Jay and I got into rather a long discussion about the nature of patriotism on my post Your Flag Decal, which is dovetailing into some other thoughts I’ve been wanting to get out. I should first acknowledge that I was being overly dismissive of patriotism as a whole, and one thing I was decidedly missing that came through in Jay’s comments was the way in which patriotism and community building are connected.
I would, in some ways, like to believe that I am capable of the kind of infinite love that I think Christ calls us to emulate. When he demands that we love our enemy, and love our neighbour as ourselves, I think it’s clear that he is asking us to constantly expand our boundaries and definitions of community. In that post and in the comments, I was critical of patriotism as loving others essentially because they become extensions of self. This is equally apparent in family relations, and I think it’s relatively easy to think of examples of expressions of desire to protect one’s family that are really actions of self-protection. Being ‘proud of’ a family member, for example, implies that I have done something worthy of a sense of accomplishment.
But I am, at the same time, strongly in favour of community building efforts, because these, to me, imply that we are looking out for one another and creating the basis for sharing and mutual growth on a manageable scale. It strikes me that the impulse to extend self onto like others is the only way to even start getting at community building. I can’t start expanding my definition of neighbour until I get a sense of what it looks like to love my literal neighbour. I think I’d like to get past patriotism, ultimately, and recognize that it’s a stepping stone rather than a stopping place.
The other point that Jay and I were debating was whether appreciating certain values because they are ‘patriotic’ ultimately detracts from the values themselves, partially because nations are such abstract, transitory, arbitrary constructs. Do I value ‘peace, order and good government’ just because they are Canadian virtues? If so, does that make me less able to see when my country as an entity is not manifesting them, or, alternatively, when other entities are? If I value ‘liberty and equality’, it should be because those are good things in themselves, not because I was born in a country that has them. And then, I think, I also have to subject the ideas I have always been taught are patriotic Canadian values to greater scrutiny in order to make sure that I don’t just believe they are virtues because I’m Canadian, but actually because they are valuable in and of themselves (‘order’ comes to mind here, especially in light of the truism that ‘well behaved women rarely make history’).
This is all quite stream-of-consciousness, and spinning into another post, but it was becoming too unwieldy for the comments section.