The Problem of Pride

Patriotism, Racism, and Flags

It appears it has always been the fashion to degrade your neighbor. It is the herd mentality I suppose to put people into groups and tally their differences and weaknesses rather than related qualities. Human beings so love to categorize, and thus racism was born. Of course it was not always called that. The Greeks and Romans referred to anyone who did not speak Greek or Latin as "Barbarians," as the impression their languages made was that of the bleating of sheep.

Americans are no exception to the rule. In this time of uncertainty (when have the times ever been certain?) and true barbarism, we have alienated one country at least on the one hand, and denigrated and vilified an entire culture on the other. It is a golden age for prejudice and hate (when was it not?), seemingly sanctioned by an elitist and unsympathetic government, which is no longer, the people's government. Are we to be surprised? America has never had a good record when it comes to human rights. First, the thefts of land and forced imprisonment of the native peoples, and then the enslavement of millions of another race to work their farms. Today Texas honors the Alamo, but I do not see any difference between the Alamo and what Saddam Hussein did to Kuwait or Hitler's annexation of Austria.

This has all been heard before, and all countries have their apologists. It is true that we cannot judge the past by the present, but, when a nation appears to be reverting to its past then we need to light the signal fires and draw attention.

I am not a patriot. Patriotism by its very definition, "love of country," instantly creates a barrier of "us" against "them" that I do not feel is healthy and in fact I think is wrong. After a lifetime of being taught that all people are brothers and equal under the law you must come to a point where you either believe that or not, and if you do believe it than you are compelled to act in accordance with it or risk hypocrisy.

If you take a French child, born of French parents on the soil of France and raise it in America, that child shall be an American. It will speak perfect English; prefer American foods and fashions to any of those of its forefathers. Nevertheless, we treat the nations of the earth as if their preferences where the product of genetics and not just the habits of custom. Despite the surface solidity the liquid mercurial human character is there to fill the mold you pour it in. Change the mold and you change the man. Is it not then ridiculous to cling to a flag of cheap fabric or worship the ground you stand upon as if it were sacred earth? We have no trouble in the land that we love of filling it with our waste and polluting it with the byproducts of industry and capital. I for one would much prefer the smallest hill in Italy to all of Three Mile Island.

Those who are quick might now turn and say that it is not a flag or soil that they pledge allegiance to, but what those things represent. If I asked what those things were they would probably give the old platitudes such as Liberty, Justice, Freedom, etc. The standard check list that all countries claim for their own and that even the most oppressive regimes will proudly hail they uphold.

However, America has no monopoly upon these ideals. They are the common property of all mankind yet Americans would have you believe these words did not exist until they had the world's first and only revolution and wrote the world's first and only constitution. It might irritate them to learn that a little less than four hundred years ago the English had their own revolution against monarchy, and even more surprised to find that Americans didn't even invent Democracy.

And if they catch your drift but still protest, saying that all of this may be so but the founding of America was sanctioned by the Divine and is greater than all these since it is imbued with a greater destiny, we might as well sigh and ring our hands at the hope of reasoning with fanaticism. It might be remembered that Rome two thousand years ago and even closer in time, the Soviet Union, believed as much about them selves and fabricated legendary mythologies to legitimize their claims.

At its heart, patriotism is little more than a disguised form of racism in a socially palatable form. It is politically incorrect to declare racial superiority, but the pride of Nationalism is perfectly acceptable. The former threatens the social order, the latter galvanizes it; it gives the whole society a focus for their hate, an emotion, which we are often told is wrong but only for those who are close at hand never at a distance.

This contradiction seems never to be addressed. The idea that one is not allowed to despise one group of people of a certain genetic disposition but are given free reign to express their disgust with another group under a common banner should indicate like an alarm bell a societies failures by a reassignment of its blame.

Hate and pride go as well together as anything can. It is usually out of a hurt pride that we feel hatred. We resent it when others reveal our faults and throw them up to our face (even though they may be perfectly true). I have felt it all too often myself, that gnawing rage that blinds us from everything but retribution, to that empty desire to "pay back." And all we accomplish is yet more resentment and more hatred. Not one of our revealed faults is corrected, are in fact made all the more obvious by our actions, and we do not grow one jot from the experience.

And it is growth that the spirit wants.

The cage of nations, however, seeks to deaden the spirit. It is not in the interests of governments and corporations to have people just willy-nilly expressing freedom from fear and hate, for then, what need do we have for a government to protect us, or for corporations to supply us with luxuries to entertain us in our bunkers.

Better to keep us apart and in our separate boxes - divide and conquer.

I want more of life not less of it. I do not seek to be placed within boundaries and customs by classes and categories, for the spirit is bigger than all these. I wish to believe that the great multitude of faceless nameless peoples have faces and names. That they are human as I am and will not hurt me if I show them kindness. The world will always be filled with those who hate and wish to destroy, but that should not stop the rest of us from heaving a sigh of sympathy and getting on with the stuff of life. Pride causes strife, causes hate, and causes misunderstanding in the world at large. Pride is the most salient feature of war. But pride in the self, shames the rage of the mob and can open a place in our hearts for love.