A lot has been made of Barack Obama's no longer wearing a flag lapel pin, and among other things, the ado about that got me thinking about patriotism and nationalism from both a historical and a present-day perspective. I believe that nationalism, as it developed historically and as it's practiced today (among some who don't even know they fit the category) is not only dangerous, but malevolent. Historically, it has led to more wars and murders than I can list here. Currently, it has led to dangerous abuses of civil rights and liberties in the U.S. and across the globe. Patriotism, at least from my perspective, is a benign process, though one that can easily be abused by politicians and the media and transformed into dangerous nationalism. Patriotism leads to chants of USA! USA! at the Olympics; Nationalism leads to calls to "obliterate" entire countries from the map.

There's a line between the two, but it's not so fine a line that people who venture across it can't be identified and held to account.