Sunday, September 4, 2016


Today, patriotism has a black eye. While there had been a time that people had proudly worn the flag of patriotism, such attire is now rejected, even disdained. Pledging allegiance to a nation is pledging antagonism to the rest of the world. Consequently, it is now fashionable to reject patriotism entirely in favor of a single border-less world. 

The late atheist, Bertrand Russell, had expressed his understandable reservations regarding malignant forms patriotism:

**Patriotism which has the quality of intoxication is a danger not only to its native land but to the world, and “My country never wrong” is an even more dangerous maxim than “My country, right or wrong.” 

Of course, patriotism can take on dangerous forms, but so can parenting - "My children are never wrong." And so, if we should reject patriotism entirely, then perhaps we should also reject parenting and family. 

Any good thing can be abused including parenting and family. If we are to reject national affiliation and responsibility entirely in favor of a global identity, why not also reject community responsibility in favor of a world identity?

Therefore, when your block association asks you to pitch in to fill potholes or to feed the elderly, you can tell them, "My allegiance is to all people. It is just too parochial, too narrow and chauvinistic, to simply devote myself to my neighbors. My neighborhood is the world."

How foolish! How can we serve the world if we don't start out by serving a particular community, namely our community? 

I would now like to remind us of a principle of prime importance that should be obvious to all of us. Charity must begin at home, first with our own family and then our own community. 

If we start by loving our neighbor's child and wife, rather than our own, it can only engender bitterness, resentment, and envy.
Instead, love of neighbor must begin with love of our own family. It is only after our own family feels loved that we can move on to loving our neighbor.

I think that the same principle pertains to our nation. To best serve other nations, we have to first serve our own, seeking its peace and welfare.

At this point, I am tempted the list the many acts of generosity of the USA. However, to just list of few of these would be to minimize the extent of this generosity. However, to list a convincing number would be tedious.

However, even without listing examples, I hope that my simple point has become obvious - that even though patriotism has often become malignant, it can also provoke acts of justice and generosity.

As patriotism has become a dirty word, patriotic conscience and involvement has lamentably declined. Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam wrote:

**Americans who came of age during the Depression and World War II have been far more deeply engaged in the life of their communities than the generations that have followed them. The passing of this "long civic generation" appears to be an important proximate cause of the decline of our civic life.

**Evidence for the decline of social capital and civic engagement comes from a number of independent sources. Surveys of average Americans in 1965, 1975, and 1985, in which they recorded every single activity during a day--so-called "time-budget" studies--indicate that since 1965 time spent on informal socializing and visiting is down (perhaps by one-quarter) and time devoted to clubs and organizations is down even more sharply (by roughly half). Membership records of such diverse organizations as the PTA, the Elks club, the League of Women Voters, the Red Cross, labor unions, and even bowling leagues show that participation in many conventional voluntary associations has declined by roughly 25 percent to 50 percent over the last two to three decades. Surveys show sharp declines in many measures of collective political participation, including attending a rally or speech (off 36 percent between 1973 and 1993), attending a meeting on town or school affairs (off 39 percent), or working for a political party (off 56 percent). 

After all, who will sacrifice their time for a nation they no longer believe in, for leaders they no longer trust, and for a discredited concept - patriotism?

With this precipitous decline in civic involvement, in our social capital, our quality of life is suffering, and so too our quality of involvement in other nations.

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