“Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind.” - Albert Einstein
“All of nationalism can be understood as collective narcissism.” - Geoff Mulgan
Yesterday was July 4th, and whenever there are national or religious holidays I take pause to think about the origins and the meaning behind the occasion. I was born in the United States, and with the exception of a couple of short visits outside, I have been on this land my entire life.
In my youth I was full of fervor and believed what I said when we would recite the pledge of allegiance in school or at Boy Scouts. But my enthusiasm has waned considerably over the years.
I have watched war after war come and go, and in every case we find out – long after the fact – that we were lied to and manipulated by those that profit from war all along. I have watched the heads of industry yank the jobs away from the people who built the business and give them away overseas so they can make a few extra dollars. I have watched the media cover the secrets of those in power and the wretchedness of those they want to support while they exploit decent folks for headlines. I have watched the political arena change to the point that a politician has to sell their soul to the elites long before they get anywhere close to power. I have watched those that control the dollar wheedle and scam our currency to the point that it is only held up by thin air. I have come to realize that those who are in power – those that shout the nationalist themes the loudest could care less about their fellow citizens. The only thing that matters to them is their own power and wealth.
Not long ago I was asked if I would “fight for my country.” “Absolutely not” I replied. But if there must be conflict, I would show up – as a paramedic, as a chaplain, as an ambassador – anywhere I could be of service to try to assuage the misery caused by the cowards who started the conflict for their own personal gain.
But it goes way beyond this now. I have come to realize that I am a spirit experiencing a human journey. There are many other spirits in the same realm also experiencing journeys – this realm we call “Earth.” And what I find is that as soon as I join one group or another and identify myself as such it is at the exclusion of others.
Those that want me to “Be an American” want me by extension to be hostile to whomever it is popular to be hostile with that year. Those that want me to be a “___________” – fill in the blank with whatever religious or political term you want – want me to profess beliefs that make me “exclusive” because now I affirm that they have the “right answers” and everyone else is “wrong.” And as soon as I am "in," I am expected to demean and belittle others. Sometimes it is overt and sometimes covert, but it is always there.
I will give anyone who is trying to better themselves the shirt off my back and the shoes off my feet. It is not a question of my love for my fellow man. It is just that I no longer am a “joiner” – I am not going to identify my spirit, my own self-identity with other mortal’s transient and exclusive notions. Because as soon as I say “I am a ______,” I am always secretly saying that “I am not a ____” with the hidden inference that whole groups of other spirits are inferior to me, and in many cases I am saying that they are unworthy of this human experience altogether. This is beyond sick thinking – this is a disease of the mind.
I am a child of God. I am a spirit having a human experience. I know very little, and as I grow and experience I am getting skeptical about the remaining few things that I think I know. Beyond those couple of things, I am very hesitant to say I am anything.
Today, may I be pure of heart.