The Unholy Alliance of Gods and Countries

America, the land of the free and the home of the brave. Sounds like a song. Oh, wait a minute, it is a song. And, patriots everywhere in this exceptional country sing it, stand for it and well up inside whenever they hear it. Patriotism, a manufactured cultural response to wherever a human is born, still rings loud and clear in most countries. I've never been anywhere in the world that lacked love for country, and I've been lots and lots of places. The commitment to a birth place is always flagrant and obvious. So much so that mothers and fathers are willing to sacrifice the lives of their children for this random membership within an imaginary border. Yet, none of us got to choose a country. We simply exited our mother's womb to encounter the cold world on the outside without any say in the matter at all.   

Until we die or unless we become refugees or expatriates, this country club is one club where everyone gets membership just for being born, but it ain't free. 

You're automatically signed up at birth and the annual dues is taken from your hide for the rest of your life. I'm not talking about taxes either. In every imaginable and unimaginable way, wherever we're born determines our perception of the world, limiting our personal autonomy and creativity. Yet, most people don't seem to mind. Those that do tend to occasionally object often forget the reasons that made them question their membership in the first place. 

There are lots of reasons why this allegiance to country is so rampant. 

Certainly, our age-old tribal instincts play into this predictable phenomenon. We can't help ourselves. We start out completely dependent and by the time we're eighteen our thoughts, perceptions, and beliefs are set in stone while our abilities to envision anything outside our personal box are severely curbed. We are for the most part easily manipulated and thus feel completely at home even in a place that should go against our grain. To be part of the tribe is as natural to us as eating or drinking, at least if we're eating and drinking the food of our own culture, because without the tribe we have no identity. 

There's been lots of research on the tribal nature of humanity and the benefits of cooperation over competition as well. 

Not everything about being part of a tribe limits us. Much of being part of a tribe is beneficial, but the flip side is very dangerous and most people don't even know it. 

I contend that religion, another cultural construct like patriotism, has long bolstered the commitment to country as well. 

In fact, often in the past, religion was the rule of the country or at least a significant part of governance. We're seeing it again in modern American politics. Old time religion raising its ugly head in places of power. The religious right has made a concerted effort in the last decades to position themselves in such places so as to influence policy and laws according to what they believe is a divine moral calling. The freedoms  of women, children, gays, people of color, anyone that is perceived to be unsanctioned by god to control their own lives are naturally threatened. 

Of course, the people at the top, largely white males, claim they answer to an even higher power in this patriarchal, Bible-based world order. 

They are in power because god placed them there. These are not new ideas but old recycled ideas that simply will not die as long as humans give a rat's ass about superstition and religion. If god has smiled upon your country, and most countries believe a deity has done so, then you become even more convinced that it is your duty to show unquestioning loyalty to this randomly assigned birthplace. You are told that you struck the jackpot in the great lottery of birth and that it is now an honor to serve both god and country. 

Even the most benign religious doctrines adhere to this kind of thinking. 

I contend that the religious of left-leaning politics are helping to support this kind of ideology even if they think of themselves as reformed, enlightened or progressive. I have plenty of friends who are addicted to superstition, nice liberal people who just can't separate themselves from the god of their culture. They tire me almost more than the hardened cases of far-right-foaming-at-the mouth radicals. Their persistent need to include a cultural god in the change process often prolongs the inherent growing pains that almost always accompany social progress.    

We will never be able to overcome the myths about god and country that our culture places at our feet as holy, holier than any other country, until we recognize that all of this flows from the same stream of thought with the same goal in mind — someone wants to control us. 

Mythologies are dangerous. They can keep us in chains, inspire us to pay allegiance to ideologies that harm us and others and lead us down a reckless path of blind trust, all in the name of a god and country we never even got to choose. 

I'm a myth buster. My recent published book - Have We Been Screwed? Trading Freedom for Fairy Tales - can be purchased on Amazon .