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Updated 30 April 2010
Patriotism is supporting your country all the time and your government when it deserves it. -- Mark Twain

The first key is in being able to decide rationally if the government deserves it. The second key is to develop enough information to allow a rational choice. How to do that is not always obvious or straight forward. Is our choice automatic, or or is the result of enough study to define the issues in terms of what is best for humanity, our country, our neighborhood, our families, and for us as individuals? What priority do we give each rung in the ladder? These are not easy questions since things are not black and white. A further complication is that in things social, what is good today may not be tomorrow.

The difficult part for emotional creatures comes in trying to be rational. Culture can make it easy of difficult. Individuals in affluent cultures cultures often become self-centered, set personal priorities at the expense of all else. Such individuals may be too busy working of having fun. Or they lack a liberal-arts view of the world so necessary for good citizenship. Or maybe we just never learned to think for ourselves--for emotional reasons left over from our own rearing.

Few people are unaffected by their emotions. And too few people, less than 35% perhaps, are aware of how much of their attitudes are based on emotions. While patriotism involves emotions, good patriotism involves wisdom and action as well. Wisdom is required to optimize one's life for rearing the next generation, for one's work, for participating in governance by voting,. That takes an Internal Locus of control and Critical Thinking. We are born with neither; they need to be nurtured.

Critical Thinking can be learned in early childhood--if a kid is lucky. Later it takes some discipline. See Baloney Detection. But not every child can find the independent discipline and critical thought needed to develop self direction and insight all by him/her self. Partly this is a societal matter. High position is too often accepted for wisdom; mass consensus substitutes for brains. Post Modernism attacks science and logic--confusing the issues, and those in power either innocently or with mal-intent foster these elements in society. Most societies on earth have their own elements of illogical belief systems and behavior, behaviors that run the gamuts of human emotions and endeavors.

Too often a kid is quite unlucky; the family environment is tense or cool with little contact between parents and children. In such families dialogue, searching for insight, is not usually practiced; strict obedience is too often relied upon to keep out of trouble. What happens when the external authority figure is removed or goes away. The prohibitions may be well remembered, but the anchor of punishment is gone. Many kids become good and useful citizens in spite of their early environment. Even so, their self image is too often less than is should be, their judgment is fogged-in my emotions. They pick incompatible mates, select careers they may not be well-suited for, and lack parenting skills. Misfits to little or large extent, they often produce new generations too much like themselves. Like father, like son, is an ages-old adage that recognized just this feature. Many schools and even playgrounds offer little or no opportunity for children to grow their insights into themselves.

Wisdom is lost when such kids become adult voters; they take their cues from others and do not engage in debate, much less dialogue. They routinely take sides. Aside from a lack of encouragement at home and experience at school, there is the lack of other opportunities for many, if not most, to gain much wisdom. The monotheisms all preach peach and justice--all the while torpedoing their efforts by doing so in an Authoritarian style.

In other words, authoritarian behavior becomes a way of life. Rigid personalities and closed minds result. These people are most affected by a hang-up, at least a habit, of not thinking, of behaving like sheep, or as their parents, friends and teachers did, and likewise often voting straight party tickets their entire lives, if they vote at all. Their common trait is an External Locus of Control .

A casual observer looking at the American electorate would soon recognize that it is the swing voters who carry the winners into office. They comprise some 20% of all voters and when they get it wrong, the whole country suffers. But the swing voters at least think a little bit about who to vote for. They have larger measures of Internal Locus of control.

Swing voters are the people Mark Twain spoke to. He must have, for who else would know if our government deserves support, or another chance. Neither political extreme does, hardened in their ways as they are.

For help on how to read politicians, see: Reading The Tea Leaves. For more on how hang-ups can affect our lives, read: Little Boy Saved. Even A Child Can Do It Provides a dramatic anecdote of how one child avoided the bigotry of her times. She had a strong Internal Locus of control. Further, more theoretical information can be found on Defense Mechanisms and the link provided therein.


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