I think I finally figured out what bugs me about people who talk about being proud of their countries. I feel like I can’t disagree with them because to do so means I’m ashamed of my country, and that’s not the way I feel. But pride is something that I associate with personal accomplishments, not the place where I happened to be born. Shouldn’t you only be able to take pride in something you’ve earned or accomplished by yourself? Or at least assisted in?
This is what bugs me about people who take pride in (for example) the D-Day landings. If you were there, then by all means, let your chest swell with pride. You deserve it. But if you’re like me and you only read about it in history books, then what business do you have being proud of it? The fact that you happened to be born in the same country as the guys who were there?
So what do I feel about these sources of what people call “national pride”? I think I figured out what I feel about things like this: I feel gratitude, not pride. I cannot honestly take pride in the accomplishments of others, but I can be grateful to them for what they did. And I can be grateful that I was born in a country where I have human rights and material prosperity.
“National pride” bugs me because I think it gets in the way of constructive change; one is not allowed to criticize one’s country because you’re supposed to be proud of it, and being proud of it means not admitting its faults. But if we can replace this idea with the idea of gratitude to one’s nation, I think it’s a bit easier to be grateful to someone or something while still acknowledging its faults.