My drug of choice is writing––writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Writers on Patriotism (Thursday's Three)

Writers--that is to say good writers (who are different from prolific writers, popular writers, and even skilled writers)--question things.  They question everything.  That's their job.  They look at the truths you hold to be self evident and they ask themselves "is this really self evident at all?"

The first thing that writers start to question is those ideas around them that seem woven into the fabric of the culture itself--the memes that others accept without challenge; those things repeated so often that they "feel" like facts, and they feel "natural," but they break down when examined.  (Like the idea that a bowl of cereal would be absolutely disgusting if made with human milk, but is perfectly acceptable and normal if the milk is from a COW.)

Naturally, one of the first things they encounter is the idea that one country is better than another.  Usually expressed in the astonishingly simplistic and egocentric sentiment.

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

But before you hate on writers too much for not letting pride swell their chests every time they see your native flag, you should probably also understand that they come away from the process of examination with the bullshit burned off.  Their examination is a crucible, and what is left after they scrutinize the claims of those who do not question is that which is pure, and usually closer to the truth.  Writers point out that the emperor has no clothes.  They call their country to be better, not because they hate pointing out its flaws, but for the same reason that a parent drives their child to excel.  Their love doesn't blind them to the faults they see.  It is a more pure love.  It is a more real love.

The highest patriotism is not a blind acceptance of official policy, but a love of one's country deep enough to call her to a higher plain.
George McGovern

Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.
Mark Twain

I love America.  I can't help it, I do--she's just got too much going for her to not love.  As a writer, I see her faults though, and they are many.  Some are like a cute little overbite, and others are  a gash running deep down her cheek that festers and weeps.  But she is beautiful.  Her soul is woven of higher principles and ideas that no one had ever tried before--ideas as revolutionary as the ability of a people to govern themselves.  She has the ability to change without needing to be replaced, and that is extraordinary.  And change she does.  Slowly, and often painfully, she lurches towards her promise of equality in an expression that her progenitors could not even have foreseen.

See what I mean about unblind patriotism?  Remember that before you are too hard on some writer calling bullshit on the other kind.

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