American patriotism versus German patriotism
There is a large Quora thread on the above comparison here. It says just about all that could be said on the subject but I was rather fascinated by a rather cutting comment from Jens Böttiger. I reproduce it below:
"In America you show patriotism by attaching a full size US flag on your pickup truck (Or confederate flag for alternative patriotism), singing the anthem before every baseball game, and sending 18 year olds to Iraq so you can later thank them for their service when they roll by you in their wheelchair in Walmart.
"In Germany we show patriotism by voting for higher taxes on ourselves to make healthcare and college tuition universally accessible to our less fortunate fellow citizens, and by picking up after one another to keep public spaces clean and nice for everyone."
Has he got a point? He might have if it is patriotism that motivates German acceptance of high taxes. But is it? Might it not be that Germans have a high need for security and predictability? A welfare state does provide that. So I think that Jens Böttiger is kidding himself about patriotism being the motive.
His second point is that Germans look after their public spaces better. But might not that be the result of a very German need for order? I think a need for order is a good thing but let us not confuse it with patriotism.
His point about American patriotism being very public is undoubtedly true. There is nothing like that in Australia or Britain. But I see it as being just one example of a much more extroverted society. Compared with other countries Americans are much more open and "out there". Americans even talk to one-another in elevators! Though maybe not in NYC. In Britain NOBODY talks in elevators. And I see the American way as a rather joyous way to live. Americans greatly ENJOY their patriotic displays.
Australians and British people tend by contrast to be rather embarrassed by patriotic expressions. Which way is better? Where do the different ways lead? I don't think they lead in different directions at all. The obvious comment is that American patriotism is behind America's many wars. Yet there is not a single major American war in the 20th century that Australia did not participate in too. Compared to American exuberance the Australian style is laconic but I suspect that the inhabitants of both countries are equally proud of what their country has achieved and become.
Jens Böttiger's final point about America refers to the suffering that America's troops often undergo. He implies that the suffering is inflicted by patriotism. But is it? Most of America's wars abroad are indeed a product of American exuberance but that is not exuberance about America so much as an exuberant conviction that America can help other nations with their problems. Americans have a conviction not that they can conquer but that they can do good. I think that is rather admirable even if it is sometimes misguided.
So I can understand that Jens Böttiger is out of sympathy with American patriotism but I think his arguments are fallacious. They have a Goebbels-like plausibility but in the end are just propaganda. It is clear however that he is himself a patriotic German. He even defends the reputation of Hitler's Luftwaffe in another post. So it is amusing that he actually lives in America.