Flat White

The political crevice on patriotism

6 April 2022

2:00 PM

6 April 2022

2:00 PM

It used to be the case that writers, including many who were radical and left-wing, would enter the fray. 

The poet Lord Byron fought in Greece in its war of independence against the Ottoman Empire, dying there from fever. 

Poets Robert Graves, Wilfred Owen, and Siegfried Sassoon enlisted early after the outbreak of the first world war with of a sense of patriotic duty. Their war poems are forever in the canon of world literature. 

George Orwell, the lanky reporter, essayist, and novelist, and man of the left, volunteered in the Spanish Civil War as a member of the Workers’ Party of Marxist Unification militia to battle the right-wing fascists under General Franco. He took a bullet to the throat that just missed his carotid artery and produced the wonderful Homage to Catalonia from his experiences. 

Others, like Laurie Lee, Arthur Koestler, and Ernest Hemingway likewise volunteered for war. However, the tradition of writers who would put their bodies where their mouths are is fading fast. In the current war in Ukraine, one notices that there are very few journalists near the front lines of the conflict, with most in the relative safety of Lviv or surrounding Nato countries such as Poland. 

Notably, of the expatriate Ukrainians of celebrity who nevertheless returned to defend their homeland, most seemed to be from the muscular sporting arena. These include MMA welterweight champion Yaroslav Amosov, two-time Olympic gold medallist boxer Vasiliy Lomachenko, winter biathlete Dmytro Pidruchnyi, and former tennis tour player Sergej Stachowski

The closest equivalence to the fighting writers of yore I could find is Maksym Kurochkin, a famous playwright, who had openly broken away from Russia after its annexation of Crimea. But he is Ukrainian, and the Eastern Europeans have, in any case, a very different political attitude to the west, forged by their recent and bloody histories. 

While no exact breakdown is available, one notices that the tens of thousands of volunteers to the so-called international brigade are made up of people from what would loosely be called the conservative aisle, largely military veterans

So why this dearth of the western liberal left presence? This observation is buttressed by a recent Quinnipiac University poll, which asked Americans the pertinent question of what they would do if they were in the same position as the Ukrainians are now: stay and fight or leave the country?

While a majority (55 per cent) replied that they would stay and fight, and 38 per cent replied that they would flee, the interesting aspect of the data becomes apparent when it is broken down by political leanings. 

Of the Republicans polled, 68 per cent would stay and fight, compared to 57 per cent of Independents, and 40 per cent of Democrats. 

The numbers, in particular regarding Republicans versus Democrats, almost exactly duplicated a RCP poll in 2021, which found that 68 per cent of Republicans would describe themselves as ‘very patriotic’, while only 41 per cent of Democrats would. 

This is not to say that those who lean left are more cowardly or perfidious, but is it to note the flow of cultural divergence among the two political sides, especially with respect to patriotism. Research has shown that the side widening the gulf in America is mainly the Democrats, not the Republicans. The vital difference must be made between those who are critics of their country, with the wish that it would improve, versus those who would like to see it smoulder in ashes

Anyone paying attention to the cultural turmoil faced by the western world in recent years would know that the various prominent movements that aim to undermine liberal western societies, through misappropriation of historyslander, emotional blackmail, and violence, are largely extreme leftists ones.

This ideology is megaphoned through the educational and media institutions, which are captured by the left, and is affecting the young. No one can be expected to be willing to fight and die for their country if they can barely think of anything good about it; when they are taught that patriotism is synonymous with right-wing extremism. This is sophistry, masquerading as sophistication. 

Patriotism is now being seen, in perhaps the most videoed war in human history, as the resplendent force that it can be, in the form of average citizens confronting Russian tanks, armed with nothing more than the cerulean and gold flag of Ukraine, and a sense of righteous moral outrage. 

Hopefully the war in Ukraine, whichever way history may take it, will force the indolent west to rethink the definitions of foundational things such as patriotism, and underscore the crucial forgotten difference between patriotism and nationalism. And the difference, as Charles de Gaulle pointed out, is that while patriotism is a love for one’s country and people, nationalism is the hatred towards other countries and peoples. 

 Orwell summed up, in Homage to Catalonia, the reason why he volunteered to fight: ‘If you had asked me why I had joined the militia I should have answered: “To fight against Fascism” and if you had asked me what I was fighting for, I should have answered: “Common decency”.’

May this type of crystal clear morality prevail. 

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