Old Diary


I have never understood why patriotism is held up as a virtue. After all, patriotism assumes that other people, other ideas, other ways of being are somehow inferior and I just don’t agree.

Conceit, arrogance and egotism are the essentials of patriotism…. Patriotism assumes that our globe is divided into little spots, each one surrounded by an iron gate. Those who have had the fortune of being born on some particular spot consider themselves nobler, better, grander, more intelligent than those living beings inhabiting any other spot. It is, therefore, the duty of everyone living on that chosen spot to fight, kill and die in the attempt to impose his superiority upon all the others.
— Emma Goldman, “What is Patriotism?”

A great many of the world wars have been started and fought because someone thought they were better than someone else.  They may not have said it in those words, they may have claimed the war was over oil, or tea, or water, but it still comes down to the fact that someone else had something that they wanted and they were willing to kill, and maim, and pillage and rob in order to get what they wanted over the interests of someone else.

Patriotism is fundamentally a quirk of birth.  You happened to be born in a certain place and doggone it all you ought to stand up to anyone born somewhere else just because….

It really doesn’t make any sense at all.

Sometimes I even wonder about those wars we’ve fought in the name of democracy, or freedom, or such ideas as that.  Surely, if you look around us, you can see that people in other countries are able to live perfectly content lives, but perfectly different lives than we.  They may not have the same things, or the same ideals, or the same wants as we, but that does not make them less than ourselves.  It only makes them different.  Surely, difference alone isn’t enough to go out and kill them, is it?

Or is it?  We’ve been killing people different from ourselves since we were a nation. Maybe it’s the only language this country understands:  the ways of war.   After all, we have hardly not been at war since 1776.  We may be the world’s all time leader in percentage of our existence spent fighting other people.


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