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Sunday, July 05, 2009

Patriotism/partisanship: not always a good idea

The Free Dictionary's definition of patriotism says, succinctly: "a devoted love, support, and defense of one’s country. . ." The Wikipedia article on the subject is here. A partisan is defined thus: "A fervent, sometimes militant supporter or proponent of a party, cause, faction, person, or idea." There is a Wikipedia article on Partisan.

Patriotism, or partisanship, can sometimes be a good thing, I guess, as, for example, when the Jews, or slaves in the US, helped each other against oppression and injustice. But, clearly, such devotion to country, ethnic group, tribe, political party and the like, can go way too far, and often has, leading to various kinds of evil, including war. Some church congregations or denominations will not display a US flag, perhaps because of the evils perpetrated in the name of various forms of partisanship or patriotism.

There is a terrible example of this in the book of Judges. Chapters 19-20 tell the story of how the men of one town in the tribe of Benjamin performed a horrible crime, or several such. The residents of Gibeah were not hospitable to a man passing through, then, later, wanted to sexually assault him, and, finally, sexually assaulted his concubine, so terribly that she died. When the rest of the Israelites demanded that the criminals be turned over for punishment, the entire tribe of Benjamin refused, even though the majority of them had no part in the crime, and, after the Benjamites killed many from the other tribes, the men of the tribe were almost completely wiped out.

Some actions should not be supported or defended, even if carried out by my country, my political party, my extended family, my socio-economic group.

Is it easy to go against your own group? No, of course not. But sometimes it is necessary.

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