The question is this: how can one be proud or glad of one's identity without implying the judgement that 'your' people - Irish, Jews, Italians, whoever - are better than other people? Suppose you thought that the group you belonged to was worse than everyone else. How could you be glad to belong there? And if they were neither worse nor better but just different, what would be the source of your comparative feeling that belonging to this group was especially good?
That's the only rationale for pride? The implication that you are better than other people? I've never understood what it is about pride that implies a binary situation to people. What if you're proud because, against terrible odds, you managed to survive some threat to your very existence (yes, I suppose that could be viewed as making you better than other peoples who were made extinct, but...). What if you're proud because your nation, although not the most powerful or wealthiest in the world, has a rich history of art and culture that other people appreciate. What if you're proud because your nation stood up against the extreme pressure of other nations to join in a war that proved to be misguided? Pride is a multifaceted emotion.
It seems silly to reduce it to some all-or-nothing equation. Just because you're proud of what you have accomplished does not, to my mind, automatically imply you feel you're better than other people. Just that you're warmly pleased with your own contributions and/or results in this human marathon.
A more interesting question to me is what does it mean to feel shame about one's nation? Or even more interesting, a mixture of pride and shame.
I personally am quite proud to be an American. As that quintessentially proud Irishman, Bono, reportedly once said about my country, it has perhaps the best and worst of everything. But I've never been so proud as to be blind to America's faults.
I can't help but think this insistence on a binary approach to pride reveals a significant difference between progressive and conservative mind sets. I've always felt a bit bad for the "America: Love It or Leave It" crowd, pitying their inability to hold a more complex view of their nation in their heads. What's wrong with "America: Love It and Work to Improve It"?
Indeed, I find being blind to America's faults extremely lazy, if not un-patriotic. Asserting that you shouldn't participate in criticizing your own nation (i.e., participating in the ongoing work of forming an ever more perfect union) feels to me like the guy who insists he wants his lawn to look "wild" when he really just wants to have another beer and watch the game, rather than get up and push around the mower for an hour or so. But being "proud" of your unkempt yard isn't really fooling anyone. They can see it for what it really is.
A "comparative feeling that belonging to this group was especially good" doesn't to my mind suggest you're unable to appreciate why someone else would feel the same way about the group they belong to. And it's only by limiting one's thinking here to a lazy binary system that one could conclude it implies you look down on other people in any way that truly harms anyone. So long as you remain open to seeing your nation's faults, as well, a bit of pride is good and healthy.