Am I a patriot or a nationalist?

This has become a debate that is probably occupying more space in my head than it should. Really because I’ve tried to separate the two and have found both to exist in the same person at different times. They look like they exist on the same spectrum and one could easily convert into the other.

Patriotism isn’t a great thing all the time as is nationalism probably not a bad thing in all circumstances. It’s a work of semantics. What I call a nationalist behavior could very well be construed as patriotic by the people who identify with the supposed nationalist.

When you google the two, they come up as each other’s synonyms and yet, people insist they’re vastly different. That’s a conundrum, right?

But Priyanka Chopra cleared a lot of this confusion for me last year. When she declared she was patriotic and this is why she stood behind India’s war plans against Pakistan. Then she yelled at a girl. Then the girl basically showed Priyanka the proverbial seat.

I think what people heard when Priyanka proclaimed patriotism as her reason for standing behind war was her admission to being a nationalist. Let me tell you what the modern definitions are and how people construe these words now.

Patriotism is a feeling of love for our country. It’s a quest for a happy country with a happy life within that country. It’s the inherent attachment and affection for that country. There isn’t an outside factor that influences this feeling. It’s strong because it makes us be sincere and honest to our country but it’s also soft because it makes us worry for our country. Patriotism is similar to the love I feel for my home. It’s not the best home in my circle but it’s mine and I don’t like anyone else’s better than mine. Sure I like Mrs. Ahsan’s curtains more and Mr. Jawed’s new paint and siding on his home is a sight to behold but I’d rather have the lively parties at my place if I can’t truly have all the nice things that others have. My home is worth that much more than theirs. No outside influence can change my opinion on the home that I have made with my husband and kids.

Nationalism isn’t a feeling of love alone. It’s a feeling of superiority. A feeling of being better and higher. It’s a feeling of a mild possessiveness of our heritage and race. It doesn’t cause us to have tender thoughts usually. It causes a defensive, reactionary strategy to come out of it always. It doesn’t cause us to become content. It usually causes us to be wary and alert. That’s my inference from various nationalist theories I’ve heard over the years.

Patriotism, I have noticed, can easily convert into nationalism. I can become threatened easily to feel like I have to become an aggressive person who has to protect her identity and her heritage. But that’s not my job! My job as a Pakistani or an American isn’t to always be fighting about my feelings for my countries. It’s to love my countries and do what I can to fortify my love for them. My job isn’t even to be patriotic. If I can be that then that’s on me. If I’d rather pay my taxes by being more of a nationalist type person then that’s for me.

My job is to pay taxes, not engage in situations that are a detriment to the law of the land and overall, just forge peace in the land. And peace never comes by propagating an agenda that revolves around war and human domination. Peace actually comes from minding our own business. So whether minding my own business comes from patriotism or nationalism, I’m here for it.

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