Having talked a little (a very little) about my take on religion recently, I thought it was fitting to move on to the subject of whether or not we as individuals love our place of birth, residence or citizenship. Fitting because it seems to me that many people equate a professed love of their country with a love of their chosen deity. Fitting because many people seem interweave the love of these two things to the point where they are apparently interdependent and equally seated among primary and secondary values. The result of both these strategies is a passionate - even obsessive regard for nation, a fierce, aggressive patriotism which seems to be its own justification - and there's the rub.
I feel that I need to ask the question: WHY?
Why is it 'good', desirable, 'right', appropriate for individuals to feel - or at least profess - undying love for a piece of the earth controlled by and inhabited by humans who claim it as their own? I've asked people this question in the past, and the response I have always got is the same; a repetition of this 'love', without any reasoning or justification behind it. Telling me that their country is great, its inhabitants have done lots of stuff, is beautiful, is powerful, is the richest, the most free, the most ANYTHING - all this doesn't answer the question.
So I have to ask again; WHY?
I realize that it can seem to be a difficult question - and because of that people often dismiss it and/or become aggressive because they feel it challenges the way they live. In those circumstances what I believe actually happens is that the person is forced subconsciously to address the question (we all unconsciously process each question asked of us, no matter what), and I think that it's an uncomfortable thing to be unable to immediately and honestly answer a question such as that.
I love a small group of people. I love them for a great many reasons, but I only love a small group because I only truly know that small group, and them, me. I love them for the way they are, the way they behave in general and in return for the love they show me. How can I apply the word 'love' to an entire nation of people? How can I become obsessed about an abstract idea such as 'country'?
Country is after all an abstract concept in some ways - countries do not after all exist anywhere except upon political maps. Continents and islands are simply protuberances of the earth's crust through the liquid that would otherwise cover everything. So why be 'proud' of the land into which we stick our flags and upon which we confer strange names?
So...the history of your country is something which stirs your blood? Firstly I'd ask you to pause and consider whether your country has always been so peachy? I bet it hasn't - so do you disregard all the stuff that you're not comfortable with in order to feel good about your nation? I was forced to confront this in the name of common sense when thinking about my nation of birth; Britain was of course the world's dominant power for a very long time; a mighty political achievement but at the cost of what today we consider to be fundamental human rights. And it was ever thus - I can't think of a country with a stain-free history.
So what is there to love about any nation? What is there to love about millions of people gathered in one large geographic area, over a group of people elsewhere? I don't think it's real except in the minds of an irrational and deluded minority. I think it's all a smoke screen for personal unhappiness.
My suggestion is that the rabid patriotism we see displayed on TV and elsewhere is not what it seems. Humans like to feel safe, to feel comfortable and to feel in control. I suspect that the the more tightly a person wraps themselves in their flag of choice, the less content they are with other elements of their lives, prompting them to seek comfort in diverting 'be the same as me' type behaviours which ludicrously overt 'patriotic' displays seem to me to so clearly be.
I think it's time a lot of people grew up.