What is Patriotism?

Patriotism means loyalty to the patria, the Roman word for fatherland. The idea of patrimony or heritage is closely related.

As mankind evolves and the world grows smaller and more tightly intertwined, the meaning of patria also evolves. In many important ways, we all realize our real home is this planet.

History and anthropology show this process of evolution clearly. Early mankind lived in small tribes. Each one called itself “humankind.” They used another word – usually “beast” or “barbarian” – for their neighbors. This mind-set remains very much with us, too.

The gods of early peoples were also dedicated to their own tribe alone. Very late, after humans became adept at abstractions, and experienced in interactions with other nations, the idea of One God for all mankind struck a fragile root. This idea made the early Christians a threat to Rome, savagely persecuted, lest each whim of Caesar cease to be a divine command. Jesus was also hated by the reactionaries among His fellow Jews, for globalizing the secret of monotheism – like Prometheus of Greek myth, crucified for sharing the secret of fire with humankind. Jesus’ lesson is still ahead of its time even today: we say “God Bless America,” not “God Save Mankind” (while most of the rest of the world prays, “Dear God, save mankind from America!”)

Already millennia overdue, like Jesus’ Kingdom of God, mankind’s next revolutionary step, if we are to survive in this world wide web we weave, is an elevated and universal concept of patria. Our true patrimony is the heritage of ideals dear to all peoples. America would do better to pledge allegiance to her Constitution, a set of fairly universal ideals – rather than to a flag which, like a pagan idol, can bear any message a propagandist or dictator loads it with. How easily we were panicked and tricked into scrapping our Bill of Rights for a so-called “Patriot Act.” We will never be free until we outgrow this phase of play with emotional noise, of baby fumbling with blocks, and reach the mature stage of literacy in ideals and principles.

The patrimony of a civilized person is the heritage of civilization. His or her patriotism is loyalty to those values. And strangely enough, we all remember that Iraq was the cradle of civilization. Almost 4,000 years ago, the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi was the first truly civilized system of law. He had hit on the key principle of justice: the punishment must fit the crime.

Today, the USA has trampled on that most ancient law, bombing and invading Iraq without provocation. These are acts of barbarism, against civilization. Can a civilized person be loyal to barbarism? In ancient times, “barbaric” meant only the sound of a foreign tongue to unfamiliar ears: ba-ba-ba. Today it has a more universal meaning: an action that violates the code of civilization, the common human heritage of values.

The Iraqi troops are fighting for their fatherland, their ancient patria, against a barbaric aggression. They are surely patriots by any measure. And our troops? Where is the patria our “boys” are killing for? Are they defending America? That is a transparent tissue of lies from our new Caesars.

Anyone with an open mind and a dab of data [1] about the war-mad “neo-con” lobby, Wolfowitz, Perle, and the rest, can see this is a proxy war, can tell who our troops are fighting for. Israel, of all countries – perhaps the only state in the world that categorically rejects the most universal political values of modern civilization, to wit: One man, one vote – not bantustan apartheid. Pluralism, not theocracy. A man’s home is his castle, not ethnic cleansing.

America’s eyes are closed, suckered by the pacifier of propaganda. Sleepwalking, we drowned our ideals in the blood and mud of Palestine, smashing the Pandora’s box that unleashed a myriad demons of war and hatred.

Once we realize that Oops! our troops are in Iraq by mistake, by intrigue, our army is there to fulfill the utterly alien agenda of a foreign power, the imaginary conflict of loyalties between country and civilization will vanish. The attack on Iraq is also one on the best interests of our country. To “support” our troops in carrying out a tragic blunder does not compute. Loyalty to catastrophic mistakes is no loyalty, it is obstinate stupidity.

To destroy in a few weeks the heritage of goodwill America built up in the world over centuries, to appease a foreign lobby, no matter how tiny or how powerful – this is no patriotism. This is treason, this is reason to:

Stop our troops.