I’m Not a Patriot
I’m a Citizen of the World
I’ve never fully understood patriotism.
I’m not a patriot. Like Thomas Paine, I consider myself a citizen of the world and a member of the human race.
I don’t have strong national pride, nor do I feel moved by anthems, flags, and pledges. Never have.
I grew up in a subculture, a closed society, and have also lived and traveled all over the world since childhood. Those two things combined altered the impact of tribal influence on my brain. I had experiences far outside the cultural norms.
My eyes have remained wide open thereafter.
I understand the tribal push to convince me that I should be willing to lay down my life for my country without questions and without pause. Every tribe has required a similar allegiance. Sometimes, we need to protect ourselves and our communities, but all too often the push to go to battle was as much about enriching the king’s coffers as it was about protecting the lives of ordinary citizens.
I grew up to experience the impacts of the Vietnam War on my peers.
Not a pretty sight. This long, fruitless, and undeclared war opened the eyes of a lot of young people at the time. Most of us went on to mature and leave our war protests behind, however, even to forget that we lost thousands of lives for no definable reason. In the end, those lessons were not vivid enough to keep us from sending our kids to fight the next fruitless, undeclared wars.
Patriotism blinds a person.
It’s a concept designed to produce strong emotions and humans are emotional rather than logical creatures overall. We easily react rather than take our time to find new solutions to old problems. We aren’t particularly proactive either. We tend to wait until the wolf is on the doorstep before we act. Those patterns of behavior elevate patriotism to a national expectation requiring that we accept belief systems about our superiority and excellence that are often over-exaggerated if not totally unfounded.
I grew up without well-honed tribal instincts and have never fully belonged to any group.
Because I’ve had a lifetime full of varying experiences, those experiences shaped my perspective. I simply do not have a provincial outlook. However, provinciality can be found in every corner of the world. It is far more common than a broader perspective.
Most of us grow up in the tribe, learning from parents, neighbors, teachers, preachers, and leaders how to dress, love, eat, talk, and drink.
We’re handed a set of rules that define what to value and what to scorn. Provincial identities are formed by the kind of houses we build and the clothes we wear. We inherit our religions, laws, customs, traditions, languages, and national pride without even knowing that there’s other parts of the world that would find our ways to be strange, even unhealthy, or ridiculous.
They think we’re strange and we know they’re weird.
We may even need to teach them a thing or two. Certainly, we’ll struggle to speak their language, eat their foods, and live in their houses. Their rituals and traditions will seem archaic and pointless to us and their religions dead wrong even harmful.
We’ll think we can do better.
Our leaders will tell us that we are the tribe ordained and loved by god, the chosen people if you will. We will feel good about ourselves in a world full of risk and threat. The tighter we cling to the notion of superiority, the more likely we’ll be to risk our lives and the lives of our children in warmongering.
It will become our duty to stand and cheer for our flag, raise our voices in patriotic songs, and put our hands on our hearts as we promise to love, protect, and defend our country.
We will swoon with pride as though we’ve personally accomplished great things. We will feel justified to plunder and rampage for the cause. Soon we will see ourselves as carrying out god’s will when we head into battle. We will be saving not just our tribe but everything that’s good about humanity.
We will see ourselves as the saviors.
Nowhere in this nationalistic drive to expand the belief that our culture is the superior culture do we make room for diplomacy, cooperation, sharing, or creative problem solving. Our artificial boundaries are redefined as we strive to colonize other tribal territories, push our cultural expectations upon them, and rob them of their resources.
That’s been the history of humankind and maybe that’s all we can hope for in the end.
I honestly don’t know. But these big brains we were endowed with do have the potential to create and I’m not willing to believe that we’re absolutely doomed to keep repeating history. I want to believe in the evolution of societies. Without that hope, what do we have to look forward but more of the same. Build it and tear it down, over and over again.
I’m not a patriot. I’m a citizen of the world.
There’s only one race. It’s the human race. All boundaries are manmade. Cooperation is better than competition. Finding new solutions to old problems is a promising endeavor. Change is necessary and healthy. We can’t evolve without it. War should be obsolete. Patriotism is merely propaganda designed to trigger emotions that cloud the brain from making rational decisions.
There’s a bigger picture out there. It’s time to see the world as the home that we share with all of humankind.
Teresa is an author, world traveler, and professional myth buster. You can find her books on Amazon.