Patriotism, the last (or first) refuge of a scoundrel

In commemoration of this Independance Day weekend (for which I am a little late in writing about) I would like to bring to the reader’s mind the principle of Patriotism.  I am bothered by the display of patriotism I see in my church so often.  I am really bothered by the huge gobs of patriotism taught to my kids in elementary school so often.  They can sing the theme songs of each of the 4 branches of the military from memory.  So many of the assemblies parents are invited to make lengthly mention of military in conjunction with the “virtue” of patriotism. 

Therefore, I bring you my very favorite words on the subject from President Spencer W. Kimball of the Church I belong to, who died back in 1985 I believe.

We are a warlike people, easily distracted from our assignment of preparing for the coming of the Lord. When enemies rise up, we commit vast resources to the fabrication of gods of stone and steel — ships, planes, missiles, fortifications — and depend on them for protection and deliverance. When threatened, we become antienemy instead of pro-kingdom of God; we train a man in the art of war and call him a patriot, thus, in the manner of Satan’s counterfeit of true patriotism, perverting the Savior’s teaching:

“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
“That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:44-45).  

Also, I would like to point out one of my favorite parts of the Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson:

 

 

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Have we arrived at this point yet?  Thomas Jefferson thought we arrive at this point at least every twenty years as is evidenced in his letter to William Smith in 1787:  http://www.let.rug.nl/usa/P/tj3/writings/brf/jefl64.htm

And now, for a collection of some of my favorite quotes on the topic of patriotism:

I would like to be remembered as a man who served his country.
-General Augusto Pinochet

I am not going to repent. I am not going to ask for favours. What I did, I did for my country.

-P. W. Botha, former President of Apartheid South Africa

I want you to know that everything I did, I did for my country.

-Pol Pot, mass murderer of Cambodia

It is impossible to conceive a more troublesome or more garrulous patriotism (speaking of the patriotism of the USA); it wearies even those who are disposed to respect it.

-Alexis de Tocqueville

Pledges of allegiance are marks of totalitarian states, not democracies. I can’t think of a single democracy except the United States that has a pledge of allegiance.

-David Kertzer

The very existence of the state demands that there be some privileged class vitally interested in maintaining that existence. And it is precisely the group interests of that class that are called patriotism.

-Mikhail Bakunin

 

 

A problem with treating patriotism as an objective virtue is that patriotisms often conflict. Soldiers of both sides in a war may feel equally patriotic, creating an ethical paradox. (If patriotism is a virtue, then the enemy is virtuous, so why try to kill them?)

-Wikipedia

The heights of popularity and patriotism are still the beaten road to power and tyranny; flattery to treachery; standing armies to arbitrary government; and the glory of God to the temporal interest of the clergy.

-David Hume

Patriotism … is a superstition artificially created and maintained through a network of lies and falsehoods; a superstition that robs man of his self-respect and dignity, and increases his arrogance and conceit.

-Emma Goldman

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

-George Bernard Shaw

Patriotism is a arbitrary veneration of real estate above principles.

-George Jean Nathan

Patriotism ruins history.

-Goethe

In the United States, doing good has come to be, like patriotism, a favorite device of persons with something to sell.

-H. L. Mencken

Men in authority will always think that criticism of their policies is dangerous. They will always equate their policies with patriotism, and find criticism subversive.

-Henry Steele Commager

During times of war, hatred becomes quite respectable, even though it has to masquerade often under the guise of patriotism.

-Howard Thurman

Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.

-Samuel Johnson

When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.

-Sinclair Lewis

Heroism on command, senseless violence, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism – how passionately I hate them!

-Albert Einstein

I have no sense of nationalism, only a cosmic consciousness of belonging to the human family.

-Rosika Schwimmer

I am not an Athenian or a Greek, I am a citizen of the world.

-Socrates

I have no country to fight for; my country is the earth, and I am a citizen of the world.

-Eugene V. Debbs

Our country is the world, our countrymen are all mankind.  We love the land of our nativity, only as we love all other lands.  The interests, rights, and liberties of American citizens are no more dear to us than are those of the whole human race.  Hence we can allow no appeal to patriotism, to revenge any national insult or injury.

-William Lloyd Garrison, Declaration of Sentiments, Boston Peace Conference 1838

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

It is lamentable, that to be a good patriot one must become the enemy of the rest of mankind.

-Voltaire

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