on the two types of “pride” hits the point. What I meant is a dominance of the illogical, blind, and especially the pride that makes one unable to accept criticism.

    On the other hand, I have to say that you are not the normal American. Like I am not the normal Austrian. First, of course there is none of that anyway, but both of us living abroad in different countries for long time is something that sets us apart from the majority. Thus also, our thinking is different. Confrontation with different cultures, different living styles, forces you to reflect back onto your own existence, including shortcomings and strengths.

    So yeah, if all the pride in the world would be of your first type, that would be close to paradise.

  4. lucas says:

    HI Norbert,
    Well, if you’re proud of yourself, that would be better perhaps, in which case you can make a big deal of your birthday. But that isn’t a day for everyone to celebrate, just you and your friends.
    I don’t think a little solidarity is a bad thing for people to have with an artificial construct like a state or country. Give us some pride to remember we all live here so we can at least clean up after ourselves(for those who need a reminder). I know there are a bunch of humbugs in charge and have been for awhile, but if you love what your country could be or maybe was meant to be, maybe recognizing your country and its flaws might remind and make one more likely to want to change it.
    I thought in Europe only Italy had a sense of nationalistic pride? France? nah. Lastly, I think you should be proud of Mozart.

    • Hi Lucas,
      thanks for the comment. Fundamentally I am against the notion of country at all. There are relatively few countries that have a natural definition. Not even Japan would qualify, looking at the diversity from Okinawa to Hokkaido. But since at the current time there is the need for some constructs like political countries, we have to live with artificial boundaries. But the area that is confined by these artificial boundaries is not necessary an entity I have any attachment.
      For example, I feel much closer to my neighbors in Czech Republic and Slovakia, then to my fellow Austrians in the far west. Let us purely theoretically assume a person from Vermont. Wouldn’t he feel more closely related to people from Montreal than Los Angeles?
      That is the reason why I cannot be proud of any country. – Not to say anything of Mozart – can live well without him running around in Vienna on every open space! 😉

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