03 November 2010

Patriotism

"The patriot never, under any circumstances, boasts of the largeness of his country, but always, and of necessity, boasts of its smallness." - GK Chesterton

The former smacks of idolatry, the latter of a desire to seek improvements.

It is the former that has possessed many people and perverted the term to meaning now an incapacity to see weaknesses, flaws, and errors or sins in our national history or our national agenda, or at least that of certain portions of our national agenda (that dominated by your favourite political persuasion). All such notions are a "tearing down of America" or represent a lack of faith in some unique special character of Americanism (American exceptionalism in other words as coming not from some unique concepts of liberty or democratic ideals that we must struggle to continue uphold but from the character of its people itself, diluted by liberals or communists or uberconservatives or Muslims or immigrants or pacifists or warmongers, whichever your villain de jour).

It is the latter which demands that we speak instead of the smaller things that we do well, the things which are overlooked, and also of the things which we would do well to do better, or differently, or not at all. And without this duty, we have not patriotism, but worship of a nation in nationalism. A far more vile and dangerous notion than a desire to see one's country fare well is the pernicious belief that it is already doing the best in all its endeavours. It smacks of doublespeak and propaganda campaigns than of honest assessments of the strengths and weaknesses of a culture and the nation and systems and institutions that nurture it.
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