On Patriotism

 

 

 

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by Ernest Thompson Seton

The word patriotism stands in history for the noblest type of fortitude and self-sacrifice, and yet that same word can be used as a cloak for almost any crime,--has been the excuse for more crimes in history, perhaps, than any other known motive power, except religion. Without attempting to dissect what has always proven the most intricate complication of impulses, I shall relate four incidents which shed light or contain guidance for those who are in need of such.

1

At a great military review in the Old World long ago, a young soldier was selected to stand before the Emperor as the perfect type of military physical manhood. To make sure that his moral and mental equipment were as satisfactory as his physique, the Ruler said: "If I command you to slaughter your mother right now, would you do it?"

"Instantly, without hesitation, Sire," was the answer.

"Correct," said the Emperor. And he forthwith decorated him as the ideal of his Army.

2

When George III of England ordered the British Army to America to crush the Colonists, then in rebellion, British officers by the hundred resigned, rather than fight their brethren who were in the right; consequently King George had to import Hessians for the job.

3

When Socrates was on trial for his life, he spoke in his own defense. After reminding them that he had been a valiant soldier in defense of the republic, he proceeded to show that his loyalty to righteousness was stronger than his loyalty to his country's government in the following words: "When the Oligarchy of the Thirty was in power, they sent for me and four others into the rotunda, and bade us bring Leon the Salaminian from Salamis, as they wanted to execute him. This was a specimen of the sort of commands which they were always giving with the view of implicating as many as possible in their crimes; and then I showed not in words only, but in deed, that, if I may be allowed to use such an expression, I cared not a straw for death, and that my only fear was the fear of doing an unrighteous or unholy thing. For the strong arm of that oppressive power did not frighten me into doing wrong; and when we came out of the rotunda, the other four went to Salamis and fetched Leon, but I went quietly home. For which I might have lost my life, had not the power of the Thirty shortly afterwards come to an end."

4

The Pharisees came to Jesus and said: "Who is my neighbor."

And Jesus, answering, said: "A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half-dead.

"And by chance there came down a certain priest that way and when he saw him he passed by on the other side.

"And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.

"But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him.

"And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.

"And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him: "Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee."

"Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbor unto him that fell among the thieves? ( Luke 10. )

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