Am I Unpatriotic?

By - July 22, 2012

From reading a few of my essays and blog posts some people might get the impression that I am unpatriotic. What does the word mean? I found this definition in a dictionary online: "not enthusiastically supporting one's country and its ways of life." Apparently patriotism is worse than I thought; it isn't enough to support the nebulous concepts of "one's country," and "its ways of life" but one must do so enthusiastically as well.

Yes, of course I am unpatriotic, because I would always choose truth and justice over support of either the government or the three hundred million citizens I've never met and so do not know. I cannot enthusiastically support a country because I haven't seen one and what some might label with that name, or with the more specific "United States," is a mix of good and bad people and has a mixed history of good and evil. Enthusiastically supporting anything without reason is not in my nature.

More than just being unpatriotic, though, I am against patriotism and nationalism in general. Why would I choose to identify with a geographical area that is too large to meaningfully know, or with millions of people I have never met, and who have values very different from my own? How could that make sense? Someone drew a line around some land, and because I happen to have been born or lived within that line I am supposed to be loyal to the government that has power there, or the people who happen to be inside the same line? It seems too silly to take seriously.

But it is taken seriously, and by most people. In fact, though I write about these matters, I do not normally bring them up in conversation, because I not only will offend someone, but in the wrong place I will probably be attacked with more than words. The seriousness with which most people in the United States "honor" their country is scary, to say the least. It creates an "us and them" mind set, and does nothing for the cause of peace (which I happen to value more than the cause of flag waving).

I have written about this before. In the post, "Do I Love This Country?," I go into a bit more detail about what I like and don't like about the United States. In my book Blue Snake I have an essay titled, "I Have No Duty to My Country," where I explain the fallacy of the concept of a citizen's "duty," and how when anyone claims you have one it just means they want something from you. In my book Mind Puppet I have an essay that spells out exactly how I feel about flags in general and about the American flag specifically--it isn't a feeling of reverence.

Here I want to ask a question, and I wonder how many readers have a well-thought-out answer. It is this: Why should I be patriotic?

Some people will claim that I should feel grateful for the freedom and opportunities I have here. I am, but in a general sense. There is no sense in thanking our current government while each administration limits my freedom further. Obviously the people who voted for the crooks and criminals in Washington do not deserve thanks. What about the soldiers? They are used as pawns for political goals other than the defense of freedom (really, Iraq was going to attack the United States?).

Freedom is a tricky concept in any case. There are hundreds of laws here that prevent people from doing things they could freely do in other countries, and hundreds of restrictive laws in any of those countries that are not found here. How free a person is or feels depends in large part on whether what he or she wants to do is not legislated against where he or she happens to live. In general, there is more freedom here than in some other countries, but my loyalty would have to be to that freedom, not to any country's government that claims they can "allow" it or take it away.

Tribalism is the basic concept behind patriotism. Since I am against tribalistic thinking in general I am naturally unpatriotic. But I should point out that at least most tribes of the past were made up of people who actually knew each other, and so had a natural concern for one another. Loyalty to a group like that makes more sense than loyalty to the more nebulous "country" or "countrymen." But even in that case, and even at the level of the family, it makes no moral sense to place such loyalty above doing right and being willing to see and speak the truth.

Some will claim that their loyalty is to the concept of America, to the ideals for which it supposedly stands. It makes for a more intelligent-sounding argument, but really? Most of these same people would vote for any number of laws that violate the "freedom" they think their country stands for. For example, most patriots would be happy to vote for outlawing the burning of the flag, even as they pretend to believe in the "right" to free speech (and what better example is there of the kind of political expression that the The First Amendment of the United States Constitution should protect?).

It seems plain to me, when we look at the history of this country (or any other), that loyalty to truth and justice has to at some point--and at many points in time-- preclude loyalty to the people or powers that rule. So why bother with the argument for loyalty to a leader, government, or a bunch of random people who happen to live in the same colored area of a map? It just encourages those who would do harm to others to use this patriotism as a means to their nefarious ends.

Whatever community spirit it engenders, or other minor values that come from it, patriotism adds more misery to the world than anything else. It inevitably is used to gain support for evil policies. History shows little evidence that it has led to better treatment of people or greater freedom (consider that it was the only the unpatriotic members of the British Empire who fought for and won a modicum of additional freedom here in the states). Meanwhile we see throughout history that it has been used to whip citizens into a state of frenzy and incivility toward outsiders (or even groups within the society). It makes it possible for patriotic citizens to go along with the killings of millions of other people.

Yes, I am unpatriotic, because my loyalties are to higher values than the whims of the herd or its herders. I am against patriotism in all cases, because it offers us very little other than good feelings, while it enables all sorts of crimes and stupidities.

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