Seven paths to peace

The Path of Patriotism

He will look beyond national patriotism and consider himself as sharing responsibility for the advancement of international understanding, good will, and peace.

He will resist any tendency to act in terms of national or racial superiority.

(From the Outline of Policy in International Service.)

A PROFESSOR of Princeton University recalls his brief acquaintance with a sailor in San Francisco – a boy on his way home to Chicago after long service in the Pacific area. The magic of the city of the Golden Gate apparently made no impression on him. Asked why he did not like San Francisco , he pondered the question for a moment and then replied with conviction: “Well, this here town isn’t Chicago .”

“In a flash,” the professor remarks, “I felt that I understood more of the nature of nationalism than many a learned tome had ever taught me.”

Breathes there the man with soul so dead
Who never to himself has said:
“This is my own, my native land.”
Whose heart hath ne’er within him burned
As home his footsteps he hath turned
From wandering on a foreign strand?
If such there breathe, go, mark him well
For him no minstrel raptures swell:
High though his titles, proud his name,
Boundless his wealth as wish can claim –
Despite those titles, power and pelf,
The wretch, concentred all in self,
Living shall forfeit fair renown,
And doubly dying shall go down
To the vile dust from whence he sprung,
Unwept, unhonour’d, and unsung.

These unforgettable lines of Sir Walter Scott provide emotional overtones for that part of the Outline of Policy which states the premise for international service: Each Rotarian is expected to be … a loyal and serving citizen of his own country. It is taken for granted as a natural extension of the motto, “Service Above Self”.

Nationalism, often indicted for narrowness, is not really narrow in origin; in essence it is an expansive, generous attitude of which only “the wretch concentred all in self” is incapable. One Rotarian speaking at a convention of Rotary International recalled the Latin proverb: Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori (how sweet and seemly it is to die for the fatherland) and continued:

It takes a high order of patriotism to make a man willing to die for his country, but it takes an even higher order of patriotism to make a man willing to die, if need be, to make his country right when his country is wrong. Then patriotism, when it comes to its very climax, is that patriotism we find in one of Rotary’s principles where it talks about international good will and understanding, where it gets big enough to leap across national boundaries and encompass all humanity.

Looking back over man’s journey through the ages, this same impulse to leap over local barriers is discovered from age to age. As he crept into the shelter of a tribal cave, the primitive savage foreshadowed the dictum of the philosopher Hobbes that “the life of man without society is poor, mean, nasty, brutish, and short.” When tribes resisting an invader submitted to a common order of battle, the seeds of a larger relationship were planted. Later, there were moats, bridges, and walls to hold the communities inside – and the intruders outside. With growth of communication and expanding horizons of men’s interests and enterprises, cities and states began to merge into nations.

The process is vividly personalized in Bernard Shaw’s play, Saint Joan, where the Earl of Warwick and the Bishop of Beauvais are discussing the Maid’s appeal as a menace to their feudal interests. They marvel that a simple peasant girl could look beyond her farm and village to conceive of France as her country. Yet indeed she did, and her countrymen rallied eagerly to her vision. “The old order changes, giving place to new.” Normans, Bretons, Gascons, and the rest emerge as Frenchmen devoted to homeland.

Similarly, a “new order” was articulated by a Japanese student who wrote the winning essay in an international understanding and good will contest sponsored by a Rotary club. She wrote:

Each country has its own peculiar way of life, cultivated through her long history and acclimatized to her natural circumstance; to such a way of life only one principle can not be applied. As the proverb says, ‘Every man in his humor’, each country is destined to have its own special character … It is absolutely necessary for all countries to understand each other’s character so as to promote mutual friendship and good will, before running the risk of opposition or strife …

Individual fundamental human rights must be respected, even if someone has a different idea from ours – because he is Man. In the same way, the sovereignty of a country must reasonably be respected, no matter how different there way of life may be. To expect the prosperity and welfare of one’s country alone – disregarding the happiness of others – is wrong … Only when we build up a firm, true friendship based on the generous approval of others, can we hope for the eternal peace of the world …

The path of patriotism, far from embarrassing the Rotarian, is proposed to him as the basis of international service. It leads to wider acquaintance, based on respect and mutual esteem. In the mind of the Rotarian there is no more contradiction between patriotism and international-mindedness than there is between being a good father of his family and being a worthy citizen of his community. Can the one, in fact, be accomplished without the other?

A contradiction does exist, however, in some minds. Perhaps the study of history, which Gibbon called “the register of the crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind”, contributes to this feeling. There is a kind of patriotism which is nourished by grievances and fears, which exists mostly to foment hatred and hysteria for selfish ends, and which becomes, in the words of Doctor Johnson, “the last resort of scoundrels”.

The best defense against this kind of patriotism is a more careful examination of national pride and of the directions toward which it leads. Would not the people of your country – any country – be happier and safer if the foe of today were transformed into a friend? It can happen. It is happening, and it has happened repeatedly throughout history. For centuries the French and the English were at daggers drawn. They disputed the supremacy of Europe in bitter warfare – on the continent and over the seven seas from the wildernesses of America to the steaming swamps of India . Later, they became friends. To the embattled patriots of bygone days this friendship might be incredible treason, yet both countries have benefited in security and prosperity. Much of the progress of the great nineteenth century became possible when the enmity between England and France were laid to rest.

Probing even deeper, do we love our country because of the hatred and fear she evokes in men of other nations? Or, is not that hostility a source of shame and sorrow? Do we not glory in our country’s contribution to the spiritual, cultural, and material progress of mankind? And is not the true patriot the person who enlarges the glory of his land by projecting his service beyond its boundaries?

Through much analysis, the true patriot builds a strong defense. Looking beyond national patriotism, as suggested in the Outline of Policy, true patriotism justifies itself. Yet, in the process of self-justification there is danger. In the Outline, a warning immediately follows: He will resist any tendency to act in terms of national or racial superiority.

Now, the tables are turned. The critic is no longer outside in the person of the chauvinist. Now the enemy is seen as coming from within – from the human tendency to seek superiority. It is not easy to resist, so desperately we want to be right. And it is difficult to be right without being self-righteous.

A Chinese Rotarian illustrated the harm done to international relations by thoughtless, prideful assertions of superiority – among his own people along with the rest. He called it one of the major factors holding back the advance of civilization, the secret weapon of those who would divide in order to enslave.

The following letter, written in 1793 and sent from the emperor of China, Ch’ien Lung, to King George III of England, illustrates and ages-old, universal problem:

“You, O King, live beyond the confines of many seas; nevertheless, impelled by your humble desire to partake of the benefits of our civilization, you have dispatched a mission respectfully bearing your memorial. … I have perused your memorial; the earnest terms in which it is couched reveal a respectful humility … which is praiseworthy …

If you assert that your reverence for our Celestial Dynasty fills you with desire to acquire our civilization, our ceremonies and code of laws differ so completely from your own that, even if your envoy were able to acquire the rudiments of our civilization, you could not possibly transport our manners and customs to your alien soil. …

“Swaying the wide world, I have but one aim in view, namely, to maintain a perfect governance and to fulfill the duties of the state. Strange and costly objects do not interest me. If I have commanded that the tribute offerings sent by you, O King, are to be accepted, this was solely in consideration for the spirit which prompted you to dispatch them from afar. Our Dynasty’s majestic virtue has penetrated into every country under Heaven, and kings of all nations have offered their costly tribute by land and sea. As your ambassador can see for himself, we possess all things. …”

Yet, within our own persons we carry around this tendency to trumpet our superiority. IT is often seen in tourists and those who live abroad, in the reception of immigrants, or in the treatment of persons of another race. Brutal assertions of national or racial superiority are no more bitterly remembered than half-conscious gestures of condescension. They are entered into the record of wrath that poisons international relations.

A Rotarian and his wife from Texas , U.S.A. , were traveling in France and stopped at a small village inn for the night. The lady at the registration desk must have heard of Texas , for she smiled knowingly at the wide-brimmed hat worn by the man. When she heard him say, “My wife and I would like a room for the night,” she reddened and stammered a little.

“You do have rooms, don’t you?” the man asked.

“Oui, monsieur, we have rooms, but they are not what you Americans say – moderne. They are not the best, monsieur.”

“Madam,” said the man from Texas , “where we come from all you need is a blanket and a pile of hay. We’ll be glad to stay with you.”

Of such is the record of personal humility and respect which brightens international relations.

We may be helped toward the path of genuine patriotism by reminding ourselves that, personally, we have added little to the store of our national or racial greatness, and that individually many persons of other nations and races surpass us in accomplishment. What is within our power is a willingness to serve through developing acquaintance with them.

Rotarians enjoy special privileges in the field of acquaintance; over the world, to cite one example, there are many Rotary clubs with different nationalities represented in their membership. Many clubs claim a score or more whose harmonious co-operation is regarded as an important service to the community, to say nothing of its broader implications for mankind. As conceived by one pioneer of Rotary:

If Rotary had been especially constructed to serve only in this capacity, it could not be a more perfect machine. It shocks no faith, for all religions are equally welcome within its portals. There are no secrets, no mysterious rites to raise doubts in the minds of non-Rotarians. And then, most happily, its great objective is simplicity itself, understandable to all men. What a splendid banner to emblazon to al suffering world.

It should be clearly understood, however, that the abolition of national, religious, and cultural differences is not a part of the Rotary program. On the contrary, the diversity of human expression is regarded as a matter for rejoicing, and never as a barrier to understanding and co-operation. In a world which is shrinking with each jet-propelled second, how dull it would be if this earth’s glorious variety were reduced to drab uniformity! Much of the pleasure – and yes, the fun – of international service is in discovery and appreciation of these cherished differences.

This is not to minimize the problems created by differences, for Rotarians in more that 100 countries and geographical regions have special reason for being aware of these problems. From the Union of South Africa comes a story of Rotary action in the face of differences and of danger, too. On the Wednesday following serious riots in neighboring towns, the Rotary club had arranged to sponsor a concert given by the prize-winners of a Bantu music festival. One of the trophies to be awarded was a gift from a Rotarian in the British Isles but, under the circumstances, the question was raised whether Rotarians should attend the concert with their wives.

Upon reflection, however, club members took heart from the progress which had been achieved locally in race relations through African ward elections, sporting clubs, and a determined attack upon housing problems. Rotarians turned out in force, with their families, for the concert.

This step was amply rewarded. In his closing speech the African chairman asked his largely African audience:

What is this Rotary movement, and how is it that a Rotarian from Great Britain has sent us a cup? These Rotarians believe that they must work for better race relations all over the world, and we Africans have seen with our own eyes how this group of Europeans is living up to this belief. We Africans must help these men with their work. We are progressing without violence. We do not need violence.

Progressing without violence. Could there be a more patriotic wish by any man of any country?

The path of patriotism is one path to peace; it offers opportunities for tangible, personal service by Rotarians in all countries. Incidents occur every day which challenge the true patriot to declare his interpretation of nationalism as generous and expansive way of life. For him, national holidays are not occasions of vainglorious boasting but reminders of his responsibility to help build respect for all peoples. He will use all the vehicles of acquaintance available to Rotarians in creating friendships with people of all nations and races, for therein lies the hope and glory of his own beloved land.