WILD LACK OF PATRIOTISM MILD
The sun at take-off is piercingly bright, richly gold and, seemingly, liquid. Goodbye Australia, I think as I try not to stare into it. Then I actually feel my heart flutter.
I should say that, occasionally, for no particular reason, my heart misses a beat. A doctor recently advised that this was within the bounds of normalcy, we have no heart trouble in the family and I have a good relationship with my heart, so I am content to simply enjoy the weird sensation that arises when it opts out momentarily. There’s a slight plummeting feeling in my body, much as one gets a fraction beyond the peak of a swing or the apex of a rollercoaster. This is not the same beat pattern I feel on the plane.
So what underlies this anomaly? Have I been physically moved by good old love of country?
I am not given to wild patriotism. I do sing the national anthem and know all but one of the lines. (‘For those who’ve come across the sea, we’ve boundless plains to share, something something something else, Advance Australia Fair’). I am grateful for the boundless gifts Australia offers: natural resources; democracy; hordes of people (original and from across the seas sometime in the last few hundred years) working tirelessly for others and the good of the nation and the world; clean air; schools striving to teach our children the skills and values of cooperation needed for our planetary society to function effectively. There is much to sing about ‘in joyful strains’.
But I don’t like vegemite or football or beer and I am filled with fury when I see that appalling car sticker telling passers-by to ‘F*** off, we’re full’. That’s not patriotism. That’s racism and inflated self-importance and fear…And amnesia about non-Aboriginal Australia’s origins. Whilst overseas, I won’t miss the daily reminders of Australia’s deplorable inaction on climate change or its treatment of indigenous Australians and refugees. I’ll be glad to escape the underlying premise that mega business is more important than little business or people or environment.
Obviously, much harm has been done by taking a belief in the merits and rights of a country and its compatriots, too far. Swearing allegiance to flag or country or god may lead us to overlook the rights of others. Obsession posing as love is chilling in its potential for destruction.
Is patriotism an outmoded concept in these days of the global community where other countries are seen in their richness through readily accessible global travel (both physical and vicarious) and access to goods, services, ideas and cultural artefacts from other nations?
If I have an affinity, or even love, for another or more than one other country, if I care for it and its citizens, feel linked to its past and future, am I by definition, lacking in patriotism?
Didn’t the first images of earth from space serve to remind us that we are people of one place? And don’t advances in technology provide images and objects that continually reinforce this notion?
But back to my fluttering heart.
Do I possess a latent patriotism that will rear its (potentially) ugly head whenever I leave my birth country?
As I gaze out the aeroplane window I hear my childhood self singing Dorothy McKellar’s Sunburnt Country at ANZAC ceremonies. ‘Core of my heart, my country’. Yes, those are rousing words that call across the years at a visceral level.
But it’s the celebration of the rich diversity of the geography and the majesty of the land, that really captures me. And you know what? I like its shape too. It’s not a shape I would kill for or consider superior to other shapes. It’s not a majesty unmatched across the world. But, yes, upon leaving, I realise that at least part of me is anchored in this ‘wide, brown land’.
Click here for some excellent quotes on patriotism.