Right now, one of the big questions to McCain and Obama refers to the meaning of patriotism.
The word "patriotism" is rooted in "patriot," further rooted in "patria"--Latin for "father," but in this context meaning "fatherland."
There are two basic kinds of patriotism. One says, "My country, right or wrong." It is this kind of patriotism that follows the government in war against southern states that would have otherwise coexisted peacefully alongside the northern ones.
Such is the kind of patriotism that waged an unjust war against Spain because our imperialism was so much better than Spanish imperialism (ours doesn't have accent marks, you see).
We're talking about the kind of patriotism that said to throw Japanese-Americans into concentration camps because they just might be allied with Hirohito (however, if these same Japs want to join the army, navy, or marines--then they're more than welcome).
This, the patriotism that said more dying in Vietnam was better than admitting the mistake of Vietnam.
The very same patriotism led us into Iraq, and might well lead us into Iran.
Then there's the other kind of patriotism.
This other patriotism respects the ideals upon which the fatherland is founded. Government exists only to protect the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (I italicized "pursuit" because too many sub-literate people think that they are entitled to happiness itself), that any action the government takes beyond that sacred charge is essentially tyranny, and that tyranny in all forms, great and small, must be opposed--and violently if necessary.
This other patriotism will not follow its flag into an unjust war. It will not accept the degradation of an entire minority because it suits the national majority.
This other patriotism will stand up to the fatherland and say, "Enough, God damn you," and it will shake its fists and threaten reaction to injustice.
Most ignorant people perceive this latter kind of patriotism as closer to treason.
The fool who follows his country's flag without a second thought might as well be clothed in a Waffen SS uniform.
We desecrate the memory of those Germans who stood silent while their government perpetrated one of the greatest evils of the modern era. However, if you follow the first kind of patriotism, then to look upon such Germans as so you are a hypocrite.