Column: Can patriotism have a negative impact on America?

Excessive patriotism is making Americans ignorant of the world around them.

Anywhere you go in America, it’s not hard to find an assorted array of red, white and blue paraphernalia. From T-shirts to phone cases to dog collars, there are multiple ways to show that you’re patriotic. Because of the foundations of nationalism in the country, disrespect and dishonor toward the U.S. has always been socially taboo. It’s been less than 300 years since the United States became an independent nation, and since then, the level of extreme patriotism within the country has rocketed to the point where some citizens refuse to care about anything going on outside America. What’s worse is that many Americans think that the U.S. is unquestionably the greatest country on Earth — a questionable claim, to say the least.

In the HBO series “The Newsroom,” Will McAvoy, a news anchor played by Jeff Daniels, speaks out against this very claim. You can imagine the looks on some of the loyal patriots’ faces in attendance in the anchor’s audience and the controversy it may have caused had the scene actually taken place. Many Americans often think that the U.S. is the greatest country in the world because of its freedom. However, McAvoy goes on to explain there are 207 sovereign states in the world, of which about 180 claim freedom, making that argument invalid.

A letter published in The Wall Street Journal in early October makes the argument that the idea of democracy requires a “patriotic education.” That idea alone is a ridiculous concept. Teachers should not teach their students to love their country as part of the standard criteria of learning. Patriotism is something that can’t come out of a textbook, especially in a country that claims the freedom of speech, thought and expression. It is up to the individual to think and decide how to feel about his or her country, and not anyone’s business to influence that decision.

There’s a stigma surrounding the U.S. that Americans tend to be ignorant about other nations. National Geographic conducted a 2014 survey on average Americans’ geographic knowledge of the world, only to find that only 37 percent of young Americans could locate Iraq on a map. An additional 6 percent could not locate the U.S. itself geographically. In addition to these statistics, a 2009 study conducted by the European Journal of Communication had citizens from the U.K., Denmark, Finland and the U.S. answer questions on international affairs, and the U.S. participants consistently finished last. Of the British participants, 75 percent could describe the Taliban. Only 58 percent of U.S. citizens could.

Despite these harrowing statistics and comparisons, the U.S. is home to some of the best universities in the world, as well as some of the most famous attractions, but the national attitudes of “us against you” and “we’re No.1” only perpetuate the same idea: Nothing else matters, because we live in a perfect utopia. When a country has as much money and resources as the U.S., it is crucial to recognize the outside world. It is up to the current generation and the ones to follow to prevent our nation from turning into a country of excessive ignorance and hubris.

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