Thoughts on patriotism
There are people today who hate patriotism. Some of them think patriotism causes wars - they have never heard of greed, envy, fear and oppression as the more likely causes.
Others believe that if we love our country we must hate other countries, and that we lack the enlightenment of those who think nothing of their own country, but love "the Earth".
Does this make sense? If you love your children, do you automatically dislike or detest other people's children?
If you are like the people I know, you love other children, not only your own. You love the friends of your children, and children you hardly know whose laughter you have shared and whose tears you have dried.
In the same way many people who love their country, and are patriots, have travelled to other countries, and come to love their people and their "rocks and rills, woods and templed hills".
David points out that it is really impossible to love anyone else unless you love yourself first. This idea was part of Christ's wise and tender command to love others as we love ourselves. It appears to be a psychological law.
In the same way, how can we love another country if we don't love our own country? Some say it is possible. They say their country is imperfect and therefore cannot be loved. They would prefer to love a country where they do not live.
Forgive me, but I doubt their wisdom.
Dr Johnson famously said that "patriotism was the last refuge of a scoundrel". For the last hundred years this comment has been interpreted as a pointed criticism of patriotism.
Why is it not a pointed criticism of a scoundrel.
Rupert Brooke lived for three years in Grantchester. His poem "Soldier" has long been held in contempt by those, I think, who do not love -
If I should die, think only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England.
There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England's, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.
To read this poem is to see love, and to turn in thought to the dear, humble landmarks and kind people of your own country. If you do, you are a patriot.
And if you are called to sacrifice for your country, you will respond with love.