Is patriotism really outdated?

Patriotism is one of those words and concepts to which time has been quite unkind, like the word ‘gay’ (not that ‘gay’ has a negative connotation now, but in times where homosexuality was not accepted, ‘gay’ went from ‘happy’ to ‘weird’). According to the dictionary, Patriotism is ‘devoted love, support and defense of one’s country’, which, I believe, could be the same definition for parenthood (devoted love, support and defense of one’s children), love or friendship (devoted love, support and (defense) of one’s soulmate/friend). However, just like so many concepts and ideologies, patriotism has been distorted by the few extremists who have committed more than a few crimes and wrong deeds in its name. But, we have those people everywhere, right? These sudden thoughts about what patriotism is and the implications as well as the good deeds it would entail if taken in its true sense, without distortion, do have a justified cause. I was listening to this talk given by Emiliano Salinas, which made me realize that if we were all true patriots, the world would be a much better place. Think about what a good parent is. An objectively, true, model good parent, not the ones who think themselves as good parents (we all know what these parents are like). Let’s call that person ‘the good parent’ in quotation marks. The ‘good parent’ would of course, do everything in his/her power to provide for the child – food, housing, clothing, the basic necessities. And then comes the neverending, unconditional love. The ‘good parent’ does not need any reason or logic to love the child that is his/hers. The simple fact that it is his/her child suffices. So comes love. And as children, we all know that love, contrary to urban myths, is not all pink and kind and patient. Yes, we all know the existence, meaning, and effects of ‘tough love’. The ‘good parent’ also knows when to be critical, when to stop the caring and loving to give a few lessons, because the ‘good parent’ knows that if the child behaves wrongly or shamefully, all their reputations would be ruined and they would not be looked upon with kind eyes from other parents. Emiliano Salinas talks about Mexico, his home country. He says that Mexico has many problems – drug trafficking, violence in the streets, kidnapping and so on. I would not do right by the content and objective of his speech, so instead of summarizing the whole talk, I’ll just mention the passage that struck me most. Despite all these issues, he also says that Mexico has passion, kindness, care, (and well, Tequila and Mariachi as well). So why not use that passion and care to improve the country you live in? Don’t Mexicans love their country? Don’t they want to live in more peaceful conditions? Don’t they want their children to run around freely in the streets? Because, Emiliano loves his country and it pains him to see that no Mexican is doing anything to change things. People need a sense of belonging and despite this globalization/global citizen talk, we all have a country we might care more than the other. We don’t need a reason to justify that special attention, it just comes, sometimes in the most unexpected moments. Now, if we go back to the analogy of parenthood, I think that any good patriot would do what it takes to improve his/her country. That means devotion, but also criticism. That means not only reasonable domestic politics, but also equal opportunities for foreigners and decent foreign politics. A ‘good parent’ would not mistreat friends of his/her child, right? And what reputation/image would the ‘good parent’ and the child have if they did wrong by their neighbors and others? People criticize that there is too much patriotism in this world, patriotism is flourishing everywhere, and that is a bad thing, that is why each country is only caring for itself, letting racism grow and bombing whomever it pleases. But maybe, there is not enough patriotism in this world. That is why so many people have given up caring and trying to improve their countries. There are not enough ‘good parents’. We just want to spoil our children, teaching them not to share, to take everything they can at the expense of everyone. Maybe it’s time to do the word ‘patriotism’ some justice.

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