Patriotism–What is it? How can we Measure it?

As budding “social scientists” (the scare quotes are legitimate), it is good form to not only define concepts that are malleable but also to provide qualitative and/or quantitative evidence regarding their existence. A recent brouhaha in American politics centers around the political concept patriotism. What is it? How do we know it exists? Can it be measured? These are all important questions, so important, in fact, that they could determine the outcome of the next US presidential election.

In intro to comparative, we’ve been analyzing social identities, ethnic, national, etc. As we know from reading O’Neil, patriotism is based on the idea of citizenship–an individual’s relationship to the state in which s/he lives. O’Neil defines patriotism as “pride in one’s state.”

As near as I can tell, some opponents of Barack Obama’s candidacy have based some of their resistance on what they view as his lack of patriotism. If I’m reading this correctly, the base their argument on the fact that Obama does not (in fact, may even refuse to) wear a lapel pin in the shape of an American flag. This is interesting since it also touches upon issues of national identity; remember that we tried to determine just what is meant to be American. Does one have to wear an American flag lapel pin to be considered patriotic? If any of you think that this is an issue of negligible import, I refer you to this screen shot of the CNN website:


Given that I’m not a citizen of the United States, I’ll leave that for others to answer. I am, however, a citizen of the Republic of Croatia and this episode does remind me of an incident from the mid 1990s, which I, then working for the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, witnessed. Join me after the jump.

hrvatska-zastava.jpgThe Croatian flag is a tri-color, with horizontal fields of red, white, and blue (from top to bottom), which contains the coat of arms–the “Šahovnica“–in the middle field. The šahovnica has been used in various guises throughout Croatian history as a symbol of Croatian nationhood. While Croats have lived under many different types of regime–Communist Yugoslavia, the Fascist Ustasa regime during WWII, the unitarist, Serb-dominated inter-war regime, the Austro-Hungarian monarchy (you get the point!)–the šahovnica has remained a constant expression and symbol of the Croatian people.

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