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Saturday, September 26, 2020

Patriotism; far beyond waving or burning of flags

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A patriot is also defined as “one who maintains and defends his country’s freedom or rights.” Looking at the above definitions, I have come to the conclusion that patriotism generally means standing by one’s country. It does not mean standing by a government or any public official! A true Patriot is therefore someone who supports — or opposes — the policies of a government or leaders, exactly to the degree that such policies are right — or wrong — by the democratic standards of justice and fairness. This means support any idea or decision based on the interest of a nation or justice to its people, and oppose anything that is against their interest or happen to be an act of injustice

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Webster’s Dictionary defines patriotism as, “one who loves his or her country and supports its authority and interests.” I find this definition to be insufficient. By this definition, when a government commits genocide in the name of its “interests,” a patriot of that country would be someone who supports that government’s authority to do so because of its interests. Patriotism does mean loyalty, but it means loyalty to the deepest principles of human life as the lens through which we evaluate justice or injustice at home and abroad – supporting and defending a nation in its fight for those universal interests, denouncing and resisting a nation in its attempts to undermine or attack those universal interests. 

Throughout history, governments confine their citizens by relentlessly brainwashing their minds with the evils of past colonial masters, communists and foreigners who are deemed to have nothing better to do than to find ways and means to overpower those who are weaker. Indeed, it is a duty to all to try and know their important past and that’s why we learn history but whatever the vicissitudes of our life in the past, it is evident we have gone through it and should focus on working towards building a better future for generations to come. 

Who are the true patriots, the flag wavers or the flag burners? The answer depends on the context of the situation, because true patriotism means thinking critically and acting accordingly at any cost. It means asking questions about, not simply accepting without thinking, the course of one’s nation, and being willing to receive answers even when those answers hurt. It means that as well as the easy task of praising our successes and strengths we must also find the courage to speak out against our wrong actions and behavior. A true Patriot accepts the reality that no nation, no matter how great, is free from mistake making or from the temptation to do things in the name of its ideologies that undercut the very foundation of the life principles supporting our deepest convictions as human beings.

True patriotism is in part standing by our deep convictions on a personal level, even if those convictions may put us at odds with majority opinion at some points in time, as well as advocating and promoting those convictions for the nation as a whole to which one belongs. 

True Patriotism also means resolving that the convictions we do hold as sacred be determined under the guidance of life principles such as social equality, equal protection under the law, recourse to due process, the sustaining of civil liberties and the fight for human rights and human dignity not merely on one continent or for one group of people, but for all human life. 

The true ptriot is one who struggles to defend these convictions and promote them within the very structure of the country that he or she holds dear. “True patriotism hates injustice in its own land more than anywhere else”. This saying by Clarence Damon should be the guiding principle of every true patriot

Can it be so cheap therefore that a few gestures and feelings make one patriotic? The answer is a resounding no! Waving a flag can be an outward sign of patriotism but we must not cheapen the term by over suggesting that it is anything more than a sign. Burning the flag of a country can equally be judged as being patriotic. But is it always the case? No, because some burn flags of other countries to vent their anger against foreign policies that are generally in the interest of humanity. 

Voting is believe by many as a sign of patriotism but I believe that showing up at a polling station to vote should  not be out rightly judged as an act of a patriotism. One needs to know what motivates one to head to the polls. He or she might be casting a ballot just because he or she wants something at someone else’s expense. This makes such voter careless about where the politician he is voting for is heading. 

A person doesn’t have to leave his or her family to fight in another country in order to show patriotism, he can instead focus on bettering his country in various other ways.

I therefore subscribe to a patriotism rooted in ideas that in turn gave birth to a country and hence continue to be thankful to the likes of Edward Francis Small, IM Garba Jahumpa, Pierre Sarr Njie, Alhaji Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara and all other great men and women who fought so hard for the birth of my beloved country – The Gambia.

 

Mustapha Mbye is producer and presenter Gambia Radio and Television Services.

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