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Nationalism or Patriotism?

Those who know C.S. Lewis’s short book The Four Loves will remember that Lewis speaks of the four different kinds of love: affection, friendship, eros, and charity.  But, in a preliminary chapter about “likings and loves for the sub-human,” he writes about “love of one’s country” or patriotism.  He points out that, in the first place, “there is love of home, of the place we grew up in or the places, perhaps many, which have been our homes; and of all places fairly near these and fairly like them; love of old acquaintances, of familiar sights, sounds and smells.”  Then he makes an important comment: “Note that at its largest this is, for us, a love of England, Wales, Scotland, or Ulster.  Only foreigners and politicians talk about ‘Britain.’”  That is, patriotism encompasses primarily a cultural, not a political unity.

What can we glean from Lewis’s account of patriotism?  Actually, Lewis might have put patriotism in his next chapter, on affection, the kind of love we have for members of our family, for parents, children, brothers, and sisters.  And the thing to note about patriotism, as about affection, is that it makes no pretense about the things, or people, we love.  We love our family not because we claim our family is the best in the world (how could we ever know that?) but...

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