Never has so simple an emotion - love of one's own country - invoked in so many people so complex a feeling.
This is not because loving one's country is hard; on the contrary, it is one of the most natural and intutive thing to do.
What's complicated is that this emotion has now been hijacked and employed in the worship of false Gods. It's that kind of love, which, in the service of demagouges, is built of hate, of violence, of exclusion. It is one emotion which needs sanction from others, a feeling whose shape must conform to expectations - in summary, an artificial thing!
However, even in these troubled times, the way out of this is not stopping to love one's country - that's impossible for a normal human being - but to think carefully about what loving one's country means. It's about reflecting where love turns to hate and why and how this love, our great source of inspiration and strength, makes us gullible to manipulation.
First, let's start perhaps with this question: Do we love the country because it's the best, the most beautiful and the most special in the world? Indeed, if such a comparison was possible and such a perfection existed, we would need no effort to be in awe of it. But easy love - not purified by pain, doubt and sacrifice - is not a worthy feeling. Rather, we love our country because it's our country, because it's part of us, like our parents, our food and our language. It's indeed the most beautiful to us, but this beauty is not crowned in a competition but discovered and understood privately, like that of our mother rather than that of a model.
Second, we should ask whether loving our country meant we shouldn't see its faults. If a country is full of compliant, uncritical citizens, however, this will surely mean decay and destruction. Because, if we accept our countries are perfect - and can't see any of its faults - then there would be nothing we should work to improve. It's appropriate to say that your country is the one you could be ashamed for, because this is one for which your heart beats and this is the one you would see bettered. Again, we come back to the question of effort and commitment: If there is no shortcoming, nothing to improve, we get into a realtionship with our country that requires no effort or commitment.
Third, we should also ask if loving our country means we can't appreciate any other country in the world. This may be the case if we love our country the way we do our favourite actress, being a fan and giving a certain loyalty and devotion. But this will not be the case if we love it the way we love our mothers, as a part of us, imperfect but inextricably our own, may be poor but the most comforting. This will leave us capable of loving all other countries that hold its people in love and attachment, just as we find all motherly love and affection adorable. This will also make us capable of understanding the love that others may have for their own countries and help us appreciate the effortful relationship that people have entered into with their countries, now or in the past.
A beauty pageant entrepreneur may indeed think loving one's country is about checking its bust size and checking on the charm of its smile, but those who really 'gave their last full measure of devotion' and loved their countries without ever stopping, they would recognize the above sentiments. The argument simply is that the love for one's country is not competitive (as in loving better), temporal (as in making love) or transactional (that I love it when it loves me), but natural, persistent and unconditional. This loving relationship needs to effort to enter but complete commitment and lifelong work in return, just as any such loving relationship will do; this love also allows us to love everyone who is capable of love and appreciate all the other countries which embraces its citizens in a loving relationship. No one is anti-national in this love, except those who put their private interests first and try to manipulate their fellow citizens in the name of love of their country.
Of course, there are many of this kind: The motley fascists of all nations and their train of profiteers and babus, whose love of country is all too facile, all too fast and only on facebook. They love only power and their only claim of loving their country is through calling other people anti-national. Love of the country, for them, is one big excuse, a relationship of exploiting the advantages but not taking any of the responsibilities. This manifests itself in the language of exclusivity and exclusion, in the advertisement of ardour and rejection of any possibility of improvement. For them, a enemies of the people are always handy to prop the claim that all criticisms are unjust conspiracies.
We all know people of this kind: Career patriots are eating the world! They are driving our societies to the precipice, exploiting our most noble sentiments to create the most vicious relationships possible, corrupting great republics and breaking the nations. It's this kind we must remain vigilant of. We should say - never again - and reject the temptation of loving our countries through hate.
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