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A Patriot To A Nation Is A Traitor To Humanity

SCOOP EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first column from a new member of the Scoop Loop Martin LeFevre, a Californian. This column first appeared in June, but it remains equally apt today. Welcome to Scoop Martin!

To Be A Patriot To A Nation Is To Be A Traitor To Humanity

Meditations - From Martin LeFevre in California

This is that time of year when graduations seem to follow on one another like waves breaking on a beach. Most are as quickly forgotten, along with the earnest and cliché-ridden speeches given by students and guest speakers. But if one listens between the lines this year, one can hear whispers of change.

I attended one such rite of passage recently, the high school graduation of a nephew. On a windy evening marked by a brilliant orange sun sliding toward the horizon, we sat on a football field amongst thousands of other citizens from this bucolic American town, and watched the ceremonies.

Though people seemed friendly and in decent mood, a muted pall hung over the crowd as the booming loudspeaker instructed everyone to turn around, face the flag, place hand over heart, and recite the pledge of allegiance. The recitation was followed by the national anthem, during which half the audience faced in one direction, toward the flag, while the other half turned around and faced the graduating students. That contradiction seemed to bespeak the confused mood in this country.

I said nothing and sang nothing. My hand was not on my heart because my heart was in my stomach. I am repulsed by all the mindless displays of patriotism that have been going on continuously in the USA since the terrorist attacks nearly two years ago.

Why do these colored cloths, modern symbols of humankind's ancient tribalism, continue to mean so much to so many people? Perhaps because in these times of real and manipulated insecurity, people are turning to their perceived tribe for security, even though such identification is the cause of increasing insecurity.

In a global society, identifying with a particular country or group directly contributes to conflict, violence, and war. Where there is division, there must be conflict. Why don't more people understand that to be a patriot to a nation is to be a traitor to humanity?

Despite, or because of all the absurd flag worship, many of the student's remarks contained an implicit weariness and muted anger at all the patriotic claptrap in America.

Between the lines of the unabashed sentimentality that marked the student's speeches, there were intimations that maybe, just maybe, the human race is not incorrigible. I realize I'm going out on a limb in saying that during these dark times.

One young man quoted some sage about how people don't learn anything from history. Another made mention of the world marching toward more weapons and war, rather than moving toward cooperation and peace. There were references, by students too young to be so worldly-wise, to underlying emotions and subtly defiant attitudes.

This disposition is largely subconscious. Adolescents in America have become extremely adept at saying one thing on the surface to placate parents and teachers, while doing another with friends to fit into the crowd and party their problems away for awhile. There is an astounding absence of reflection and critical thinking generally, which has produced a high level of cynicism.

Another nephew, who scored amongst the highest in the nation on standardized exams, patriotically wanted to do more during Gulf War II. He was even sorry he couldn't serve in the army. I was dismayed to hear this, but when I was his age (he has one more year of high school), I believed the propaganda of the time too, and was ready to go to Vietnam.

At the end of history, all history is present in each of us. The future belongs to the self-knowing. Will humankind quit venerating symbols of division? Will the human race at last grow up?


- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. I have been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe for 20 years. Email The author welcomes comments.

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