What's your definition of patriotism?

  1. With all the war talk going on here lately, I've been thinking a lot about patriotism.......what it means to love one's country.

    Unlike some, I don't think one necessarily has to agree with his/her government in order to be a patriot. While I personally do not support the current President or his policies, I strongly believe America will survive, because she has survived worse times than these. That's because there have always been citizens with the courage to stand up to popular opinion and say "THIS IS WRONG!!" These are people who love their country enough to speak out when it's headed in the wrong direction, even when everyone else seems to be following along.

    I also admire those who go where their country calls them to go, no matter what the cost. I'm talking about the thousands of military men and women who don't necessarily want this coming war, but will leave spouses, children, and families to do their nation's bidding. They will risk their lives for this country and do so without regret; they, too, are patriots, as are the millions of taxpayers who write that check to the IRS every year, knowing that some of their hard-earned dollars are going toward causes they do not believe in.

    So, how do YOU define patriotism? Do you consider yourself patriotic, and why or why not?
    •  
  2. 20 Comments

  3. by   kavi
    What an excellent question.

    When 9/11 occurred, I happened to be working alongside of a young woman from Bulgaria. We had many discussions about what draws a country together, What demonstrates 'love' and 'support' for your nation .

    We rally to our flag. We rally to our beliefs of 'freedom' and 'independance' and 'the right for everyone to have a chance to Pursue happiness and have a shot at getting ahead based on hard work and ability---not class of birth or noble ancestry.

    After much thought, my Bulgarian friend felt that her country would rally behind their thousands of years of shared history.

    Patriotism can't just be about what 'symbol' instills pride. What song brings tears. What noble speeches and stories inspire us from our past. Those are heartfult common beliefs that tie a nation together.

    The men and women who rallied and fought in World War II genuinely believed in their cause. On both sides.

    "Patriotic" appeals came beyond, or in addition to fighting for "ideals". I think those succeeded best when one's HOMELAND was attacked. Remember, the USA offered moral support, machinary, even money. But our military really didn't get involved until Pearl Harbor, when the bombs started hitting close to home.

    Our early American revolutionaries were a MINORITY of wealthy landowners who stood up against the established system and changed the world. Anyone who has studied that war knows that the odds of them winning were astronomical. We also must remember the situation at that time. They were Traitors to their own country (England), not Patriots. And based on their behavior we can easily say, a patriot is NOT someone who follows leaders blindly.

    We believe today they were right, but if they had lost---would we think the same? Or that they were misguided rebels? Even that they were selfish rich men--landowners, farmers-- who didn't want to pay more taxes. Which is how many colonists viewed them at the time.

    I was in high school during the final years of the Viet Nam War. Watched cousins and neighbors and schoolmates go over and die, or be destroyed physically or emotionally by their experiences there. I knew young men who ran to Canada. I had a neighbor actually cut off his own foot after his number was called up in 1970. Just so he wouldn't have to go and kill someone else.

    Back then, in our elementary and high schools, we were taught that we were unquestionably the 'good guys'. We had helped save the world in WWII. We 'stopped' the communists in Korea. It was our job, our duty, as fortunate Americans to help all the oppressed people everywhere. We really believed that, no matter how arrogant and impreialistic it might sound today.

    We also grew up under the constant threat of nuclear annhialation. We never forgot (especially with those drop under the desk school drills) that our lives were being granted on a daily basis. The world was always on edge, and we were told that it was our jobs as we became adults to keep it from being destroyed.

    So when our young men were asked to go and help those poor oppressed South Vietnamese, under the threat of terrible communism, based on how they were taught, how could they say no? When our leaders told us that the fight there was the key to the "Domino" theory, that if South Viet Nam fell, the entire east would fall to that horrible oppressive communism, how could we not want to help?

    Yes, those young men were patriots. They fought, suffered, and died in horrible numbers. Worst of all, much of what they died for, we now know were based on misguided perceptions, and out and out lies.

    Men returning were telling different stories than the 'official' ones. Now, thousands, even Medal of Honor winners have spoken out against much of what our government did. Exposes and changing times have revealed that so many many young lives were destroyed unnecessarily.

    I don't think that negates the contribution of our men and women of the military. Then or now. Instead, I think it should make us say, NEVER AGAIN should we ask them to put their lives on the line for us, unless we are ABSOLUTELY sure it is necessary. Just as they are there for us, we must be there for them. We OWE them the honesty and esteem of not asking them to sacrifice unnecessarily.

    I respect our men and women who serve in all branches to an incredible degree. I love my country. But I don't want anyone to die unless it's really necessary. I love their American life as much as my own.

    So what is a Patriot? I believe it it someone who believes in wanting the best interests for their country, and their fellow countrymen. Who wants the world to be a better place, but wants every cost toward that measured with an eagle-eyed accountant's precision.

    Our nation is always facing threats. There have always been countries with potential to harm us with a madman at the button. Terrorrism has 'upped the ante' on these concerns. But is following our President into war "Patriotic" because he says so?
    I hope we are very very careful to make sure that we are more diligent with our young lives than that.

    I'm looking forward to hearing from others on how they see it. Especially our friends in other portions of the world.

    Kavi
    Last edit by kavi on Feb 6, '03
  4. by   donmurray
    Patriotism, like nationality is an artificial social construct. Symbols are essential to it, as the means of "connecting" large groups of people who have little or nothing in common, other than the fact of their being born in a particular place.
    In past times, you were born, raised, lived and died in a single village or even small town. You were surrounded by family, friends, and neighbours whom you knew personally, local customs were familiar, you knew your place in the scheme of things, and you were comforted by those familiar certainties. You would fight to defend what was yours and theirs, from outsiders.
    No individual can possibly know, or even meet, several million of his countrymen in his lifetime, so the personal bond does not exist. A substitute needs to be found in order that a larger social/political unit may be built. Flags and ceremonials, monuments and a common history are held up as symbols of unity. Unfortunately this common symbology perpetuates and highlights the differences between "us" and "not us" As "us" are obviously a good thing, then they, since they are "not us" must be a bad thing, and there is the seed for conflict.
    I think that patriotism, while claiming the high moral ground, is the expression of selfishness at a national level. Oscar Wilde was right, "Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel"
    Last edit by donmurray on Feb 6, '03
  5. by   kavi
    donmurray, those are some excellent thoughts.

    On the one hand, we become more and more a global village. Patriotism for one's country or homeland seems, in that light, somewhat obscure. And I agree that it may promote an 'us' verses 'them' way of thinking.

    Yet, it almost seems that as we become more 'global', there is more clinging than ever to one's 'roots'. Perhaps this is just part of that transitional phase. I have to admit, that as much as I acknowledge that we are all of planet Earth, I am still very proud to be an American. I may not agree with everything other American's do or say, but we share a common heritage, and a general outlook that I am proud to share. (I think of all the people who helped one another on 9/11 as an example).

    I know that here in the U.S., with national t.v. and a mobile population, much of what identified a State or a Region is slowly disappearing. Still, we are fifty individual states, and I don't think too many people would confuse someone from Detroit with someone from Boston, for example.

    Some places like Texas cling to an individual identity that would be difficult to ever erase. And southerners cling to displaying their 'rebel' flag over a war fought and lost almost 150 years ago. Many of us support athletic teams and you'll find us shouting our support in the stands.
    And it's very much an 'us' verses 'them' way of thinking that keeps those traditions strong.

    I only say this because such thinking seems almost part of our human makeup. Where we run into trouble is when 'us' verses 'them' involves killing.

    But is it wrong, as a social construct or not, to take pride in one's roots? To honor your past traditions, and strive to create a better future?

    Right now, we are all deeply saddened by the Columbia disaster. Yet, the roots of our explorations of Space come very much from an 'us' verses 'them' mentalitiy. In the heart of the cold war, Russia put a man in space. It was our patriotic American mindset that powered N.A.S.A. and all the great explorations and endeavors that followed. The competition of 'us' verses 'them', the pride in wanting America to be the best, created a new frontier for the world.

    And now, we share a space station. Astronauts from other countries take part. To me, it's an example of something that might not have happened in our lifetime, if it weren't for patriotism.
    Last edit by kavi on Feb 9, '03
  6. by   VivaLasViejas
    Excellent posts, kavi........you seem to be a very thoughtful, well-read person. Congratulations on raising the level of conversation on this BB with your eloquence.
  7. by   pickledpepperRN
    [QUOTE]Originally posted by kavi
    [B]What an excellent question.
    I think it should make us say, NEVER AGAIN should we ask them to put their lives on the line for us, unless we are ABSOLUTELY sure it is necessary.

    I respect our men and women who serve in all branches to an incredible degree. I love my country. But I don't want anyone to die unless it's really necessary. I love their American life as much as my own.
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    I love my country and what it stands for. We need to do our best to live up to our ideals. That may mean writing to our elected officials, or even protesting what we believe is wrong.
    I think war should be the last resort AFTER ALL other options have been exhausted. Of course if attacked self defense is necessary.

    More to think about, from the UK:

    Can we justify killing the children of Iraq?
    If we go to war with Saddam, thousands of children will die. So why aren't we agonising over this in the way we would the possible death of a child in Britain? Jonathan Glover argues that we do not have the moral authority to start such a conflict

    Jonathan Glover
    Wednesday February 5, 2003
    The Guardian

    I have spent the past few years discussing medical ethics with students who are often doctors or nurses. Their work involves them in life-and-death decisions. Our discussions have reminded me of what many of us experience when we are close to someone in acute medical crisis. When a parent is dying slowly in distress or indignity, or when a baby is born with such severe disabilities that life may be a burden, the family and the medical team agonise over whether to continue life support. No one finds such a decision easy or reaches it lightly. What is at stake is too serious for anyone to rush the discussion.

    It is hard not to be struck by the contrast between these painful deliberations and the hasty way people think about a war in which thousands will be killed. The people killed in an attack on Iraq will not be so different from those in hospital whose lives we treat so seriously. Some will be old; many will be babies and children. To think of just one five-year-old Iraqi girl, who may die in this war, as we would think of that same girl in a medical crisis is to see the enormous burden of proof on those who would justify killing her. Decisions for war seem less agonising than the decision to let a girl in hospital die. But only because anonymity and distance numb the moral imagination.

    Questions about war are not so different from other life-and-death decisions. War kills many people, but each person has a life no more to be lightly destroyed than that of a child in hospital. This moral seriousness of killing is reflected in the ethics of war. If a war is to be justified, at least two conditions have to be met. The war has to prevent horrors worse than it will cause. And, as a means of prevention, it has to be the last resort. Killing people should not be considered until all alternative means have been tried - and have failed.

    Those supporting the proposed war on Iraq have claimed that it will avert the greater horror of terrorist use of biological or nuclear weapons. But this raises questions not properly answered. It is not yet clear whether Iraq even has these weapons, or whether their having them would be more of a threat than possession by other countries with equally horrible regimes, such as North Korea. No good evidence has been produced of any link to terrorist groups. Above all, there is no evidence of any serious exploration by the American or British governments of any means less terrible than war. Is it impossible to devise some combination of diplomacy and continuing inspection to deal with any possible threat? Is killing Iraqis really the only means left to us?

    The weak answers given to these questions by the two governments proposing war explain why they have persuaded so few people in the rest of Europe, or even in this country. It is heartening how few are persuaded by claims about intelligence too secret to reveal, or by the attempts to hurry us into war by leaders who say their patience is exhausted. We would never agree to removing the baby's life support on the basis of medical information too confidential for the doctor to tell us. Still less would we accept this because the doctor's patience has run out. It really does seem that this time many of us are thinking about war with something like the same seriousness.

    There is an extra dimension to the decision about this particular war. The choice made this time may be one of the most important decisions about war ever made. This is partly because of the great risks of even a "successful" war. The defeat even of Saddam Hussein's cruel dictatorship may contribute to long-term enmity and conflict between the west and the Islamic world. In what is widely thought in the Islamic world to be both an unjustified war and an attack on Islam, an American victory may be seen as an Islamic humiliation to be avenged. This war may do for our century what 1914 did for the 20th century. And there is an ominous sense of our leaders, as in 1914, being dwarfed by the scale of events and sleepwalking into decisions with implications far more serious than they understand.

    The other reason for the special seriousness of the decision about this war has to do with the dangerous post-September 11 world we live in. That day showed how much damage a low-tech terrorist attack can do to even the most heavily armed country. The US was like a bull, able to defeat any other bull it locked horns with, but suddenly unable to defend itself against a swarm of bees. All countries are vulnerable to such attacks. Combining this thought with the proliferation of biological weapons, and possibly of portable nuclear weapons, suggests a very frightening world.

    This dangerous world is often seen as part of the argument in support of the war. If we don't act now, won't the problem, as Tony Blair said, "come back to haunt future generations"? But further thought may raise doubts about whether the dangerous world of terrorism and proliferation really counts for the war rather than against it.

    The frightening world we live in is like the "state of nature" described by Thomas Hobbes. What made life in the state of nature "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short" was the strength of the reasons people had to fight each other. There was no ruler to keep the peace. So everyone knew the strong would attack the weak for their possessions. But the instability was worse than this. My fear of attack by you gives me a reason for a pre-emptive strike against you before you get strong enough to start. But my reason for a pre-emptive strike against you in turn gives you a reason for a pre-emptive strike against me. And so the spiral of fear and violence goes on. Hobbes thought the only solution was the creation of Leviathan, a ruler with absolute power. Such a ruler could impose a peace otherwise unobtainable. The dangers of tyranny and injustice are outweighed by the dangers of a world where no one has power to impose peace.

    Our present international world seems alarmingly like the Hobbesian state of nature. Nations (and perhaps at least as frighteningly, small groups such as al-Qaida) have many motives for attack and our protection is flimsy. The pure Hobbesian solution to this would be a social contract between all such states and groups, giving all power to one to act as absolute ruler. This is unlikely to happen. But there is a naturally evolving equivalent. Sometimes one dominant power emerges, and imposes Pax Romana or Pax Britannicus or, in our time, Pax Americana. The Hobbesian suggestion is that, as the way out of the law of the jungle, we should welcome the emergence of a superpower that dominates the world.

    In his book, Perpetual Peace, Immanuel Kant saw that the Hobbesian solution was not the best possible. The Hobbesian ruler has no moral authority. His only claim to impose peace is his strength. Conflict is not eliminated, but suppressed by sheer strength. If the ruler grows weak, the conflict will surface again.

    This applies to the international world. A superpower with an empire may suppress conflict. But, as Pax Romana and Pax Britannicus remind us, empires fall as well as rise. Such a peace is unlikely to last for ever. And empires act at least partly out of self-interest, so the imposed arrangements may not be just. Palestinians, for instance, may be unhappy to entrust their future to Pax Americana. But absolutely central is the lack of moral authority of anything imposed by force. To put it crudely, no one appointed the US, or the US and Britain, or Nato, to be world policeman.

    Kant's solution was a world federation of nation-states. They would agree to give the federation a monopoly of the use of force. This use of force would have a moral authority derived from its impartiality and from its being set up by agreement. In the present world, the Kantian solution might be a proper UN police force, with adequate access to funds and to force of overwhelming strength. There would have to be agreed criteria for its intervention, together with a court to interpret those criteria and to authorise intervention. There are many problems with this solution. But something like it is the only way of policing the global village with impartiality and authority. It is the only hope of permanently bringing to an end the cycle of violence.

    A central decision of our time is between these two ways of trying to keep the peace in the global village. In a Hobbesian village, violence is quelled by a posse rounded up from the strongest villagers. It is a Texas cowboy village, or Sicilian village with mafia gangs. In a Kantian village, there is a strong police force, backed up by the authority of law and the courts. The Kantian village may seem utopian. But there are reasons for thinking it is not impossible. In the first half of the 20th century, Europe gave the world colonialism, genocide and two world wars. Then it would have seemed utopian to think of the present European Union. Through pressure of experiencing the alternative, a federation did come about. With luck, Kant's proposal may come about because we see the importance of not experiencing what is likely to be a really terrible alternative.

    For all its inadequacies, the UN is the embryonic form of the rule of law in the world. This is another reason why the proposed war could be so disastrous. Every time Bush or Blair say they will not be bound by a security council veto, without knowing it they are Hobbesians. Never mind moral authority: we, the powerful, will decide what happens. If we want to make a pre-emptive strike, we will do so. And we will listen to the UN provided it says what we tell it to say.

    Some of us fear the instability of a world of unauthorised pre-emptive strikes. We hope our precarious situation may nudge world leaders further towards the rule of law, towards giving more authority and power to the UN. The alternative is terrifying. This gives an extra dimension of menace to the attitude of the American and British governments to this crisis. The erosion of the world's attempt at international authority is something to add to the cruelty and killing of this lawless war we are being asked to support.

    - Jonathan Glover is director of the Centre of Medical Law and Ethics at King's College, London, and author of Humanity: A Moral History of the 20th Century.


    Guardian Unlimited Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003
  8. by   kavi
    Spacenurse, that was an awesome article. I wish you would start a thread with it, maybe getting more people to read it since not too many seem to be able to discuss 'patriotism'.

    Maybe a catchy title to get people's blood going like "Iraqui babies will die to help set your mind at ease about the future". Well that's too long, but that's my pitiful contribution!

    I wish there was a way to make every person in a leadership position in the U.S., U.K., and any other country who thinks War is a good idea to read it too.

    I'm going to copy it and send it to some of my family members who seem to believe that 'ooohhh if we don't fight them now Iraq will get us someday' no matter how impractical and ludicrous that is. They're buying it.

    Anway, I doubt the article will change their closed little minds, or if they'll actually read it all. But I'll feel better to have tried!

    Thanks for posting it.

    Kavi
  9. by   LasVegasRN
    When I think of patriotism, I think of my great Uncle - yes he is great, but great as in my grandmother's baby brother.

    WWII. He was a young black GI down south. He enlisted voluntarily to help fight in the war. He and some other black GI's boarded a train going to another base location. At the first stop along the route, there were some German POW's. My Uncle, and the other black GI's were told to give up their seats to make room for the german POW's. My Uncle and his fellow GI's were told either to stand or get off the train.

    I asked my Uncle why in the world he would fight for a country that hated him seemingly more than they hated the enemy. His answer would be off-topic, but the fact that he still believed in fighting for his country despite this horrible kick in the gut speaks of patriotism, in my opinion.
  10. by   kavi
    Oh Vegas that is so terrible!
    I know I'm a naive white northerner, but I am truly stunned that American soldiers were made to stand for German POW's!!!!
    I just can't even begin to imagine a mindset that would consider that acceptable.

    What wonderful men they were, to still want to fight for a country that treated them that way. That showed so much character---I'm not sure that I would have as much. And I truly believe that you are right, that is certainly a fantastic example of patriotism!

    kavi
  11. by   maureeno
    posted by spacenurse:

    Jonathan Glover
    >>>The frightening world we live in is like the "state of nature" described by Thomas Hobbes. What made life in the state of nature "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short" was the strength of the reasons people had to fight each other. There was no ruler to keep the peace. So everyone knew the strong would attack the weak for their possessions. But the instability was worse than this. My fear of attack by you gives me a reason for a pre-emptive strike against you before you get strong enough to start. But my reason for a pre-emptive strike against you in turn gives you a reason for a pre-emptive strike against me. And so the spiral of fear and violence goes on. Hobbes thought the only solution was the creation of Leviathan, a ruler with absolute power. Such a ruler could impose a peace otherwise unobtainable. The dangers of tyranny and injustice are outweighed by the dangers of a world where no one has power to impose peace.
    >>>Our present international world seems alarmingly like the Hobbesian state of nature. Nations (and perhaps at least as frighteningly, small groups such as al-Qaida) have many motives for attack and our protection is flimsy.
    >>>The Hobbesian suggestion is that, as the way out of the law of the jungle, we should welcome the emergence of a superpower that dominates the world.
    >>>In his book, Perpetual Peace, Immanuel Kant saw that the Hobbesian solution was not the best possible. The Hobbesian ruler has no moral authority. His only claim to impose peace is his strength. Conflict is not eliminated, but suppressed by sheer strength. If the ruler grows weak, the conflict will surface again. <<<<<

    If patriotism is confroming one's behavior to the highest ideals of one's country then BushII's National Security Strategy, based on the Project for the New American Century is not patriotic. Our founders strived to establish a country where might did not make right, where all would co-operate under the rule of law.
    Generations of Americans dedicated their lives towards the work of making such a dream a reality. These many patriots did not envison an Imperial America. They did not assert Americans to be Supreme Beings.
  12. by   VivaLasViejas
    They also did not figure Americans for sheep. What kind of people would allow themselves to be led blindly into combat (and in this case, a potential catastrophe) by a leader with a grudge to settle and no more reason than "they *might* attack us someday"? I'm sorry, but this is just not adequate justification for a pre-emptive strike. I have a neighbor who has threatened, on more than one occasion, to do bodily harm to my sons if they so much as lay a finger on his classic car; using Bush's logic, that should give me the right to go over there and take him out with my .38, to prevent him from attacking my children. And that's an *actual* threat, not one merely implied by my neighbor's evasiveness or his reluctance to show me how he might hurt them, e.g., with a gun or knife or pipe bomb.

    Needless to say, whenever this neighbor gets out of line, I call in reinforcements, such as local law enforcement; if they choose to lecture him and let him resume his appointed rounds, I have no options other than to make sure my boys stay away from him and his car. I don't get to be a vigilante and go over there and threaten him, let alone attack him. Which is exactly what America will do if we go into this without the assistance of the UN, and while Bush has little to worry about personally, the rest of us should care about the opinions of other countries, because it is we who will suffer the consequences in terms of being unwelcome in other parts of the world, as well as increased risk of further terrorist attacks......both abroad, and here on our own soil.
  13. by   maureeno
    The Librarian

    'There is nothing political
    about American literature'
    His wife, the First Lady, proclaimed.

    But the poets they scowled,
    rhymed, measured and howled.
    His wife, the First Lady, was shamed.
  14. by   sanakruz
    I love my country but I fear my government

close