The difference between patriotism vs nationalism is the like the difference between love and obsession. One is balanced, healthy, subtle, rich and complex. The other is unhealthy, out of harmony, and misguided by raw emotionalism. It is driven by fear and insecurity.
Patriotism, according the Webster's dictionary, is a "love that people feel for their country."
Nationalism, on the other hand, is "a feeling that people have of being loyal to and proud of their country often with the belief that it is better and more important than other countries."
Unfortunately, what is commonly a form of unhealthy ethnocentrism and aggressive nationalism is called "patriotism" in America. Somehow, the term has been co-opted by the Right. Therefore, if you don't support aggressive Bush doctrine wars, you aren't "patriotic."
True patriotism means understanding the American legal system and it's government. It means using one's freedom of the press and freedom of speech to become informed about important societal issues. It means being civically engaged, such as participating in protests, voting, working at the polls, and running for public office. It means being actively engaged in public life and service. To me, the Occupy Wall Street Movement is as patriotic as it gets. By embracing nonviolent, peaceful demonstration, democracy is embraced and nurtured. Elected representatives are pressured to engage the will of the people, not just those who fund their electoral campaigns. That's why during the 1960's America was much more democratic than any other time in its past. This was a revival of consciousness and true patriotism. It was this spirit that led to real progress for civil rights for all.
Bob Dylan and his peaceful songs of protest are infinitely more patriotic to me than the nationalistic songs such as "Over there", which was manufactured as propaganda to encourage working class Americans during WWI to fight in a war that only profited robber barons. Contrary to the song, Johnny would have been better off not having gotten his gun. Another patriotic classic is Credence Clearwater Revival's "Fortunate Son."
Any time the political elites beat the drums of war, such as is happening now with Iran, and discourage people from making a fuss or thinking for themselves, this is nationalism at work, not patriotism. True patriots are those who refuse to sit idly by while politicians aggressively pursue another war.
It seems that for the United States, much like ancient Rome, war becomes a permanent state. The economic benefits of war are too seductive. After all, the weapons industry, financial speculators, and large corporations see war as a means of modern day colonialism. Wipe out the government, destroy the infrastructure of the country, and then you can get lucrative governmental contracts (like Halliburton in Iraq) to rebuild the country. Your large corporations can dominate the opened up markets. Who cares what happens to the inhabitants of the country. That isn't even a consideration. After all, we know what's best for them. Just don't oppose the war if we invade, because then you aren't "supporting the troops." That, in this nationalistic age, is basically the equivalent of treason. To truly support those in the armed services, perhaps one should consider whether their lives are being risked unnecessarily. That is the best way to" support the troops."
I consider myself a patriot, not a nationalist.