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Whereas patriotism connotes familial love of country (deriving from the ancient Greek word for “fatherland”), jingoism connotes something analogous to nepotism. To understand the difference, then, it is helpful to consider the difference between good and bad ways of loving one’s family.
Good parents, for instance, love their children and want them to do well in life, so they prepare them as best they can for life’s challenges, support them through their difficulties and celebrate their accomplishments. Certainly, they care more about their own children’s success than that of others. But good parents do not try to disadvantage other children so that their own can more easily prevail. Good parents are concerned about treating others fairly. Additionally, they want their children to succeed on their own merits, not because of unfair advantage.
Nepotism, too, involves loving one’s own children, but in a perverse way. Nepotistic parents recognize no limits on what they might do to promote their own children’s interests. They are willing, then, to trample over others in order to ensure their children’s success. Not only does this demonstrate an unacceptable lack of concern for the legitimate claims of others, it also betrays a lack of faith in the abilities of one’s own children. Nepotism emerges when one believes one’s children cannot succeed on a level playing field.
Patriotism, properly understood, is an analogue of good parenting. We love our country because it is ours, and we want it to be the best it can. We celebrate its successes and support it through its challenges. But we are committed to playing fair, both because we respect the legitimate interests of other people and because we want our nation and our fellow citizens to succeed on their own merits.
The Trump administration, by contrast, embodies jingoism. While its bullying attitude on trade and foreign policy is concerning in its own ways, its domestic agenda is driving the culture war.
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