Easy To Be Hard; Easy to be Cold
I have an article at Pajamas Media entitled "Pinning Down Patriotism". It essentially examines the difference between two kinds of patriotism. The first is an allegiance to a potential country; the other to the country as it exists.
Patriots of the first kind owe their loyalty to the nation they hope the current one may some day become. The second sort is prepared to accept and defend the nation that is. Both elements are normally present in the patriotism of an intelligent, well-educated person. Every nation is compounded of aspiration and reality; and that consequently we owe our duty to something that is partly here and partly to come. No country is so perfect that it can be liked entirely for what it is. But no man is so abstract that he can limit his loyalty only to what might become.
We exist in the present; so do our friends, neighbors, home, the family pet, etc. They all occupy the time we call Today. Actual love and loyalty have no field except Today. Without a minimum regard for what surrounds him Today it's hard for any person to claim a full role in his society. That minimum must include a commitment to keep the ordinary population safe and to "do no harm".
There are currently millions of people around the world in dingy, poor little countries that are struggling against their governments. Many are disgusted with the habits and attitudes that have kept their societies unequal and oppressive. Yet practically none of them would remark after an attack had killed thousands "The chickens have come home to roost. The victims deserved to die. They are all little Eichmanns." That such statements have become not only acceptable today, but can actually be uttered as proof of a higher form of patriotism indicates that the sense of the word has been corrupted.
Today many Burmese are doubtless angry at their government; many undoubtedly frustrated at the passivity or gullibility of their fellowmen. But none of them will call Burma unworthy of existence. On the contrary, in the midst of all their disappointment, most of them -- probably nearly all of them -- will conclude that Burma, flawed Burma, poor Burma, trampled Burma; is worth living for, and perhaps even dying for.
Therein lies the problem in claiming that "real patriotism" consists exclusively in a commitment to dissent; in an obsession with rebellion and in a total rejection of the present. Those who go to that extreme forgo all love for the present for the exhilaration of allegiance to the country of their fantasy.
It is the unspoken things, compounded of memories of eating crayfish and chili by the river; of opening the door at midnight to a friend who has just been thrown out of the house; of experiencing the pangs of disappointment of first love -- that root us to our place. Patriotism at its most basic is not an unquestioning worship of the symbols of one's country, but only the human equivalent of a dog's attachment to it's bone. Unless a man can know home and recognize family, he can never be your brother. A person who loves only his vision of the future can only love himself.