For this whole discussion, I think it is worth defining the difference between patriotism and nationalism better. Historically, nationalism is the belief (arising through Enlighenment-period ideas) that ethnic-linguistic ties are what bind people most closely, and that such ties should determine who forms together into self-governing countries rather than the earlier idea of allegiance to a monarch with divine right. Meanwhile, patriotism is generally an attachment to a government or system independently of specific "nationalist" concerns. In this respect, patriotism was around long before nationalism really existed as an idea.
Nationalism is not really a problem in the US (outside of some small racially determined fringe-groups), while it has been the major force behind most of the wars in Europe over the past 200 years, and has since become a driving force behind wars in Asia as well, and around the world.
Obviously, however, there are many shared elements in nationalist and patriotic mindsets: the idea of pride in group accomplishments etc. Patriotism and nationalism are perhaps two facets of the same basic human drive (as family allegiance, tribe allegiance, etc.).
: Interesting post: I don't think it is at all off-topic. I agree with some of what you write, especially: The whole concept of "E Pluribus Unum" is so profound that it's miraculous that a nation so diverse can be as wildly successful.
. I also like the "rip off the scabs" analogy, though I would argue that many, many other countries have done the same thing over the years.
Still, I see things somewhat differently from you.
When one invokes God in terms of talking about their country, it is a recognition of the fact that it was in fact a common set of IDEALS, not geographic accident or a singular race that unites Americans.
But 1.) Having a supposedly shared set of ideals does not make people right, and the "God bless us" mentality seems to suggest that it does.
Amd 2.) In any case, that doesn't seem to me how most people use this invocation. God is called upon to bless or defend pretty much any in-group against any out-group. God is supposed to bless one sports team playing another, etc. And God is invoked--in this country and across the world--in just the same way when people DO
mean geographic accident or when they are talking racially.
We are in fact blessed that the rights we recognize are in fact granted by God and manifested in (prior to 1776) an absolutely never-seen-before notion that all men are equal, and that it is their talents and abilities that separate them from another, not simply birthright.
Well, although we are the first Western nation specifically FOUNDED on these ideas, they were certainly not "never-before-seen" prior to 1776. Those ideas rely very heavily on the thinking of Brits like John Locke at the start of the 17th century, the fallout from the English civil war in the mid-17th century-- and, perhaps most directly, French, Swiss, and Scottish Enlightenment thinkers from the middle of the 18th century, such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau and later James Beattie (who for example was passionately against slavery long before it became an issue here in the US). Ignoring these precedents seems itself a distorition resulting from a patriotic viewpoint, just what I am talking about when I criticize patriotism in general.
What I find patriotic is the idea that it is that very ideal of freedom and responsibility that for over 225 years has been unparalleled.
And similarly, while the US is certainly a free country, there are plenty of other countries just as free on various measurement scales, and a good handful that are MORE free in different ways, such as freedom of the press...
: With the exception of football hooliganism and loony fringe elements like UKIP, the more unpleasant aspects of nationalism are a fading memory, thank goodness.
Hope you are right. But those parties appear to be GAINING strength rather than losing strength (as with their counterparts all across Europe). The issue of immigration seems to have awakened a dormant strain of nationalist rhtetoric in Europe that scares me too, whether it is LePen, Haider, Fortuyn, or the watered down version in the Daily Mail and the Sun and Kilroy.