In Sri Lanka the Term “Patriot” is Defined as one who Defends Military Heroes Whatever the crime they do, and a “Traitor”as One Who Dares to Scrutinize Their Actions.
Much rhetoric has been used in various media over the years, and recently too, on the subject of patriots and traitors. I feel constrained to express my views as well. Samuel Johnson in his Dictionary (1755) defined a patriot as “One whose ruling passion is the love of his country.” This is certainly a laudable goal and worthy of emulation by all citizens; it suggests a cause bigger than one’s self and hints at a sacrificial character. Why then did he also say that “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel”? Genuine patriotism is not easy to define. And the use of rhetoric often infuses the term with a very narrow content.
In any case allegiance to one’s country, while important as part of a social contract, is not absolute. We recognize this in Edward Snowden, who acted against the interests of his country (the U.S.) by leaking classified information in the wider interests of the world at large; also in Nelson Mandela, whose actions to end apartheid in South Africa got him labeled as a “terrorist.” What we see here is that true love of one’s country is not easy to define; and must be judged by higher universal norms of justice.
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