Patriotism is defined as a devotion to one's country. A patriot further supports and acts in defense of his or country. The term refers generally to a concept of national loyalty. The derivative of the word patriotism is from the Greek word patris, meaning fatherland.
The concept of patriotism is multifaceted and is approached in different ways. While it is commonly assumed that patriotism denotes a love for and service to one's country, the practice of patriotism has various manifestations. Patriots may be considered to be people who support the government's policies and actions completely, given the government's role as spokesbody for its people. However, in other instances, people believe that the duty of a patriot is to vocalize against actions deemed to be unjust or unwise by the government. Patriotism is considered to have different meanings according to history, context, and location.
The Washington Times describes two orientations of patriotism, a traditional and postmodern perspective. Traditionally patriotism comprises a love, loyalty, defense, sacrifice and support of one's country. The postmodern way approaches patriotism from a subjective, emotional viewpoint, leading to love of the country. The notion of speaking up in opposition to that which is considered unjust by the country is part of the postmodern perspective of patriotism.
Historically patriotism referred to a connection to the land. When ideologies such as socialism, communism and democracy emerged, the notions of what patriotism meant began to take on a political connotation. Although the strong feelings toward the land continued and, by extension, toward the people inhabiting those lands, further developments took place. Customs and traditions became included in the patriotic orientation with an accompanying sense of national and historical pride.
There have often been links between religion and patriotism, sometimes related to times of war. Although patriotism may form part of a religious association, at the same time, not all religions favor patriotism. Certain religions do not allow the participation in acts and ceremonies that promote patriotism.
Patriotism is characterized by a positive attitude that individuals take on with regard to their community or culture. It does not refer to these types of feelings toward another country. While patriotism might be considered to be closely associated to nationalism, there are certain essential differences. The positive feelings of patriotism may be mirrored in nationalism. The latter, however, may also include attitudes to other countries or communities that may be considered negative. In extreme cases, this can be connected to war. Military patriotism involves defending one's homeland. During war military operations are often motivated by a strong patriotic drive. Voluntary service may be performed particularly for reasons of patriotism.
Personal patriotism and official patriotism are types of patriotism. Personal patriotism consists of an individual's emotional feelings toward community or country. This is primarily of a voluntary nature. Official patriotism is associated with the promotion of patriotism by the government. Symbolic acts and ceremonial events make up the active aspects of this official patriotism. The country's flag and the displaying thereof and the national anthem are examples of symbolic acts. The building of national monuments does much in the way of promoting a pride and acknowledgment of the state, as do events such as veteran days and other ceremonial enactments.
In the United States, patriotic days include Memorial Day and Flag Day in May and June, respectively. The American Declaration of Independence written in 1776 is considered a seminal declaration of a country's value system by its founders, and some consider this to be the center point of U.S. patriotism. The Fourth of July Independence Day celebrations are widely enjoyed, with Americans in other countries even participating from afar. Acts to express love and pride in one's country and sharing in a sense of unity are part of the patriotic feeling. Individuals may demonstrate allegiance to their country by public gestures such as stickers on their cars or other such displays.
Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Americans were unified in what may be regarded as a patriotic act of togetherness. The emotional feelings of patriotism were manifested in an overt way -- such as in the widespread displaying of the U.S. flag -- as a result of the acts perpetrated against the nation. Lawrence W. Reed in his article "The True Meaning of Patriotism" in Ideas on Liberty (2003) writes that patriotism is not just about love of the physical attributes of the land nor about blindly trusting what the government tells its people to do. He stresses that outwards signs of patriotism, such as waving a flag, are not necessarily anything more than a superficial act. Reed promotes the idea of understanding freedom, actively living according to this, and teaching others as forms of patriotism.