In Case You Missed It
Boulderganic Fall 2009
Student Guide 2009
Boulder Weekly Sweet 16 Anniversary
Summer Scene 2009
Best of Boulder 2009
Annual Manual 2009
Newspaper of the Future
Kids Camp Guide 2009
Wedding Marketplace 09
Student Guide 2008
Best of Boulder 2008
Annual Manual 2008
Join Our Mailing List
|July 3-9, 2008
Back to Letters
A new definition of patriotism
by Janet Joyce
Words are powerful. They can inspire action, cause hurt and create hope. But not all words are created equal. And the specific words we choose can make all the difference in how we see and shape our world.
During the past 15 years as a clinical psychologist, I’ve helped people use words to heal wounds, create positive relationships and to better understand their children. I’ve also watched in amazement while words were used to deliberately hurt, create distance and undermine stated goals.
In today’s political climate, I have seen how some specific words are carefully used to create fear and antipathy, to manipulate and to further divide the populace. How many times have we been reminded that we live in a “post-9/11 world,” that we are not safe from extremism, terrorism, radical Islamism and weapons of mass destruction, and that we should be watchful, even of our neighbors?
“Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel,” wrote Samuel Johnson in 1775, and the leaders who dominate our current political scene do not hesitate to harness this ancient instinct. They wield the word “patriotism” to advance political agendas through division and fear.
This word has a history going back thousands of years to the Latin word patria — fatherland. The ancient Romans used patriotism to inspire a sense of superiority of the Roman people in order to justify expansionism and the conquest and enslavement of neighboring peoples.
During World War II, Hitler used the notions of patriotism and nationalism to create a climate of fear and blame. He used rhetoric about the “fatherland” to mobilize the German people to act in the service of his destructive, genocidal agenda.
During the McCarthy era in the United States, the concept of patriotism was used to create fear and suspicion and to label as traitorous anyone who wasn’t marching in lock-step.
Most recently, the idea of patriotism has been further utilized to delineate citizens of our country who are either for or against the war in Iraq. Again, we’ve been maneuvered into thinking that being patriotic means favoring the war, and that if we oppose the war then we are disloyal to our troops and to our country. This is a familiar kind of manipulation, using powerful words to advance a political agenda that is in the service of the few, while being to the great detriment of the many.
The great Roman emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius said, “That which is not good for the beehive cannot be good for the bees.”
It is time to forge a new definition of patriotism. We no longer live in tribes, villages or even countries that are distinct, independent entities with little or no connection with one another. In fact, our common home has expanded to include the entire global community. In this era of world travel, there is nowhere on the earth that can’t physically be reached within hours or days, and virtual travel to anywhere in the world is now instantaneous.
With the click of a mouse, you can be in India, Australia or Egypt, sitting in a library and reading the history or great philosophers of that country. You can take classes in other countries. You can trade stocks or commodities around the world, and you can meet and even fall in love with someone in a far-off land, all without ever leaving home.
We now have common problems that cannot be successfully resolved through the use of outdated ideas of separateness or nationalism. Climate change, poverty, food shortages, disease and pollution are all significant issues that should unite us as a world of nations, because none of these problems can be or will be solved by any one country alone. It is more likely that without global cooperation these problems will not be solved. And surely that would be to the detriment of the entire world of nations.
From a global perspective can come a paradigm shift and a new creative vision of what it means to express our loyalty and devotion to our common family. It is no longer in the best interest of our beehive for us to think in terms of invisible borders and independent national goals.
If choose, we can change our definition of patriotism to include a new awareness of what is truly in the best interest of our common goals as a human race.
So, on this Fourth of July, while you are watching the fireworks burst forth their panoply of colors and lights, think very carefully about your personal definition of the word patriotism and just how powerful it could be if you shifted your personal definition to include love for and loyalty to the entire global hive — our common home.
back to top