Where Is Home

Photograph by Nick Lachance

Let’s discuss the meaning of the word patriotism.

I would like to suggest two suitable synonyms for the English meaning of this powerful word: love and devotion. In fact, to be patriotic, according to the Oxford English Dictionary is to possess a “marked devotion to the well-being [i.e. love] and interests of one’s country.” In other words, to be a patriot, you must show love and devotion to your country. Rather vague terms, wouldn’t you agree? But, there it is, the denotation of this elusive word…patriotism. And yet, I still wonder: what does it truly mean to be devoted, interested, and concerned for the well being of your country? And for that matter, what constitutes your country? Can we have a legitimate claim to just one section of the world? Or, ought we even to think of patriotism in such limited, dichotomous terminology? Let us break this down even further.

Apparently, humanity believes that we can legitimately take one piece of land as ours, thus implying that it belongs to no one else. Indeed, observe any western map (I cannot vouch for eastern renditions) and you will find evidence of this “sectioning off” human mentality. If you look at any landfill, any construction site, where new houses are being built, you will see this dualistic mentality again. We take what was once the “country” of others (animals, plants, insects, life) and in so doing, destroy their land to be patriotic to our own. I am not an expert; I do not dare venture too deeply into the discussion of war and patriotism. I feel I haven’t the credentials. So let me, most humbly, suggest only this topic of contemplation for you to take “home”: the themes of Canadian literature and poetry. Is this our land; where is “home?” (If you’re interested, I recommend Thomas King’s essay, The Truth about Stories and Margaret Laurence’s novel, The Diviners.)

Now that we have loosely looked at the concept of “sectioning off” land, I’ll let you think about it, for I certainly haven’t the answers. For isn’t that all patriotism is? Arbitrary lines for humanity’s (in)convenience? But, now that we’ve looked at patriotic dualism, I would like to offer another word for consideration: home, a synonym for “country” also, perhaps, a synonym for unity. If “our country” is “our home” and if to be patriotic is to be devoted and loving to our country, are we truly being devoted and compassionate to our “country” today?

Where is home? I am of the Buddhist opinion that “home” is the peaceful and mindful balance between mind, body, and spirit. Indeed, home is the holistic, balanced awareness of our own peace, as well as our interdependence with all organisms upon earth. This is home, this is our country. Earth, the only truly legitimate place we can all call “home,” and should be patriotic towards, and yet, are we? Most of us do not love ourselves: most of us are not compassionate about the food we eat, the ground we tread, the air we breathe. We abuse it, take it for granted, wage war upon ourselves, upon the earth, upon each other. So I ask again, what is patriotism and where is home?