It was quite a fulfilling past time to familiarize myself with the colourful flags of our World Nations from my childhood encyclopedias in my tender years. I felt more conscious of my place in the diverse global community, and of course more knowledgeable, having learnt of the national symbols of pride, honour and prestige of various countries.
Today, many would agree, at least to a certain extent, that flags might as well be treated as obsolete. Invariably they seem to be taken for granted while our political leaders have implanted their eternally smiling faces in the minds of numerous societies, far and wide, as the alternative national symbols. Itâ€™s quite ironic that these leaders would dare to compel us to view them as symbols of unity while many of them use divisive strategies to rule their own people.
When you think of Venezuela, you think of Hugo Chavez. When you remember Cuba, you remember the revolutionary Fidel Castro. Certainly, thoughts of a country such as Zimbabwe would be dominated by bitter thoughts of Mr. Robert Mugabe.
Today, the United States of America can seldom be spoken of without instant talk of George W. Bush and his bloody war in Iraq, the divine Barack Obama and his miraculous campaign for change and maybe even the old white-haired John McCain.
Think â€˜Franceâ€™- and you may think delightful thoughts of savoury French cheeses, croissants and croque-monsieurs at a country cottage in the gilded shadows of a grape vineyard. But theyâ€™re likely to come after you remember the famous Jacques Chirac, Mr. Popularity Nicolas Sarkozy and even the legendary Napoleon.
Our world is faced with a dilemma in which inclinations to patriotism or love for country and countrymen are marred by the seemingly pressing need for unconditional devotion to oneâ€™s leader. Hence Americans blindly supported Bushâ€™s war on the innocent in the name of â€˜national securityâ€™. Anyone who disagreed 3 years ago was judged a disloyal, treacherous bonehead.
From the days of the Buffalo Soldier, conscription in the U.S. military has been perceived as the epitome of patriotism- even if it means fighting a meaningless war driven by an insatiable lust for oil. But luckily, many Americans now know better. The bitter tales of men who fought in terrible wars for their country, and returned with one leg to find that they had lost their jobs or that the bank had seized their house have hit home.
For us in the Nature Isle, many lament that weâ€™re not as patriotic as we should be. And Iâ€™m honestly not sure how many Dominicans would be willing to fight with guns and missiles in any war to defend this nation. Maybe thatâ€™s not altogether a bad thing- after all, war is never the answer. And Iâ€™m unsure as to whether or not the bloodshed and destruction would even be worth it.
I feel that patriotism should be mainly about love for oneâ€™s culture and history, and not merely unconditional support for the deeds of oneâ€™s nation. But I really donâ€™t feel that itâ€™s as important as many try to make it seem. Its very definition has too often been distorted to suit perverse political agendas. How can one proclaim and profess unconditional support for his country when his leaders have destroyed the homes of millions of innocent women and children in foreign lands?
Furthermore, we must not forget that all over the world, many continue to dedicate their lives to their country with countless years of committed service, sacrificing opportunities for opulence elsewhere. When they become senior citizens their pensions barely reflect the value of the work that they have done for all those years.
I do love my country, but I really donâ€™t feel like patriotism is altogether a good thing. Like almost everything else in this world, it isnâ€™t flawless- and it often leads to fatal consequences.
Patriotism is a double-edged sword. Like fire, it can be used for good or for evil. And, it is often the refuge of scoundrels.
Again, Danielle, another thought provoking article. Though I am loathe to characterize anything as good or bad, I err on the side of the destructiveness of extreme nationalism. The Nazi’s used nationalism to justify unjustifiable acts, the situation in Rwanda and Darfur are more recent examples of destructive nationalism. Nationalism is just another tool of separation, of promoting the idea that “I” and better than “You”. “My” country is better than “Your” country. I consider myself fortunate that I’ve lived in various parts of the United States, have parents who were not born in the United States and never lived anywhere more than five years. As a result, I feel no particular allegiance to any one region or any strong identification with anyone group – I consider myself to be a citizen of the world. I have found that strong identifications inevitably comes with comparisons. When I lived in the Northeastern part of the United States, many people felt like people who lived in the Southeastern portion of the United States were slow (mentally as well as actually) and prejudiced. When I moved to the Southeastern portion of the United States people would routinely talk about the “Northerners” moving in and changing things. This mentality of separation permeates through all societies and usually does not cause too much harm until a charismatic leader convinces their constituents to think of themselves as a group “superior” to another group. We tell ourselves and our children that prejudice is wrong yet what is nationalism other than prejudice? It is true that birds of a feather flock together, and we might be better served thinking of ourselves as all birds of a feather – then as a human race will we flourish.
Suki K Tranqille
You are right on the beam, Suki.
As for the idea of thinking of a nation by the leader and not the flag…I don’t really thing that is a new thing. When you think of the ancient civilizations you think of the people. Who comes to mind when you think of Egypt or Rome? The kings and queens come to mind when you think of England and again with the emperors of China.
Just my 2 cents…
Having been born in the US, I look to the ideals expressed in our Constitution. But I note that before amendments it also permitted slavery and extended voting franchise only to propertied white men. The good ideas (but not the bad ones), and certainly not the leaders (Washington and Jefferson held slaves), and definitely not the governments (ours lies to us) and nothing as trivial as a symbol should define patriotism. Also not geography or place of birth, both of which are accidental and beyond a person’s control. The only things that should matter are character and care for your fellow human beings.