Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Patriotism, Nationalism, & Other Fatal Diseases

Just finished reading a wonderful piece by Chris Hedges called "Surviving the Fourth of July." It feels so good to read somebody whose thoughts are so much in consonance with my own. He's convinced that the voices of sanity and peace are ultimately going to be fruitless, and that all those of us who oppose the madness have is each other. I cannot yet embrace the idea that peace will never arrive, but if I'm honest with myself, I have to admit that in my heart of hearts I seriously doubt if the kingdom of God we followers of Jesus are supposed to be building will arrive until humankind finally succeeds in purging hate and war out of its soul by utterly destroying itself. I used to think when I was younger and even more foolish than I am now that this somehow would never happen. At this point, I don't see how it can be avoided. Our follies have become fantastic, as the Beach Boys observed all those years ago. (I think it was on the "Holland" album.)

Almost as good as Hedges were the comments from over 60 people who were as moved by the piece as I was. One was kind enough to gather a whole bunch of quotes about the folly of patriotism.

It seems like the less a statesman amounts to, the more he loves the flag. - unknown

Nothing is more annoying in the ordinary intercourse of life than this irritable patriotism of the Americans. A foreigner will gladly agree to praise much in their country, but he would like to be allowed to criticize something, and that he is absolutely refused. — Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (1831)

Nationalism is an infantile sickness. It is the measles of the human race. — Albert Einstein

He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would fully suffice. This disgrace to civilization should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, senseless brutality, deplorable love-of-country stance, how violently I hate all this, how despicable and ignoble war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be a part of so base an action! It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder. — Albert Einstein

or: Heroism on command, senseless violence, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism; how passionately I hate them! - Albert Einstein

The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other dumb bastard die for his. - Gen. George S. Patton (1885-1945)

Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel. - Samuel Johnson

In Dr. Johnson’s famous dictionary, patriotism is defined as the last resort of a scoundrel. With all due respect to an enlightened but inferior lexicographer I beg to submit that it is the first. - Ambrose Bierce

Patriotism, n. Combustible rubbish ready to the torch of any one ambitious to illuminate his name. - Ambrose Bierce

Patriotism is the virtue of the vicious. - Oscar Wilde

Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all others because you were born in it. - George Bernard Shaw

‘My country, right or wrong,’ is a thing that no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying, ‘My mother, drunk or sober’. — G. K. Chesterton

“Patriotism” is a word; and one that generally comes to mean either my country, right or wrong, which is infamous, or my country is always right, which is imbecile. - Dr Stephen Maturin in Master and Commander, p 173. Patrick O’Brian. 1970

Our government has kept us in a perpetual state of fear kept us in a continuous stampede of patriotic fervor with the cry of grave national emergency… Always there has been some terrible evil to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind it by furnishing the exorbitant sums demanded. Yet, in retrospect, these disasters seem never to have happened, seem never to have been quite real. - General Douglas MacArthur

Patriotism means being loyal to your country all the time, and to its government when it deserves it. - Mark Twain

Flag; n. A colored rag borne above troops and hoisted on forts and ships. - Ambrose Bierce

Old soldiers never die; that’s what the young ones are for. - unknown

Can anything be stupider than that a man has the right to kill me because he lives on the other side of a river and his ruler has a quarrel with mine, though I have not quarrelled with him? - Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)

A nation is a society united by a delusion about its ancestry and by common hatred of its neighbours. - William R. Inge (1860-1954)

Every government has as much of a duty to avoid war as a ship’s captain has to avoid a shipwreck. - Guy de Maupassant

Nationalism is a silly cock crowing on his own dunghill. - Richard Aldington (1892-1962)

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