Now that the Olympics are over, its time to reflect on the nauseating American patriotism that drenched the TV coverage to the point that it was hard to watch at all. When viewers see Americans winning Olympic medals, they are extremely proud, while a loss inflicts emotional pain. When we beat another country, we feel superior. This is worse than nonsense. First, why should anyone who has not contributed in the least to the athlete's success - feel pride or superiority in athletic achievement just because he or she is American?
The answer rests not on logic but on instinct. When primitive tribes warred with one another, an important adaptive advantage emerged when members of the home tribe considered themselves as "good" (regardless of their actual behavior) and regarded members of all other tribes as "bad" (regardless of their actual behavior). Such brazen conceit conferred upon the home tribe the competitive advantages of loyalty, cohesion and battle efficiency. The more superior members of one tribe felt toward those of other tribes and the more a it falsely demonized others, the more efficient it was in killing opposing tribal members and stealing their women. Such tribes, unfortunately, were the ones who reproduced the most and thus became our ancestors.
We have recognized the great harm this can cause in the form of racial prejudice. But we have not yet recognized that another emotion a feeling of mob superiority evokes is even more harmful - patriotism that derives from the same feeling that our tribe is virtuous compared to the questionable morality of all others in order to promote loyalty to our group.
We feel a special pride when an American runs faster than a Russian because our patriotic instinct recognizes Russia as a particularly threatening tribe. In today's war torn world we don't need to be driven by blind emotion to distrust and, among some individuals, hate, our neighbors. Patriotism is the enemy of everyone. Just as our society strives to reign in our instinct for violence and racial prejudice, we need to pass laws against patriotism when it does direct harm, such as when it motivates teenagers to become armed with lethal weapons and kill people in foreign lands because they love America so much.