Wednesday, August 27, 2008

On Patriotism "the world as it should be"

'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 - A Defense of Patriotism


All of us driven by the simple belief that the world as it is just won't do, that we have an obligation to fight for the world as it should be.

And that is the thread that connects our hearts. That is the thread that runs through my journey and Barack's journey and so many other improbable journeys that have brought us here tonight, where the current of history meets this new tide of hope.

And, you see, that is why I love this country.

-- Michelle Obama - 2008 Democratic National Convention


I was listening to the Monday evening keynote address by Michelle Obama. And the lines that I remember, is when she talks about love of country, and of what she, and others strive for, that we committed ourselves to building the world as it should be.

This is the best form of patriotism can hope for. G.K. Chesterson has a illustration of Pimlico,

It is not enough for a man to disapprove of Pimlico: in that case he will merely cut his throat or move to Chelsea. Nor, certainly, is it enough for a man to approve of Pimlico: for then it will remain Pimlico, which would be awful. The only way out of it seems to be for somebody to love Pimlico: to love it with a transcendental tie and without any earthly reason. If there arose a man who loved Pimlico, then Pimlico would rise into ivory towers and golden pinnacles; Pimlico would attire herself as a woman does when she is loved. . . . If men loved Pimlico as mothers love children, arbitrarily, because it is THEIRS, Pimlico in a year or two might be fairer than Florence. Some readers will say that this is a mere fantasy. I answer that this is the actual history of mankind. This, as a fact, is how cities did grow great.

Patriotism, like love in its best forms, should not be blind. It had a loyalty, not because its object is perfect, or even that its object is great. But because of what the object of that loyalty can be. And the expression of that patriotism is the desire for what could be, to become true. And for Michelle Obama to speak of working for "the world as it should be" is to talk of patriotism and love of this nation in its finest form. I remember, back in April, Barack Obama's speach after his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, USMC (Ret.) refused to repudiate his talk of racial hate. Barack Obama then spoke of "a more perfect union." A desire to see his country become greater than it is, because that is the way it should be, not what it is now.

The contrast is discussed by C.S. Lewis. The opposite of patriotism and love is not hate, it is cynicism. The view that things will never be great, that patriotism and love are tools of manipulation to protect a history of lies and iniquity.

To listen to a Michelle Obama or a Barack Obama, or to read an essay by G.K. Chesterton or C.S. Lewis, you have options on the kind of world you want to live in. One that can think of a world or nation or city that can be, or one that prefers to remember the lies, deceits, hatreds and destruction that has created the wrongs one sees.


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