Patriotism: Defending Independence
Patriotism has its
life in the hearts, the actions, the spirit of men and so it must be
daily earned and refreshed - else like a flower cut from its life-giving
roots, it will wither and die.
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Independence Day, which falls on February 4, is a day of celebration
for all of us and a day of remembering what we owe to our country. It is
a day of remembering how fortunate we are to be able to live in a nation
which is based on freedom and liberty. It is a day of remembering to
continue to be patriots who love their country and zealously support and
defend it and its interests. Celebrations are just one small part of
I asked my 12-year-old niece, “What does patriotism mean to you in this
period?” She replied, “To me it means that I care about my country and
that we are free and we should always be loyal to our flag.” A beautiful
answer! Maybe, I could not expect someone thrice her age to give such a
distinct and clear-cut answer.
At first sight it would seem to be a very simple thing to define
patriotism and to explain its meaning. It is not so simple. Yet we have
always been taught that patriotism is love of one's country. Is there
anything obscure in the terms composing this definition? Well, in the
first place “love” is one of those words that have almost lost definite
meaning owing to vagueness of usage and even positive misuse. “Country”
is a term that has many meanings. Is it fatherland, motherland,
homeland, birthplace or native country? I believe it is the last that is
the specific term for the definition of patriotism.
However, what is more important than the term is the entity covered
by the term “country” when we speak of love of country. Patriotism is an
instinct almost as natural as the love of kith and kin, which needs no
defining. But if we would acquire an intelligent grasp of the nature of
patriotism and of the motives which justify it, above all if we would
defend it against its adversaries, we must analyse the notion of
Of course, this term country takes on substance, colour,
significance, emotional content only when spoken of the particular land
that is one's own. One may look on that land as something of a mother:
we owe to it our very life and being. It has nourished our bodies with
its substance; it has in some sort moulded our very souls.
It is surely not for nothing that from childhood we have looked upon
its landscapes, even if we be those rare beings that have not learned to
love them. Its skies, its weather, its woods and fields and hills, its
towns and villages all have coloured our imagination and become part of
our innermost being. After all, this land of ours is our home, in a
sense it is part of us and we, of it. It is as natural to normal human
beings to love their native land as it is to love their home and family.
Seeing it with eyes of affection he/she sees in it beauties and
excellences which the foreigner may fail to see. This then is the first
element included in the idea of country as the very term shows clearly -
our country, and our native land.
The second element is our firm belief that this land of ours is the
land of our fathers. The generations that have gone before us have
toiled to make it what it is. It is the fruit of their labour and sweat
or the outcome of their brains and skill. Or perhaps they have died in
its defence. In its soil they have been laid to rest. This feeling for
the soil that holds the dust of countless generations of our kinsfolk
and countrymen may be merely latent, may tend in this age of ours to die
away. It is nevertheless a reality and an element in the idea of
The third element is the idea of the people. Our country is not
merely the ancestral lands, even for the few who own any such. We feel
it to be the common possession of the people to which we belong, of our
race and nation.
These then would seem to be the three constitutive elements of the
idea of country, each of them an outward and concrete reality. “Native
land” situates it in space, “land of our fathers” links it with the
past, “our people” fixes it in the present and beckons it towards the
future. We love our country because it is the land of our birth, because
it is the land of our forefathers, and because it will be the land of
those who shall come after us, perhaps of our sons and daughters.
Besides these outward and concrete elements, the idea of country may
be said to have spiritual elements too, largely the same as those that
go to constitute nationality, but seen from a different standpoint.
Considered in relation to the nation they are factors making for
distinctiveness from other nations and for oneness within the nation.
Considered in relation to country they are parts of the national
heritage, spiritual goods handed down from generation to generation.
Thus there is the national language which has come to us from past
generations instilled with the spirit of one's people, a precious
heritage indeed. There is the national literature and the national art
in which the genius of the race has expressed itself. There is the
national history, a treasury of sad and glorious memories.
All these are part of the national heritage, elements of the idea of
country. When we speak of love of country all these things and more
besides are embraced by that love..
We are now perhaps in a position to distinguish the idea of country
from certain other kindred notions - state and nation. The State is
simply a collectivity gathered under a sovereign authority or government
which rules over the territory inhabited by that collectivity.
It may include several nations or parts of nations. A country is the
long growth of centuries; a State may be formed overnight.
Country and nation
The distinction between country and nation is perhaps not so easy to
explain. Commonly they are the same entity, but looked at from a
different point of view. The nation is an entity whether looked at by
friend or foe, citizen or foreigner; it is a country only to the
individuals who compose it and perhaps not to all of these.
In Ireland not so long ago, there were individuals not a few who,
though Irish by nationality, spoke of “this country” and “our country”
and meant - Great Britain. Again there are emigrants, thoroughly loyal
citizens of their new country, who still look back with longing and
regret to the “old country,” their true fatherland, which they have quit
These distinctions made, we can now define with some degree of
adequacy what we mean by “our country” as the object of patriotism. We
can say that it is the entire heritage transmitted to us by our
countrymen who have gone before us.
In that sense, patriotism is a noble sentiment as it is based on
devotion and selfless sacrifice of the people. It is the foundation that
holds the structure of the country. A man who hasn't this noble
sentiment lacks the sense of self-respect too. He is the weak link of
the country that can succumb to pressure and may not become slave
himself alone, but may assist the aggressor in making the whole nation
Sri Lanka has been prone to foreign attacks for centuries. It is
neither just a chance nor a sheer miracle that the country has
maintained old traditions and culture. During different periods there
have been patriots who sacrificed all they had to save the country from
The spirit remained undaunted. It was this patriotism that sustained
the nation and kept the culture intact of which we are proud today.