What does patriotism mean to you?

(This is in response to the Questions and Reflections for July 04, 2007)

This
is my first 4th of July as an American. (Ironically, I’m celebrating it
by myself in a small room because it’s cold and raining here, in
Ireland.) I just recently became a naturalized U.S. citizen. Like the children of America, I took a Pledge of Allegiance to the U.S. flag, along with other people of different nationalities.

“I
pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to
the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible,
with liberty and justice for all.”

When I took the pledge,
I considered the U.S. flag as symbol of the Republic, “for which it
stands.” It represents the laws of the land which had been shaped by
countless people who fought and died for it, so that we, the present
generation (and immigrants), would benefit from its social and economic
freedom.

I have a different notion of “God,” which is not
limited to the God of Christianity. So I didn’t have an issue with “one
Nation under God.” Because to me, everything is “under” God, everything
is a manifestation of God.

So when I took the pledge, I didn’t
just pledge allegiance to a Motherland with its laws, policies and
religion, but to the “ideals” and “the highest good” that the U.S. Flag
represents: “liberty and justice for all.”

So, what does patriotism mean to me?

To
me, patriotism is a step towards “selflessness.” Patriotism is stepping
into a bigger ethnocentric circle, where motherland is one’s nation
(instead of one’s tribe) and people are one’s fellow citizens (instead
of one’s kin).

In its moderate ethnocentric form, patriotism
teaches people to put the interests of the nation above one’s personal
interests, for example, by following the law of the land, respecting
the rights and freedom of others, and defending the nation from inside
and outside threats. It’s like basic self-preservation in organisms. A
nation is like an organism. Patriotism is a key component for
preserving itself – culture-preservation.

In
its radical ethnocentric form, patriotism conditions people to put the
interests of the nation, right or wrong, above everyone else’s
interests. This goes beyond culture-preservation to culture-elevation. No developed nation
is exempt from this. Every developed country, at one point in its
history, had succumb to radical ethnocentric forms of
culture-elevation. That’s how they became developed in the first place.

The
question is, which type of patriotism is better? The moderate or the
radical ethnocentric form? I think the answer is, both, depending on
life conditions and the state of the world. As a nation becomes bigger
and stronger, it’s only natural that it calls on its citizens to defend
and preserve its culture (read: culture-preservation). And there will
be times when it has to make a choice whether to impose its ideals and
beliefs on younger and developing nations
to show them how to get things done (read: culture-elevation),
sometimes with good and sometimes with bad consequences, to which only
history (or those who’ll write the history) will decide.

But can
patriotism be also worldcentric, where motherland is our planet and
people are all sentient beings?  I think so. But we’re gonna need a
different name for it. And instead of the Pledge of Allegiance, we’re
gonna have to come up with something similar to the Bodhisattva vows.

Happy 4th of July to all those who believe in justice and freedom.
May all sentient beings experience peace, love, happiness, and Divine discontent.

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