The Immigrant Mind: Patriotism and Intelligence

Luma Simms | January 9, 2017

In his 1941 essay titled The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the English Genius, George Orwell asked,

Are there really such things as nations? Are we not 46 six million individuals, all different?

He went on to comment that despite class and economic disparity, “there is something distinctive and recognizable in English civilization.” This could be seen in not only England, but in other nations, with their uniqueness and individual worldviews. Patriotism in one form or another was running high in those days. Orwell wrote,

One cannot see the modern world as it is unless one recognizes the overwhelming strength of patriotism, national loyalty … as a positive force, there is nothing to set beside it. Christianity and international Socialism are as weak as straw in comparison with it. Hitler and Mussolini rose to power in their own countries very largely because they could grasp this fact and their opponents could not.

Orwell’s essay, in spite of its occasional ramblings, is in some sense a meditation on how a nation can overcome its differences and work toward a common good. The power to overcome evil – like Adolf Hitler, for example – and the strength that comes from people who can agree about what is good for them collectively come from this concept we call patriotism.

Patriotism is understood on an internal level even when it cannot be articulated or intellectually defended by the common man. While the intellectuals of Orwell’s time – and also of ours – disdain it, the common people draw strength from it. Although I am not a country music fan, I found it interesting that on the weekend after the Sept. 11 attacks, country music singer Aaron Tippin recorded “Where the Stars and Stripes and the Eagle Fly.” By Monday, the song was on the radio. That was a fast and forceful patriotic response to the horrific terrorist event.

But our unity and will as a nation has since been weakened. For many years now we have lived under a president and an administration ashamed of America and its people; an administration that squandered the power of patriotism. A globalized intelligentsia and upper political class further eroded our national identity and pride – whether it was President Barack Obama’s undertaking an apology tour upon assuming office or Secretary of State John Kerry’s conducting a $400 million payment to Iran. These are but two examples of a ruling class that scorns its own nationality.

Patriotism is part of a human being’s dignity and identity. A person is born into a family, a household, a religion, a culture and a state. Rejecting these bonds is a rejection of self. A person may cease loving his or her country, but the human desire for patriotism does not go away altogether, and so those feelings are transferred; the man or woman will develop patriotic sentiments toward something or someone else – an ideology or a foreign people.

In the case of our current president and his administration, they seem to have developed a soft spot for certain groups in the Middle East. An example of this kind of simpatico can be seen in the recent United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334, which condemned Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Obama has abandoned the longstanding American policy of supporting Israel, the only democratic and diverse state in the Middle East, for the benefit and support of the terror-sponsoring Palestinian government. These types of decisions are the fruit of a reorientation of our president’s patriotic sentiments.

The root – or at least one root – of this problem is what Orwell called the divorce between patriotism and intelligence. There is a modern assumption that patriotism comes from and is dependent upon ignorance. Therefore, as the thinking goes, education and knowledge will have the affect of dislodging patriotic feelings in favor of a detached and well-informed view on one’s country and the world.

As I see it, this belief is congruent with another modern thought: that religious faith can likewise only exist because of ignorance. The divorce of faith and reason problem that many writers, theologians and philosophers have discussed over the years continues to plague us, and has its counterpart in other areas of life.

Both of these faulty ideas are examples of Cartesian thinking, which privileges the intellect/cognitive abilities over other human faculties such as emotions, moral awareness, the senses and the will. It sets the locus of a person’s identity in the mind, thereby introducing a dualism in our understanding of human nature. This dualism eventually leads to other divisions in our understanding of the world around us. The result is a philosophy of man and the world that sets up false dichotomies such as patriotism or intelligence; faith or reason, and so on.

The road back is through the belief that man is “a being at once corporeal and spiritual.” In other words, we are human beings that not only learn and think, but feel passions, experience moral awareness and have an innate desire for transcendence. We look, listen, touch and use our free will to make decisions.

A healthy and intelligent patriotism will lead to a robust national life with tempered and sagacious policies. These can only be gotten by a return to the understanding of the human person I described above.

Let us work toward that end this coming year.