Gandhi often said that if nonviolence were to have any value, it lies in its universal applicability–what is true for individuals is also true for nations. He also said that they are no real lovers of freedom (as the British claimed to be) who want freedom only for themselves. It is no different with love. When we view love as a finite resource to be shared only with those who please us, usually in a small immediate circle of friends and family, we have not truly discovered love. Similarly, when we love only our nation and those who identify themselves under our flag while we wage war and other violence on other nations, we have not discovered the real meaning of love of country, or patriotism.
Our love of country need never be exclusive. Love can gradually be extended to everyone, and only then does it find its true expression. “Love” here is not just an emotion; it expresses itself, for example, through service. Gandhi saw love expand from the individual to the nation to the entire world through an “oceanic circle”: the individual serves the family; the family serves the village; the village serves the nation; the nation serves the world. In other words, the nonviolent nation will love the world. It will promote generosity, reconciliation, and nonviolent resistance and build institutions to realize these ideals. This does not mean that you will not love your own country and culture. Of course you will. But you not love or respect others any less. Contrary to the propaganda of war and violence, nonviolence is patriotism at its highest.
The next time you read an article suggesting that violence is the highest form of patriotism, challenge the idea publicly.
The Metta Center for Nonviolence, PO Box 98, Petaluma, California 94953 707-774-6299 firstname.lastname@example.org