The International Patriot

by Chris Horner

How should people on the ‘progressive’ side of politics view patriotism? That question continues to vex those who would connect with what they suppose are the feelings of the bulk of the population. The answer will vary a good deal according to which country we are considering – the French left, for instance, has a very different relationship to la patrie to that of the US or the UK. In the case of the former, the side cast as traitors has historically been seen as the right. In the USA, at least in the second half of the 20th century it has been very different: those who protested against the Vietnam war were cast as the anti patriots. And today, we still hear that the left ‘hates our country’. The accusation is a damaging one, and has been wielded with glee by conservatives whenever they have the chance. So there is a tricky task for the left, it seems: to be seen as with and not against the mass of people in their identification with the nation and its history, without abandoning an internationalist perspective that rises above the narrow nationalism of the conservative. 

I want to suggest here that we need to see that there is a problem with both the approach that seeks to inhabit the abstraction of simplistic universalism and the one that would rush into the warm embrace of parochial particularism (‘my country, right or wrong’ at its extreme). Instead, we need to see that the universal is something emergent, in and through the particular struggles and questions with which we are confronted. It is a concrete universal. Read more »


JoyTis the season…this time of the year we throw the word Joy around a lot. But really, what is joy? Happiness seems to be a pretty consistent lack of depression and a state of bliss is usually only achieved by yogis. Isn't contentment really one step away from the acknowledgement that you're actually miserable? Joy though, well joy seems to be something that is fleeting for most of us most of the time, but that is realistically attainable. Joy is that spring in your step, the gleam in your eye, the new love in your life or the pleasure of finding yourself surrounded by your loved ones and, for at least a short time, truly enjoying each others company.

I find that as a middle-aged adult, joy is something that I have to work on; if I'm lucky it sometimes comes to me unbidden, sneaking up behind me and shouting “boo!”. I've come to realize that, while I'm lucky to be generally happy with my life, it's those moments of joy that are truly energizing and inspirational. Recently, I've tried to come to a better self-awareness of what really brings me joy and attempt to seek those things and experiences out.

One realization that I have come to, better late than never, is that for too long in my life, I have settled for a career that was satisfying enough, but not joyful in any way. I made a change, and now, I am able to find true joy in the creativity my job affords me and the wonderful colleagues I get to interact with day in and day out. I work for bosses who appreciate me and let me know it–people I trust, respect and have a deep affection for. Given how many hours a week I spend working, I now realize what a huge gap it was in my life that those hours used to be joyless.

And these musing about the nature of joy, and how important it is for me to feel it in my life more than I have in the past, make me think about my daughters and the joy they have in their lives. Children truly have a capacity for joy that most of us seem to lose as we get older. Most children, at least in the western world, have enough of a carefree existence that, even if their parents are burdened by worries, debts, frustrations, they manage to find enormous joy in their friends, their toys, their pets, their music. But do they find it in their schools? I spend the majority of my life working and children spend the majority of theirs learning. Now that I've realized how important it is that I find joy in those hours of my life, I have to ask the question, shouldn't we give our children this as well?

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