Why patriotism?

So... what does patriotism even mean? Its normal definition is the vigorous support of one's country.

For many of the left they balk at these words. They see nationalism as being part of the far right movement. At the very least it belongs to a traditionalism which is alien to them. People hear patriotism and they see union jack bunting, the queen's head on a tea towel and people obsessed by tales of military success. And, yes, that's some people's idea of patriotism and that's fine.

But that's not what patriotism means to me. "The vigorous support of one's country." Well, what is a country anyway? We invented the concept of a country so it can mean different things to different people. To me it means society. A group of people who share a certain space of land. And why wouldn't I want to support society? That's the very thing that drives everything I believe in. 

So, how do we support society? Well, we try to act as a good member for a start. We keep within the limit of her laws, we do not actively harm her other members, we try to contribute. And how do we contribute? Well, we work if we can, we care for our family members, maybe we volunteer... And we pay tax. We pay tax so that schools will teach our children, hospitals will care for the sick, an army will exist to defend us in times of strife.

It is a source of constant sadness to me that taxation has become something about which the British whinge and complain. When I walk past a school - any school, my children's school - I look up at it and think I'm paying for that and that gives me joy. When I take my child to her hospital appointment I look around me and I think: I helped to make this happen. Every year, handing the government part of the money that I earn means that I can walk into this building day or night and know that I was and am a part of it. My contribution makes me proud. And the pride I feel is lasting, it contributes to - it constructs - my sense of who I am in the world.

Buying clothes or shoes or things for the house gives me a temporary high: that little buzz of purchase that consumerism so relies on. But it cannot even begin to touch the relationship I have with my country, the love I have for my country. The incredible pride I feel in paying in for the good of all. I want my children to grow up with that same pride in the community that I feel now, that same sense that here is something we have all built together.

That pride in community, that sense of contribution, that knowledge of involvement: that's where patriotism starts for me. In that moment of real engagement. That vigorous support of one's country.