- by F.H. Hankins, 1920
|Of all the emotions that move men to action, patriotism is the most
capable. When it is aroused there is not other social force comparable to it in the
completeness with which it dominates all men. It lifts the average man up out of the
concerns of a work-a-day world into the noblest spirit of devotion.
It quickens the pulse of the sluggard, reforms the wayward, forces generosity from the
stingy, arouses the plodder to dreams of heroic deeds, gives courage to the cowardly, and
makes the hearts of the shrewd and crafty wolves of society swell with an ostensible love
of country. In its face local feuds are forgotten, the bitter struggles of parties
and classes are submerged. Differences of creed, social status, and even race are
obliterated. This happens especially during war, for war hallows every cause.
Under these circumstances only the group leaders may speak. The
citizen must offer himself in silence as a willing sacrifice on the alter of his country
in whatever manner those in authority may dictate. Even honest criticism is cursed.
The conscientious objector, who in times of peace is praised as a courageous man
who dares to stand against the world for what he believes right, is denounced as a
sneaking coward and herded into prison. The individual rights of free speech, press
and assembly so essential to democratic government, so zealously guarded during peace and
so boastfully displayed to an admiring world, cease to exist and are pronounced enemies to
the public safety. The noble sentiments of toleration are denounced, as is also
individual variation, which is vigorously defended during peace under the ideals of
individual liberty and initiative.
Every social institution is brought into line. All organs of public
opinion send forth a constant stream of uniform suggestions. The appeal is made
through church and lodge and every customary association, until the members of the social
group coalesce into a solid sociality that surpasses the fondest imaginings of the Utopian
Socialist. At such times patriotism, like a restless and mysterious genius, fills
the entire fabric of society with its magic power. Few individuals escape its
enchantment, and almost no one dares invite its hostility. While it ennobles the
soul with the sublime spirit of self-sacrifice, it compels men to dilute the honesty of
their thoughts. It makes cowards of all but the most stalwart souls by forcing them
to substitute the worse for the better reason and the lower ideal for one they feel to be
Under its guise every sort of sinister human purpose thrives.
Anything which can be made to appear patriotic is instantly and deeply approved.
Any counsel of moderation is pounced upon as enemy propoganda, while the advocates
of internationalism are accused of silly sentimentalism and treason. To encounter a
suspicion of lack of patriotism creates a greater defilement than the violation of an
ancient taboo. As in the days of witchcraft, suspects are whipped, tarred and
feathered, hanged, or sacrificed on the alter of militarism amid the shouts of the mob and
the secret of the patriots. Patriotism gives full sway to fear, unbridles the lusts
and brutalities of savage man, instensifies our innate suggestibility, and subordinates
the mind to every sort of delusion and deceit.
- F. H. Hankins