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The Progressive

Patriotism vs. Solving Global Problems

On this July 4, please chew on this quote from Emma Goldman, circa 1908:

Patriotism means that “those who have had the fortune of being born on some particular spot consider themselves nobler, better, grander, more intelligent than those living beings inhabiting any other spot. It is, therefore, the duty of everyone living on that chosen spot to fight, kill and die … to impose their superiority upon all the others.”

And on this July 4, please consider another quote, this one from the environmentalist David Suzuki, circa 2012:

“We draw lines around our … countries. ... We will kill and die to protect those boundaries. Nature couldn’t give two hoots about our national boundaries,” he added.

And that’s the kicker.


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Flag-waving hinders us from tackling the dual catastrophes that can destroy the Earth: nuclear war, and global warming.

One of these days, the leader of one country, soaking in patriotism, may well drop a nuclear bomb on another country, and the world could go dark. And we’re not getting rid of our own nukes – and holding an international conference on disarmament -- because we want to remain Number One in the nuclear annihilation game.

Our patriotism also tells us that we’re so great that we don’t need to worry about dragging our feet in reaching an international accord to limit fossil fuel consumption. Nah, we’re America. We can go it alone, and we can keep drilling to our heart’s content.

Problem is, the globe is not content.

And it won’t be till we get over this conceit.

Matthew Rothschild

Matthew Rothschild

Matthew Rothschild is senior editor of The Progressive magazine.

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