Patriotism – continuing the discussion

Posted by lex, on June 20, 2006


Grim – writing separately – makes a compelling counter-argument to yesterday’s post here and also here:

I don’t think patriotism is learned. I don’t think it can be taught. I know that Maines has to have encountered at least two of the most powerful examples of trying to teach or explain patriotism that have ever been composed — a woman in her line of work can’t have missed them.

Rather, patriotism arises naturally in the soul. Love of country is, I said in the piece above, like the love of your mother — it isn’t something you’re reasoned into…

Anti-patriots aren’t people who didn’t learn to be patriots. They’re people whose souls are damaged. Like a child whose mother hurts him, or spoils him, they have been for one cause or another broken from that natural love. They can only hate mother, or country, with that same force that they ought to have used to love her. It is a wound in the soul.

I think we are not so very far apart – without putting words to his pen, I believe Grim is talking about learning at an à priori level of thought, a belief structure that exists at the soul’s root level but which is still, which must be, based on experience.

My earliest recollection of this subject matter was as a child. I’m in the back seat of my father’s car, and we’re travelling over I believe the Memorial Bridge from Washington, DC into Virginia. It was a cold day in January or February, 1968 and your correspondent was seven years old. How can I be so specific about the bridge? Because of the statues, constant reader. A seven-year old can’t help but notice them.

And the date? Mom and dad were talking about the crew of the USS Pueblo, recently repatriated from North Korean captivity. Dad was talking in low terms about the torture the crew had endured, and the board of inquiry into the officers’ performance of their duties. “What is torture?” I asked, and when answered followed by, “And why would anyone do that to someone else?”

“To get information from them, or to make them say something disloyal about their country, son,” came the reply.

I pondered this for a moment before offering up, “Well then I would just tell them whatever they wanted to hear, and make them stop hurting me.”

My parents – both members of the greatest generation – shifted in their seats for an uncomfortable moment or two, exchanging glances. Then softly but firmly, my father replied, “Well son, a man who did that would be committing treason. He’d be a traitor to the country that gave him birth.”

He never raised his voice, nor focused any negative energy on me during this brief discussion in the winter of 1968, but there was enough contempt in his voice for the word “traitor” and all the connotations that it carries with it that I was at that moment resolved that no one would ever use that word about me. It made a seven-year old begin to see that there were things more important than his own comfort.

I was not reasoned into this position – I was too young. But it was taught to me.


08-17-20 The earlier discussion is here – Ed. 


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Filed under Carroll "Lex" LeFon, Carroll LeFon, Neptunus Lex, Politics and Culture

One response to “Patriotism – continuing the discussion

  1. Pingback: On patriotism | The Lexicans

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