Nationalism And Xenophobia
Most often, national pride is thought of as a good thing. On the other hand, having an excessively high notion of the importance of ones own country with a corresponding disdain for other countries can lead to xenophobia which is a fear, distrust or hatred of foreigners. How can the former be encouraged without the latter and why should this be considered an important issue?
Nationalism has been behind some of the most impressive discoveries and achievements in human history. In the pursuit of national pride, the American government funded the National Space Agency, NASA which led to the moon landing. Out of that event and related research have come many products that are used by non astronauts worldwide. Records are broken by athletes who seek glory for their countries. Belonging to something that people see as greater than themselves and worthy of being promoted can inspire people to greater things than they might have achieved on their own strength alone.
Xenophobia, on the other hand has led to many human tragedies. It has led simple misunderstandings to blossom into wars. It has even led people who are generally well meaning to form stereotypes that have no basis in reality about people they have never met or spoken with. Police officers have killed unarmed men because of a xenophobic bias that they were not consciously aware that they had.
Bearing in mind how nationalism can be useful and xenophobia destructive, it is important to arrange situations where people can interact competitively under their respective flags with the spirit of good sportsmanship being promoted by all. The Olympic games and similar events are a good example of this. By being held regularly, athletes have a chance to train for it in their home countries with their countrymen and then live in the Olympic village with people from other countries who they can interact with under peaceful circumstances. Not all countries that send athletes ever win medals but the experience is still one that brings pride.
Much as with all things that a person can feel pride about, national identity should not be used as a basis upon which to discriminate against others. As much as it may seem to be human nature to look for reasons to feel superior we must try to rise above those lesser impulses. By doing this we become citizens of the world which is something we can all be proud of.