Thursday, July 4, 2019

"Loyalty to the Nation All the Time, Loyalty to the Government When it Deserves It."

Mark Twain wrote an essay back in 1905 called "The Czar's Soliloquy" (North American ReviewVol. 180.No. DLXXX).  The essay was triggered by a sentence in the London Times, reporting: "After the Czar's morning bath it is his habit to meditate an hour before dressing himself." Twain imagined that the Czar, standing naked in front of a mirror, was for a few moments honest with himself about the injustices and cruelties that he had allowed and perpetrated, and hoped for a better future. Imagining the Czar's words to himself, Twain wrote:
There are twenty-five million families in Russia. There is a man-child at every mother's knee. If these were twenty-five million patriotic mothers, they would teach these man-children daily, saying : "Remember this, take it to heart, live by it, die for it if necessary: that our patriotism is medieval, outworn, obsolete; that the modern patriotism, the true patriotism, the only rational patriotism, is loyalty to the Nation all the time, loyalty to the Government when it deserves it.
On the Fourth of July in particular, it makes me sad to run into people whose patriotism ebbs and flows according to what political party occupies the White House. There ought to be a large and real line between support of whoever who is in government at a particular time, and a broader patriotism. A country is a mixture of people, ideals, geography, history, cultures, and more. It should be possible to love your country, whether your feelings about the government are positive, negative, neutral, ambivalent, or don't-give-a-damn.