I Love My Country, and…….
- by Mary Liston Liepold
I’m a 60s person. I never burned a flag, but I washed one once, as a protest against yet another bout of flag-draped carnage. I consider myself a world citizen first and an American second.
Still, I remember the hand-over-heart, heart-swelling feeling of 4th of July parades in my mid-century Midwest childhood. Even as an adult I’ve experienced surges of patriotic pride, and I remember the occasions clearly: the naturalization ceremonies that made our two adopted children US citizens, jury duty instructions from Judge (now Attorney General) Eric Holder, and the inauguration of President Barack Obama.
Patriotism is real. But is it “the last refuge of scoundrels,” as Samuel Johnson famously said; “the measles of mankind,” as Einstein deemed it? Or is it an honorable “striving that our country shall be righteous as well as strong,” as the British historian James Bryce opined?
Over the last few weeks I’ve been asking women from around the world to tell me what patriotism means to them, and how it relates to peace. I’ve heard patriotism expressed as both a tender affection for the lands they love and a fierce, mama-lion determination to make them better.
Israel/Palestine: Planting the Seeds of Peace
Rula Salameh replied:
“For me as a Palestinian who was born and raised in Palestine, I feel that we are like all the nations in all the world. Palestine is our homeland, and we learned from the experience of our grandparents and our parents also that there is no place like home. We all have relatives who became refugees and who suffered a lot from this situation. We feel that we will stay here in Palestine, we will work hard to educate our kids and new generations that peace is possible. We need to do our homework: We need to plant seeds of peace, and by the end of the season we will collect the crop. Peace will arrive sooner or later.”
Yvette Nahmia-Messinas claims two homelands, both with their share of troubles. Yet she shares Rula’s determined optimism.
“Love of country for me consists of two stages. Young love is the love of beauty―the beauty of the particular places I most enjoyed while growing up in Greece: the islands of Aegina and Poros where I spent my summer holidays, and Litohoro, where I went to summer camp, as well as Athens, my home town. There is the beauty of nature: the local air, light, sea, vegetation, on the one hand, and the beauty of the local culture on the other: the smells, foods, music, language, literature, theatre, architecture, and dance of Greece.
Genuine, mature love of country, the second stage, is expressed through caring for the place and its people in deeds, working to collectively become a more loving, socially responsible, and accountable community. I consider both Greece and Israel as my countries and Athens and Jerusalem as my hometowns. My love towards Israel, which is my home for most of the year, is expressed through my commitment to make a difference in its civil society by teaching tolerance, openness to others, and co-existence. Loving Israel and Greece is manifest through work to make both places more balanced and healthy: tolerant, safe, peaceful, and sustainable places to live in.”
The USA: Work in Progress
After many visits to Israel and the Palestinian Territories, Peace X Peace founder Patricia Smith Melton has a strong heart connection to Rula and Yvette and many of their compatriots. Here’s her take on love of country:
“Patriotism requires your heart to love your nation and people, your mind to discern when they have made mistakes or stepped over moral lines, and your courage to do something about it when they have. Nations are not static. Being a good citizen is always a work in process.”
Samina Sundas, who lives in Palo Alto, California, would agree wholeheartedly.
“I was born in Pakistan, but I became a US citizen in 1979 because I loved the ideals of this great country. Post-Sept. 11 law has unfairly targeted Muslims, Arabs, and South Asians. This does not seem like the country I love so much, so I have dedicated all my time and effort to make this country truly a champion of human rights and work towards making it follow its guiding principles.
A true patriot loves his or her country and stands ready to serve, support, sacrifice, and protect it. Sometimes that may mean protection from one’s own government in the form of dissent against un-American values and unjust policies. Our flag is just a symbol of our great nation; it is our Constitution that makes this nation great. Active participation to make my country the best in the world is the essence of patriotism to my mind. Sometimes one has to do the difficult task of questioning the decisions our government makes. I’ll continue to use that right this great country has given me.
My love for this country is deep enough and secure enough to question, challenge, and face the shadows of the past or present. My love for this country inspires me to work toward building an inclusive, peaceful, and beloved nation every single day.”
Geraldine Lewis is an American who has lived and worked in Spain for 35 years. For her, the word patriotism evokes strong and specific memories as well as a global vision.
“April 1945: MY PRESIDENT IS DEAD. I was 10 years old, walking home from school in New York City, hearing of the passing of Franklin Delano Roosevelt . . . weeping, crying from my heart within my heart. I am a patriot, I love my country.
1952: SEGREGATION WAS FULL BLOWN in the southern USA. I was at college in California. On occasion I took the Greyhound bus cross-country by the southern route, sitting in the back of the bus with black women and men, talking and laughing together. When I exited the bus, the white people spat at me.
In the 1960s I took my children on many peace marches, some participating with Martin Luther King, and we all sang “We shall overcome some day.” Deep in our hearts, WE DO BELIEVE . . .
1970: KENT STATE COLLEGE, where young innocent students protested against the Vietnam War. The National Guard opened fire on them and shot to death and wounded many. I went to the elementary schools where my three children studied and pleaded with the principals to lower our American flag to half mast. Many months passed, and my three children wore black armbands in respect for the fallen.
September 11, 2001: On the 89th floor of the TWIN TOWERS my only son Adam Lewis, 36, youngest 0f my three children, worked as vice president of the company KBW. He did not leave his work, despite the fact that an airplane had already crashed into the first of the two towers. At home with my son’s wife Patty and my four baby grandchildren, doing daily life, feeding the children, baths, stories at bedtime . . . but Daddy was gone.
I understand better than most the tragedies that many families are experiencing from the useless wars all over our planet. Only when you have suffered from the same kind of experience are you able to comprehend the state of grief that seizes you.
My birthright is understanding the way of the future, a future shared by all without division or separation. I believe the voice of the people will grow ever stronger and more divine as more and more humanity everywhere begin to understand their needs and their extraordinary strengths, to claim their birthright, the right to live in PEACE AND HARMONY. I am an American. I am a patriot. I do believe!”
Afghanistan: Never Again Destroyed
Patriot and poet Alaha Ahrar appeals to her own generation to claim their birthright:
Heed my call, dear and brave Afghan youth! Let’s not follow the direction of our “leaders.” Just because they have power and ambition does not mean that they are knowledgeable and have the best interests of our country at heart. If we take seriously the teachings of Islam, then all Afghan leaders and ordinary citizens should behave in a way which shows love, concern for all people, and protection of the nation.
In order to be able to rebuild our country that has been destroyed by a group of selfish and misguided power-seekers, let’s do everything within our power to promote education and ethical values throughout the country and seek knowledge and education. Let’s all work together to build a house of peace and unity. Let’s all work together to deliver a positive message to those who have destroyed our country: that we are strong and want to give hope to the youth of Afghanistan. Afghan youth are the proud descendants of the Ariana and Khurassan of old, as well as today’s Afghanistan. Let’s all work together to rebuild our country through our own efforts and with God’s assistance. Then never again should we allow anyone to destroy the beautiful homeland that God graced with natural beauty and then gifted to the Afghan nation.
South Sudan: New Country, Old Violence
Harriet Dumba hails from oil-rich yet impoverished South Sudan, where a new Independence Day looks likely to be stained by blood. Partition was supposed to be a solution, but the fighting that has gone on for so long has intensified in several regions, and tens of thousands have been displaced. Harriet has a request for all of us, no matter our faith or flag.
“On July 9th, 2011, South Sudan becomes the world’s newest country. It is unfortunate that Africa’s largest country by landmass has fallen apart. As South Sudan celebrates its independence, many of our brothers and sisters in Abyei, the Nuba Mountains, and other areas are being massacred unmercifully.
In remembrance of the children, women, and men of Abyei, I invite you to join me and others around the world to WEAR RED on July 7th.
WEAR RED in support of South Sudan independence and the fallen hero and heroine.
WEAR RED to recognize the children, women, and men whose daily lives are tormented by the brutal acts of mankind’s wars.
I am asking you to WEAR RED because I know you care and want to see peace in Abyei, South Sudan, Sudan, Africa, and the world at large.
Growing up and witnessing the cruelty of wars and the pain of not being free, I surely concluded that our leaders in Sudan must have signed a treaty with death. Because otherwise, how could one inflict pain and loss of lives without remorse day after day, one area to another? How can such father and motherly figure of countries allow themselves to be used by death, sacrificing those they are supposed to protect and provide for?
I refuse to believe that leaders in Sudan are cold hearted. I believe that they are just humans like any ordinary person, but they are driven by greed and power, which will end. Knowing that one does not go with a bank account or other wealth and power to the next world, shouldn’t we as humans live an honorable life of giving joy rather than deprivation?
Is it too much to ask one’s God-given rights and peace? Is it human to determine another’s destiny, future, and way of life? I think everyone should have the opportunity to live, dream and grow.
Please join me in support of the children, women, and men of Abyei by wearing red on July 7th 2011. WEAR RED to show your support for the children, women and men of the world.”
As human beings, we relate naturally to people, not to abstractions. That’s why we imagine our nations as parents: either father (as in Latin patria, from pater) or mother (as in the Tagalog Inang Bayan, for the Philippine motherland). Yet no matter where we live, the time for childish, unquestioning obedience has passed. Dr. Harold Saunders, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State and negotiator of five Arab-Israeli treaties, once said, “There are some things only governments can do, such as negotiating binding agreements. But there are some things that only citizens outside government can do, such as changing human relationships.”
And in the end, it all comes down to human relationships.
- Report from Greece on U.S. Gaza Aid Flotilla + Obama Admin Warns of Fines and Incarceration for Gaza Aid Flotilla (dandelionsalad.wordpress.com)
- Can Israel ground the Gaza flotilla boats in Greece? (barenakedislam.wordpress.com)
- In Our Own Words ~~ Why We Are Sailing to Gaza (desertpeace.wordpress.com)
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