Friday, July 4, 2014

On Patriotism

On this Fourth of July, what does it mean to be an American?

One answer: It means you're a patriot who believes in the constitution, freedom of speech, one person one vote, a free market, the pursuit of happiness, apple pie and baseball. 

Another answer: It means you are a part of one small slice of (God's?) humanity who finds yourself living between certain imaginary lines drawn on a map. 

In a recent post I mentioned that you would be the first to know when I solved world peace. Upon further reflection, I think the only thing holding us back from world peace is cultural understanding and the empathy that inevitably results. 

In recent years we've seen the dissolution of nations that were devised by post-world war policies into smaller tribes defined by sameness of culture and beliefs. 

Nations are simply geographical groups of people who have a common government. Tribes are groups of people with a common cultural or ancestral heritage. 

Are nations a crutch used by humans who don't yet have the capacity to understand each other's cultural difference? 

Do nations exacerbate cultural differences through territorialism and war? 

Or are nations meant to be a ladder for humanity to help it reach something higher?

And does nationalism necessarily follow the creation of a nation? Is rooting for the USA in the World Cup (or in WWIII) any different than being a Viking or Packer fan? It's all essentially based on where we were born and that seems a silly reason for allegiance. 

The more I've had the pleasure of traveling the world, the more I feel the idea of nationalism is folly. Our nations are just like groups of NFL fans. We all think our nation is the best and tout its strengths with pride while overlooking its weaknesses. We rally behind a decorated flag and go to battle in support of ideals that are essentially the same as everyone else's. Only when it comes to the pursuit of happiness there are enough Stanley Cups to go around for everyone. 


jm said...

I agree!
In the Once and Future King, the author, TH White, has Merlin turn a young Arthur into a bird. From the air he sees no boundaries between the countries and realizes nationalism is not natural. He writes,“I never could stomach these nationalists,’ he exclaimed. ‘The destiny of Man is to unite, not to divide. If you keep on dividing you end up as a collection of monkeys throwing nuts at each other out of separate trees.”

Kirk Ahlberg said...

Excellent quote to share, jm.

It's amazing how often we can look back 50 or 100 or more years and see people making the same comments on our society that we make today, with virtually no change having occurred in the meantime. The wisdom was there generations ago and yet we've chosen never to act on it.