Having been exposed once again to the summer light show outside parliament, I find myself thinking about patriotism once again. It seems to me that you can approach it from two different directions. In the first case, you develop a list of virtues that a country might possess. These could include a good human rights record, international generosity, the rule of law, and so forth. You then evaluate any particular state on the basis of your pre-existing preferences. The alternative is to simply assert the unique value of a particular state, as derived from its history and so forth.
The first approach strikes me as far more valid. It is absurd for someone to assert the superiority of their country in a non-comparative fashion, or without relation to particular characteristics which establish a state as worthy or unworthy of admiration. Admiring states as means to desirable ends has a fundamentally liberal quality, while the alternative is mythical, with a distinct whiff of fascism.
In general, love of country seems more dangerous than beneficial. We can certainly admire states that do a good job of advancing human welfare, but we should value the states only as vehicles to those ends, not as inherently valuable entities. The doctrine of “my country, right or wrong” seems unacceptable in a world with so much experience of nationalist war and state sponsored moral outrages.