Thursday, October 24, 2013

How does one hate a country?

Wendy recently sent me a quote I found very enjoyable.  It was a line from Ursula K. Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness.

"How does one hate a country, or love one? Tibe talks about it; I lack the trick of it. I know people, I know towns, farms, hills and rivers and rocks, I know how the sun at sunset in autumn falls on the side of a certain plowland in the hills; but what is the sense of giving a boundary to all that, of giving it a name and ceasing to love where the name ceases to apply? What is love of one's country; is it hate of one's uncountry? The it's not a good thing. Is it simply self-love? That's a good thing, but one mustn't make a virtue of it, or a profession... Insofar as I love life, I love the hills of the Domain of Estre, but that sort of love does not have a boundary-line of hate. And beyond that, I am ignorant, I hope." -Estraven

It is essentially another way of phrasing what I have said many a time - that basing one's love of or concern for a person on which side of an invisible line they were born is foolish and destructive.  While "I love Canadians" is a fine thing and all I can't find any justification for not saying "I love people" instead.  The first implies that your love of a person you don't know is contingent on the approval of an immigration official or the line agreed upon by a bunch of old guys hundreds of years ago.  If they agreed that the border should be the fiftieth parallel instead of the forty ninth should one suddenly cease to be so concerned about those Canadians living right near the US right now?  Strange indeed. 

I harp on this because I think nationalistic thinking truly is a danger.  It is far harder to condone drone strikes, bombing runs, or terrorist acts against someone who is just a person than it is to condone them against a person that is categorized as Other.  The more we agree that people we don't know should all be treated similarly the harder it becomes to assault them and the less buy in politicians can accept for wars or other atrocities they propose.

1 comment:

  1. Threre's a strawman in there. The love of country isn't about physical things at all. That would be like saying that someone with the "love of baseball" has the love invested trapped in a particular baseball field, when, if all baseball fields were destroyed, people with the love of baseball would still get together and play because they love the game. "Love of country" is also about the abstract, not the physical. Making it about just the physical makes for an easy target, when it's really about loving the idea of a country, which doesn't even have to physically exist.

    And there's nothing particularly wrong with loving a country that way, it's ideals, it's principles, what it stands for... the problem is when it becomes abstracted further and becomes blind jingoism.