Patriotism

Discussion in 'Soap Box' started by Zurkhardo, Jul 17, 2009.

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  1. Zurkhardo

    Zurkhardo Well-Known Member

    Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.
    -Samuel Johnson

    It should be the work of a genuine and noble patriotism to raise the life of the nation to the level of its privileges; to harmonize its general practice with its abstract principles; to reduce to actual facts the ideals of its institutions; to elevate instruction into knowledge; to deepen knowledge into wisdom; to render knowledge and wisdom complete in righteousness; and to make the love of country perfect in the love of man.
    -Henry Giles

    I’ve noticed that there are two kinds of patriots in this country. The first type consists of those that are truly patriotic to both their country AND their country’s citizens. Their devotion manifests through actions, through playing their part in society not just for their country but for people. They realize that a service to mankind is as good as a service to their nation: the two are inseparable. This class of patriot includes soldiers, who silently and unquestionably fight for their country even if they wouldn’t too and even if it kills them; the social workers that bring services to other downtrodden, often forsaken, citizens; the student that works hard in school so that they can be something great and give back to society; the honest politician (yes, they do exist :p) that works to serve the people he’s sworn to represent. The recently arrived immigrant who has made America his or her home and like millions before intends to contribute to a nation whose success is founded upon that very concept. These are but a handful of examples of this ideal and quiet patriotism.

    The second kind of patriot is one who somehow interprets their own selfishness as being a service to their nation. These are the people whose patriotism is nothing more than words and angst. Theirs is a cynical and even misanthropic nature to it. Most intriguingly, there is a contradiction, for these ‘patriots’ shun both their fellow citizens AND their government, leaving us to wonder – who or what exactly are thy patriotic too? These patriots best manifest themselves as the loud pundits who do nothing but scapegoat liberals, immigrants, and social minorities for this country’s problems, and act as if heaping bitterness on those issues will somehow make America a better place. They’re the kind you’ll never see in the military. They think politics is too crooked to get involved in, yet they otherwise make no attempt to change the system being ranting about. Why is it that so many of those who call themselves patriotic tend to support initiatives that ultimately fly in the face of what makes this country great?

    I can understand not liking the tax system – it is inefficient, wasteful, and often presses the middle-class too hard: it certainly needs reform. But you don’t want to pay a dime period? Really? And how do you suppose we pay for police officers, public schools, and roads, among other things? Wanting to change an unfair tax system is one thing…but not wanting to contribute a damn thing for a public good?

    Then there is the ubiquitous issue of healthcare. To be sure, many proposed ideas are inefficient and prohibitively expensive, yes. We can’t just follow the Canadian or British model (on a side note it’d more likely have to be similar to the Swiss, Dutch, or French model). It’s understandable not to support a bad universal healthcare system. But to hate the very concept of healthcare? To think that some people in this country don’t deserve it, and therefore we shouldn’t have it period?

    Don’t like illegal immigration? Fine, so long as it’s from a legal (i.e. not racist or xenophobic) point of view – though it rarely is. But seeing immigration as a whole as a force of national decay? Fanning the flames of an ‘us versus them’ mentality at a time of crucial unity? Putting immigration as an issue before the Iraq War or healthcare reform? Try tracing your lineage back and see how you got here in the first place. Consider how many PhDs are held by immigrants, or how much innovation, cuisine, culture, literature, and ideas in general came from immigrants and their seeds.

    And of course those of us that support public initiatives to help citizens as a whole get branded as socialists, communists, and – alas – even traitors. Heaven forbid I follow the unpatriotic ideals of liberty and justice for ALL. Such ideals have no place in America it seems. And forgive me for being so traitorous as to criticize this country’s flaws so that it may be bettered – it’s not like our founding fathers did the same thing with the colonial administration prior to establishing this nation.

    And this is far from a partisan issue either. Empty patriotism comes from both sides of the political spectrum: the right-wingers that are anti-everything and borderline misanthropic versus the left-wingers that want everything handed to them for nothing. Both sides are guilty of otherwise not taking up the responsibility they owe to their fellow citizen as a whole, whether it’s asking for too much or not wanting to be asked at all.

    The fact of the matter is that this country as a whole asks for very little of us. Paying taxes and serving in a jury are the only major duties we have as citizens. In a lot of countries you’re required to serve in the military. You pay a much higher percentage of your income as taxes. You're required to work in some manner of 'national service,' usually a government job. In the grand scheme of things, we get it easy, something we take for granted as we refuse to make any sacrifices to our comfort and materialism.

    If you ever look at the countries that have the highest standard of living, you see two major things they all share: a sense of unity (community) and with that, a sense of duty. I fear that both are increasingly lacking in this society, even as existential threats such as global warming challenge us to take a hit in the name of the greater good; a concept we associate with mindless communism as opposed to basic utilitarian humanitarianism. Individualism is a valuable and unalienable right, but what good is it if comes to a point that it’s everyone for themselves? How can societies – be it a city, state, country, planet – function if it can’t even see itself as such? Nothing is done as a single individual, nothing ever has, and nothing ever will. We are the products of a social network that defines our very nature as humans and yet we forsake that in the name of an ego-driven desire for what’s good for “me.

    Forgive me for delving into the philosophical in this originally political discussion. I went from patriotism to my usual rant concerning human togetherness. Also, apologies for the American-centric aspect of this particular piece. I didn't think it proper to go on about other countries I merely only read or hear about any way. No matter, I’m sure you all got the gist of it =P So now I sleep! Thanks as always for reading.

    America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.
    -Abraham Lincoln
     
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