The Nature of Patriotism

Ladies and gentlemen, we live in troubled times.  Everyone seems to agree on that, even if opinions differ widely on the source of the troubles.  Terrorism, extremist ideologies, a looming energy crisis, environmental degradation, the likes of Paris Hilton running around without a leash.  The list goes on.  What’s a good civic-minded citizen to do at the dawn of the 21st century?  What can we as individuals do?

This site aspires to begin a reasoned and constructive discussion of these issues (well, maybe not the Paris Hilton bit)—how we got in the fix we’re in, and how we can muster our collective ingenuity to get through it, to leave our grandkids and their grandkids a humane, functional society and the healthy environment necessary to support it.

The fundamental premise of the Natural Patriot is that our common future depends on a new and universal ideal of patriotism appropriate to the new Millennium.  Natural Patriotism.  Every society that has faced great challenges and overcome them has done so through a strong sense of shared purpose born of love of the homeland, along with sacrifice, hard work, and new ways of thinking.  In a word, through active patriotism.

Patriotism is Natural in both senses of the word.  First, it’s natural in the sense of being instinctive to love the land of one’s birth and upbringing.  But patriotism is also natural in the literal sense of being rooted in nature.  Why else do we refer to the nation as “the land”?  Because the land sustains us—the land, the waters, the soil, the animals and plants.  When we sing “America the Beautiful”, we are not singing about shopping malls, or the tax code, or free enterprise, though all of these are important in their own ways.  No.  We sing of spacious skies, amber waves of grain, purple mountains’ majesty, and shining seas.  What would America be without these?  What kind of physical and spiritual poverty would come of an America where this hymn devolves to dry and hollow words, unrecognizable to those singing it with a hand over their hearts?  Well, my fellow Americans, it’s time to wake up—all the signs suggest that, unless we dedicate ourselves to preventing it, our young children or perhaps theirs will be the first generation in American history to find out.  That persistent ringing alarm you’ve been hearing is not a dream after all.  Turning it off will require broadening our vision.

The Natural Patriot’s creed is love of, and a strong moral of stewardship for, the homeland.  What sets us apart from the generic Patriot is a broader vision of the homeland, which includes not only the arbitrary nation of birth or the chosen nation of adoption but the entirety of the ever smaller world we all share.  And by the world is meant not just geography but what makes this world unique in the known universe—the interdependent web of life on which rest squarely our own life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.  What, in other words, is poetically called the Creation.  Today, in the new millennium, people, commerce, and information move largely unfettered across the invisible boundaries of nations, as do the plants and animals that, intentionally or otherwise, associate with us.  Whether we choose to recognize it or not, we are one world.

So we must be patriots for the planet.  Is this not treasonous?  Nonsense.  We are patriotic about our nation without betraying our state, and about our state without betraying our hometown.  Just so, we can be patriotic about our unique world while remaining loyal citizens of our own nations.  Indeed, unless we realize that our future and our security—in short, our life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness—are intimately intertwined with those of the other citizens of this earth, human and otherwise, we are doomed.

So, if Natural Patriotism strikes a chord with you, I invite you to join the conversation.  If it strikes discord with you, I invite you too.  Either way, there is a lot of work to do.

About Emmett Duffy

I am a Natural Patriot and an ecologist with expertise in biodiversity and its importance to human society. My day job is Professor of Marine Science at the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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One Response to The Nature of Patriotism

  1. Matt Duffy says:

    Bravo, NatPat. The alarm is indeed ringing, and we’ve been hitting snooze for too long. Hopefully the recent surge in media coverage of this issue will translate into greater political will to actually do something about it. In the meantime a continuing source of information/inspiration can only help.

    Let’s put the land back in homeland security!