Patriotism: opponents of the regime = traitors of the nation?

Sep 7, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; General view of the playing of the national anthem with a United States flag on the field before the NFL game between the Oakland Raiders and New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports – RTR459LN

In 1791, the Scottish writer and memoirist James Boswell published a book titled, “The Life of Samuel Johnson”, dedicated to the life and work of the English critic and poet of the Enlightenment era, Dr. Samuel Johnson, whose name became famous in the English-speaking world in the second half of the 18th century. This book is often called the greatest, biography written in English.

I remember a scene from that book, at the Literary Club in 1775, in which Dr. Johnson, during a heated debate about the political events of that time, began to talk about how many politicians and public figures use the concept of patriotism as a cover for their own personal interests. Then, in a strong and resolute voice, he declared that: “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel!”

Changing benchmarks

Symbolically or not, the United States of America have been around for almost the same amount of time as that book. The USA has given shelter to many generations of people around the world, and today it dictates the rules of the game not only in world politics, but also in many other fields. And in this regard it would be interesting to understand the how the world perceives the concept of”American patriotism”, especially in the post-Soviet space.

Today, many talk about multiculturalism, without having a clear idea of what it actually is. Once finding yourself in the United States and living there for some time, it is easier to understand the definition of multiculturalism which is one of the “aspects of tolerance of American society that requires the parallel existence of different cultures for their interpenetration, enrichment and development in line with the general mass culture.”

Today, after 200 years, multiculturalism in the United States primarily involves the inclusion of cultural elements from immigrant cultures from the countries of the “third world”, including those from the former colonies of the European countries. For many immigrants, the experience of mass inclusion in a multi-national society brings about a new understanding of nationalism and patriotism, different to that of the home country they have abandoned whose authorities still use nationalist and patriotic sentiments for their own interests…as was aptly noted by Dr. Samuel Johnson 200 years ago.

Two different forms of patriotism

It was interesting to see how in large cities in the United States, there are entire districts of different nationalities, from the Chinese and Koreans, Jews and Arabs, Pakistanis and Indians, and many other nations and nationalities living in the neighborhood and getting along well, whereas in their own countries they have fought for centuries and been brought up to hate each other. And most interestingly, all the representatives of these countries easily communicate in their own language, to preserve their culture in all its manifestations, including the organization of private schools in their own languages. At the same time, there is something that unites all of these people. And even though vastly different and various nationalities and people pour into American society, many of them find the same ‘American’ patriotism, which is fundamentally different from the patriotism they experienced in their own countries.

What is the reason for such a metamorphosis? Things could be very different: for example, immigrants from different cultures often run into each other during the many instances of form – filling and immigration appointments, and yet problems don’t seem to arise in between them for the differences in the color of their skin or their language or the way they dress.

Equality before God and the law

I came to the US just a few months after the terrible tragedy of September 11, 2001, and I also had to go through the paperwork procedure for residency and employment…but during all that time, no one at any time ever asked me anything about my nationality or religion.

More surprising, was my experience working in a private Jewish college in the USA. I sent in my resume for a vacancy I stumbled across in the paper. In that resume, there was information about the fact that I was born in Azerbaijan, and that I had previously worked in Yemen and Saudia Arabia…from which my potential employer easily understood that I am an Azerbaijani Turk and a Muslim.

I was shocked when I was invited for an interview at the college’s offices (remember, this was only a few months after 9/11). I was even more surprised when after 40 minutes of talking about very general topics, my interviewer announced that I was hired!

After six months of working there, after a brief meeting, I decided to ask the same man a question: “Why did you hire me, knowing who I am and where I’m from?” This professor of history stroked his gray beard and with a smile on his face told me: “If you came to this country, with your experience and education, it means that you have not been made to feel needed and welcomed in your own country. And the USA is not the Middle East. All people here are equal before God and the law. So, welcome to the USA!”

Theodore Roosevelt’s words

Many years have passed since then and I have become accustomed to many things while living in immigration. Many things in the US do not surprise me anymore, but whenever I watch the television or read various media when they talk about patriotism from the lips of different politicians, especially from countries with authoritarian or dictatorial regimes, then with the utmost precision, I begin to understand the deep meaning of the words spoken by Samuel Johnson.

Patriotism from the mouth of a democratic leader of a country where the rights of an ordinary person are at the forefront, including the rights of an immigrant recently arrived, is fundamentally different from the patriotism from Putin’s mouth or his other authoritarian counterparts in the world, including the authoritarian regime in Azerbaijan, where the criticism of the authorities is considered a matter of anti-patriotism – and all opponents of the Aliyev clan are automatically recorded as traitors of the motherland.

This article reflects the opinion of the author and as such may not coincide with that of Meydan TV.

ГлавнаяNewsPatriotism: opponents of the regime = traitors of the nation?