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Global Patriotism

The more time I spend interacting with the English, baby! community, the more I feel like a global citizen instead of American. I had a lot of fun on the 4th of July this year, but maybe someday there will be a holiday to celebrate global patriotism.

I took a few minutes to think about that idea–global patriotism–when I filled out a questionnaire for this feature on OPB.

Q: What does Patriotism mean to you?
A: When you have the sense that a complete stranger is your brother, that’s patriotism. When you take pride in the place that you live and want to make it better, that’s patriotism. As the word itself suggests, it’s the sense that those around are of the same paternity or fatherland.

But when I think of a fatherland, I don’t think of my country. I think of my planet. I guess you could say I’m a global patriot. I’m proud to be a citizen of the world and when I travel and meet other pilgrims, I feel a kinship with them. I also see pride for a global community emanating from every country in the work I do on English, baby! (englishbaby.com) a website where nearly a million people of all nationalities are learning English.

Q: Tell us about a time when you’ve felt patriotic, and why.
A: Last fall a Turkish man and Ukrainian woman who met on English, baby! got married in Istanbul and I got to make a video about the wedding.

Traveling with the bride and groom’s family members, many of whom don’t speak a common language, there was a sense that beyond culture, there are things that bind us: dancing, love, humor. It struck me that just as an interracial marriage is an American story, an homage to our melting pot and act of American patriotism, an international marriage between people who met online while learning English is a global story, a step towards forgetting borders and an act of global patriotism.

Q: Tell us about when you’ve felt LEAST patriotic, and why.
A: I think that the Iraq war is an example of provincialism and flies in the face of global patriotism. The decision to fight was made unilaterally by the US government without regard for the opinions of the world. If a state in the United States were to act so recklessly and illegally, it would be treason.

A similar example is the failure of the US to ratify the Kyoto protocol. As a state on this Earth, it’s our duty to keep it clean and assume responsibility for our use of recourses. That would be the patriotic thing to do, anyway. And on a global community like English, baby! it’s not uncommon to hear complaints when a nation fails to pull its own weight or justify its actions to the world.

Q: If you have lived in another country, how has this affected your ideas of patriotism and national identity.
A: As a student, I spent a semester studying in Spain in 2003. I met a lot of other young travelers from all over the world and felt that I had more in common with them than a lot of people in my own country. Our shared respect for other cultures and search for hunger to know about them was my first experience with global patriotism. As the Internet exploded in the years since then, I’ve seen this sort of community replicated online, sometimes on a massive scale as in the case of English, baby! They didn’t end up using any of my material, but it was fun to think all that stuff out, since global patriotism has been a concept in the back of my mind throughout my entire life. Apparently I’m not the only one with it on the brain, either. A man interviewed for this similar NPR story said, “I think we have to think more in terms of being earthlings than from one country or another.”

And if you make it all the way to the end of the OPB piece (which I recommend if you have time), there’s a little discussion about the Olympics, which was of great interest to me since we’re heading there in a month. A couple of sources on the program say they feel particularly patriotic at sporting events. But this episode’s co-host, history professor and author Matthew Dennis, replies, “I’m more fascinated with the internationalism of [the games] than the nationalism.” Hopefully Beijing will be a fine moment for global patriotism.

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