I have always been intrigued by the way people react to the Olympics. There are the wild, unrestrained celebrations when our athletes do well and the paralyzing sorrow and anger when they underperform. Announcers spend huge amounts of time pumping the chances and stories of the home country athlete while trying not to actually advocate other people falling/failing/crashing. I am not entirely comfortable with the onset of such rampant patriotism. The Olympics themselves are relatively harmless I think, but the attitude of placing people in one's home country far and above anyone outside it is troubling. I am proud of my country, the morals the laws of my country support and much of how my country is governed and yet when this pride is taken to extremes it disturbs me.
Some time ago I was talking to one of my wife's uncles about Afghanistan and he strongly advocated removing all of our troops from that country. His position was that any troubles the Afghan nation is in or got into without foreign troops maintaining order were their own problem and that Canadian lives should not be wasted protecting people outside our country. I attempted to convince him that 1. The people that would be most negatively affected in Afghanistan would be those who flat out had no say in their situation and 2. That simply letting violence explode in other nations has been tried in the past and is a failure of foreign policy. In the end those problems have a tendency to spill outward and bring strife to one's own doorstep. I did not succeed in changing his mind.
This type of attitude does not sit well with me. While we have to prioritize people within our social group for assistance I do not think that those sorts of reciprocal agreements translate well to a nation. We each have no reason to think we know more about how to help a particular Canadian (or whatever your nationality is) moreso than someone elsewhere and we also can hardly be said to have significantly more in common with a random Canadian than a random person in many other countries. I should clarify that I do not think it a bad thing to help a fellow Canadian, but rather that placing Canadian lives so dramatically above the lives and wellbeing of others is something I cannot support in good conscience.
I have been thinking about parallels between racism and patriotism. In both cases people support others based on who their parents were, what language they speak and what culture they exhibit. In both cases no merit or connection is needed to justify that preferential treatment. Racism is frowned upon in our society and yet patriotism is supported and encouraged. I do not think that racism and patriotism are exactly the same, yet the similarities are problematic. Surely patriotism is useful to nations and racism is not (particularly in Canada), but should that define our moral choices? Why is it okay to show preference to a Canadian when it is surely not okay to do so to a Caucasian?