Loving your country: Armenia, US, and Neshoba County

In the US, it is fashionable in some circles to disparage the country and blame all the ills of the world on America.  If an Armenian did that in Armenia, he is the one who would be disparaged.  I asked a group of Armenians why Armenians are so much more patriotic than Americans.  They said it’s explained by 1500 years of fighting for your existence among hostile enemies, a genocide at the hands of your neighbor, and being under the thumb of other counties for hundreds of years.armenia US flagsSo maybe Americans will be patriotic in 1500 years if we become surrounded by enemies.  It certainly helps to have an enemy to gin up patriotism.  In recent times, Americans were most proud of their country right after the attacks of 9/11.  Polling today records the lowest numbers ever of Americans saying they are proud to be an American.  Over the years, Republicans have maintained the same level of high pride in America.  Those calling themselves Democrats are the least patriotic.  Less than half say they are extremely proud to be Americans in the latest poll.  This is the lowest level ever.  The second lowest for Democrats was during the Bush administration.  Some Americans’ patriotism appears to be determined by whether they control the White House.

Armenian patriotism has nothing to do with who is in power.  True patriotism never does. Armenians judge their politicians by whether they help the country.  Some in US judge the country by whether it helps their politicians.

Another perspective on patriotism is expressed in a 1926 article called “Patriotism and the Soil.” The author contends that true patriotism is expressed in how much we care for the soil and forests and other renewable resources of our country.  He says, the true patriot builds up his country by literally building up the soil of his country.  Maybe we should judge our politicians and ourselves by how much we care for nature in our country.  Maybe the Democrat who builds up the soil in his garden and supports sustainable agriculture in the US is more patriotic than those say they love America yet destroy our soil and forests and air.

Maybe a more lasting sort of patriotism is built on first loving the actual soil and forests and landscape where you live. In studying US counties where sustainability and resilience are highest (such as Neshoba County, Mississippi), we’ve found that people really love their counties. They don’t want to leave.  If they do leave they want to come back. They care for the place they live and its resources.  When trouble hits, they help each other and bounce back.

Maybe this attitude is the strongest root for enduring patriotism.  And for a patriotism which really improves your country instead of just being flag waving.


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