“Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel”
- DR JOHNSON
“Patriotism …is nothing else but a means of obtaining for the rulers their ambitions and covetous desires, and for the ruled the abdication of human dignity, reason, conscience, and a slavish enthralment to those in power”
- LEO TOLSTOY
Reading 1loneranger’s fascinating account of his childhood on a US Army base leads me to reflect, yet again, on the nature of patriotism. The Oxford Concise defines a patriot as “one who defends or is zealous for his country’s freedom or rights”. While it surely cannot be bad to defend one’s own country’s freedom, as in the two World Wars, over-zealousness in patriotic fervour all too easily leads to the violation of the rights of others. The history of the West is studded with examples of this.
Even Kipling, that enthusiastic chronicler of Empire, mocked “jelly-bellied flag-waggers” in his schoolboy novel, Stalky & Co. In the earlier part of the twentieth century it was distastefully fashionable for loud-mouthed sedentary elderly gentlemen who never went nearer a front line than their West End clubs to exhort the valorous young to fight and die gloriously for their country in the
Sadly, we are immersed in an equally senseless wave of misguided patriotism by the purblind responses to the
As Nurse Edith Cavell said before her execution by the Germans in World War I, “Patriotism is not enough”. And she added: “I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone”. True patriotism requires not only the strength of lions, but the wisdom of serpents and the peaceful heart of doves.