Editor’s Commentn1.nA couple of distinguished gentlemen recently indulged innan exchange on patriotism. Their polemics were conductednin the letters-to-the-editor section of the New York Times—nan organ of distinction. Ambrose Bierce was invoked, asnwas Dr. Johnson and his old dictum about scoundrels andnpatriotic sentiments. Reading all that, it occurred to me thatnemotions which spring from one’s rapport with one’s countrynmean something different in America from anywhere else.nI remember someone telling me once: “Indisputably,nlong Johns are mankind’s most thoughtfully devised garment.nThey’re salutary—by keeping certain regions warm, theynwarm up the rest of you and preserve what’s best in you.”nI was quite impressed by that reflection. I never saw the facenor knew the name of that enthusiast of reliable underwear.nHe declared his beliefs in a wartime blackout in a forlornnrailway station during an air raid; we both were bound fornduty, that is, for unknown destinations. But his empiricnwisdom somehow articulated my sense of patriotism—a feelingnof warmth that should be kept eternally alive. He certainlynsucceeded in linking my own patriotic awareness—anninstinctual, elusive and complex concern for protectingnsomething precious—to the notion of clement temperatures.nHowever, it must be said that on closer examination I havenalways been plagued by the certitude that patriotism is thenthinking man’s most petty and uncomfortable torment. Isn’tnit somehow irresponsible, if not outright fatuous, to devotenoneself to such an amorphous and ambiguous love.” To pledgenone’s adulatory commitment to a country which is—and itnis ernbarrassingly apparent—full of crooks, idiots, louts,nboors, cutthroats, muggers, dopers, pornographers, whereninsanity is touted as deliverance, injustice is hailed as progress,nplatitudes are rewarded with fortunes, obsequiousness isnpraised as independence, drivel is extolled as poetry, ruthlessnessnis presented as integrity. And societal indifference tonone’s fate, regardless of one’s merit and value, is the rule ofnlife. To be sure, every other country has the same faults—nsome more, some less—but none is good enough, obviously,nfor one to bestow on it his tender loyalty as if that which wasnmentioned above did not exist.nOn the other hand, anyone who’s aware that emotionsnrooted in ideas, like everything else, must conform to a certainnsense of proportion finds it quite demeaning not to pledgenallegiance to one’s daily reality. Such an evasion is the thinkingnman’s bad conscience, even his scourge. His dignityncannot condone disloyalty to what he knows is no worse innhis country than anywhere else; that knowledge relieves himnfrom humiliating illusions. Exactly because the truth is sonunprepossessing, he cannot deny fealty to what is his and isnflawed. He cannot dodge faithfulness without degradingnChronicles of Culturennnhimself by abandoning that which is weak, wanting and stupidn—and needs his support. There’s a touch of perversity innsuch an attitude, but this ambivalence of impulses somehownendows patriotism—at least in my eyes—with a glowing, noblenand heart-warming appeal.n2.nL Ln Europe and Asia, patriotism is nominalistic, heavilyninvolved with names, denominations, appellations, designationsnand their interactions with both history and actuality.nInherent in it is a notion of form, shape, order, a congruencenof elements which are well entrenched, fixed and sealed forneternity, if possible. In America, such a relationship to realitynis immaterial and meaningless. In Europe, name, image andntheir standing in the hierarchy of values are inseparable.nThus, priests may jog and learn how to handle a gun there,nbut they do both in private and never flaunt either. In America,na priest who jogs and knows about guns is admired andnis written about in the newspapers. In Europe, one is a patriotnby virtue of constantly thinking about one’s country. InnAmerica, one is patriotic when his country occasionallyncomes to mind. This is why in Europe and Asia it’s difficultnto differentiate between nationalism, chauvinism and patriotism:nthey are genuinely interconnected. In America,nsuch a connection is incomprehensible.nWhen I came to America, the first thing I noticed wasnthat, except for the Constitution and bathrooms (particularlynshowers), Americans thought that everything—mores,nmanners, cuisine, elegance, political morality, custom tailoring,nthe art of conversation, bureaucracy, the quality of lifen—was better elsewhere. Such an attitude obviously makesnAmericans morally superior; someone who generously considersneveryone else to be better than he manifests a venerablenmodesty—a mark of moral superiority. However, therenare plenty of Americans who deeply believe that America isna giant hotbed of moral arrogance, self-righteousness andnxenophobia. Anyone who arrives in America and keeps hisneyes open immediately sees that exactly the opposite is true.nThe very meaning of patriotism in America is the bestnlitmus test. His true feelings notwithstanding, it soundsnsomewhat unbecoming for an Italian, for instance, to callnhimself a British patriot. Even if his entire life was spentnin the Borough of Chelsea, his declaration of patriotic allegiancenwould sound slightly discordant both in the ears of annative Englishman and in his own. In America, patriotism,nlike adrenalin, may rise in anyone immediately after landingn—and no American will see a disconcerting dissonance innthis. One of the most ancient elements of the American ethosnis the conviction that one becomes an American by freenchoice, and all humans dearly wish to be proud of theirnchoices. Therefore, instant American patriotism is somehowna perfectly natural reaction.n