Published 29 Dec 2016


This paper seeks to discuss the meaning, use and possible consequences of the word “patriotism” using the three separate quotes from different authors. Any agreement or disagreement with reasons will also be made part of the paper. The paper will also make a position with reasons whether ideas of the writers are relevant to our with the corresponding reasons.

Quote by Arundhati Roy in “The algebra of Infinite Justice”

Patriotism can be defined as love of country. If we try to decipher what is meant by Arundhati in the article “The Algebra of Infinite Justice” we have to get from very words he used in the article. In the article, he said, “Who is America fighting? On September 20, the FBI said that it had doubts about the identities of some of the hijackers. On the same day President George Bush said, ‘We know exactly who these people are and which governments are supporting them.’ It sounds as though the president knows something that the FBI and the American public don’t.”

The author was showing surprise how America was using meaning of patriotism to advance its cause by the declaration of President Bush of what the US government as to the identity of its enemy, which the public may not really know. This was further manifested in the same article when he quoted statements made by President Bush in calling the US enemies as enemies of freedom. The author then observed that the American people are “being asked to make two leaps of faith here. First, to assume that The Enemy is who the US government says it is, even though it has no substantial evidence to support that claim. And second, to assume that The Enemy’s motives are what the US government says they are, and there’s nothing to support that either.”

In other words, the author the defined patriotism in terms of the utterances of the President and what the latter wants the public to believe. Patriotism therefore was not felt by citizens as second nature to their love of self. It is what their president was putting in their minds which may not be the truth. Hence Arundhati wondered if US government is correct in its assertion of defense of freedom when what were attacked are the symbols of America’s economic and military dominance, the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. He was asking: “Why not the Statue of Liberty?”

He thus pointed to the lack of surprise by world to the then recently bereaving Americans. He observed then the indifference of the world with happened.

If this is the kind of patriotism that is put on the table, I would have to register my disagreement. For me patriotism must be naturally felt by its citizens that any statement from their president would just be confirmation of that feeling? But why the wonder in the mind of the writer? If patriotism is one that is imposed and told upon and that is truly felt where a sympathy of world support would have evoke the same feeling then it is true patriotism. And if patriotism is equated with freedom and system of government, then that would indirectly attacking the other governments of may not have adopted democracy yet they continue to live like that of China and Russia. No wonder the support of all the members of the United Nation were not approving of Americas decision to its decision to attach Iraq after the 9/11 attack.

Quote by Emma Goldman- “Patriotism as a Menace to Liberty”

The author gave two possible definitions of patriotism. She conditionally said that if patriotism is the loves of one’s birthplace, the place of childhood’s recollections and hopes, dreams and aspirations, or place where Americans would sit at mother’s knee, enraptured by wonderful tales of great deeds and conquests, then she said that “few American men of today could be called upon to be patriotic, since the place of play has been turned into factory, mill, and mine, while deafening sounds of machinery have replaced the music of the birds.”

On the other side, she also quoted Dr Johnson who said, “Patriotism, sir, is the last resort of scoundrels,” and Leo Tolstoy, who defined “patriotism as the principle that will justify the training of wholesale murderers; a trade that requires better equipment for the exercise of man-killing than the making of such necessities of life as shoes, clothing, and houses; a trade that guarantees better returns and greater glory than that of the average workingman.”

Under the first definition, it is easy to agree in so far as ones emotions or our earlier theory is concerned, that is patriotism must be felt. But since the authors see the reality of the other definition we will have to agreement or disagreement on that.

She was referring to a misuse of the meaning of patriotism where it could be used to justify training of wholesale of murderers. If what is meant by the author is the war entered into by America is unsupported by a general feeling of support by American people then the meaning of patriotism is being abused. But one would ask: “Should not the American government be given full credence and presumption of what is patriotic in their government in so going to war? Well, the answer to the question must be evaluated on the basis of the results. If the priority of America is going to war or as the author has quoted then America might be misusing patriotism in the context it wants to use.

In misusing the meaning and consequence of patriotism, I am registering dissent. Patriotism is never meant to kill people. Patriotism should be providing the necessities of life. It was never meant to be aggressive.

Quote by Barbara Kingsolver “A pure, High Note of Anguish”

Barbara Kingsolver defined patriotism in having a hundred ways to be a good citizen. She cited that one of them is to look finally at the things we don’t want to see.

She also said, “It still may be within our capacity of mercy to say this much is true: We didn’t really understand how it felt when citizens were buried alive in Turkey or Nicaragua or Hiroshima. Or that night in Baghdad. And we haven’t cared enough for the particular brothers and mothers taken down a limb or a life at a time, for such a span of years that that little, briefly jubilant boys have grown up with twisted hearts.” She is thus surprised and asked, “How could we keep raining down bombs and selling weapons, if we had? How can our president still use that word “attack” so casually, like a move in a checker game, now that we have awakened to see that word in our own newspapers, used like this: Attack on America?”

She meant that love of country could be just done by caring about other people. It could be just not bombing other people. She may mean living in peaceful coexistence with the other cultures of the world without really need for an attack. Given this kind of meaning and the possible consequences, I do find myself agreeing with the concept of patriotism.

Barbara is right in saying that the world hopes American people might have learned from the taste of their our own blood, “that every war is both won and lost, and that loss is a pure, high note of anguish like a mother singing to any empty bed…. better than ever before, that no kind of bomb ever built will extinguish hatred.” The author saw the wisdom of having a simple meaning and consequence of patriotism.


Quotes cited from the different articles from three independent authors have shown us different meanings and consequences of patriotism where one could define it in terms of purpose and results. In one case we have found that the concept may be used to justify attack on other people of the world even in the absence of evidence of real threat like what had happened in Iraq where not evidence of weapons of mass destruction was presented by the prosecuting authorities. Patriotism could be misused to justify massive training of for war and which actually be declared murders if there sufficient basis to go to war.

Patriotism too could be just simple as finally looking unto things which we do not like to see. For America, it could be just not attacking other people country or just refusing to use the word “attack” that other countries might also live peacefully.

The word patriotism I think was coined long time ago to make the world see that each culture is separate and that separateness of one country might just have predestined to happen as the reality of different races and color reveal. But the word must have its own boundaries if the proper definition of the word be correctly defined.

As to whether the above ideas of the writers relevant to our time, out answer are a big yes. The present events call for the options of making decision that should make a better world to live. Patriotism is not a monopoly of those in power. It is should felt deeply and practiced or enabled to be practiced by human citizens and Americans are humans, too.


  • Arundhati, R. “The algebra of Infinite Justice”, 2001
  • Goldman, E. “ Patriotism as a Menace to Liberty”
  • Kingsolver, B. “A pure, High Note of Anguish”
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