Garry Eaton, Port Moody, British Columbia, Canada




Sketchbook Patriot Writers


Hi Samantha,

Your mother has requested that some of us from other countries send you a few remarks about patriotism. I'm an old man now, from Canada, and in my lifetime patriotism on the part of various countries around the world has probably caused more trouble than any other single human belief. Mankind used to fight about religion (that seems to be coming back, God forbid) but in modern times, love of country, mixed up with political ideologies, has been the motivating factor for most wars and has led to the violent deaths of hundreds of millions of people. The century which ended, the 20th, has been the bloodiest in all human history, and the 21st shows no sign of reversing this trend. Most of that killing has been done in the name of some sort of patriotism!

Canadians have usually been fortunate to be relatively isolated from the major world conflicts, both because of Canada's small population and its diverse political makeup. We have done out best to avoid thinking that OUR ideas, Our values, Our causes, OUR needs were more important than those of other nations. We have not hesitated to respond robustly when we or our allies unjustly challenged, but have also avoided looking for fights, and as a consequence, we have had a peaceful and productive history.

And there I go, sounding patriotic myself! I guess love of country is unavoidable and pride in what we have done together a valuable thing. Yet I fear what excessive patriotism can do to nations and to peoples. Patriotism is a good servant, but a bad master. Fear it before you accept it. A wise man once said that patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel, and as you should know from the history of the assassination of your great President Abraham Lincoln, it can easily lead hotheaded men astray.

I hope this gives you food for thought for your essay. Good luck with it. Maybe your Mom will share it with us when it is done.

Bye for now.

~Garry Eaton, Port Moody, British Columbia, Canada


Garry Eaton is semi-retired in Port Moody, British Columbia, Canada, where he lives with his long-time partner, Maureen Matthews, the finest reference librarian on the West Coast. After graduating in English Literature from the Univ. of Alberta, he pursued a graduate degree, but two semesters of teaching freshman English cured him of the illusion that he was cut out to teach, and since then it's been whatever came along. He has lived and worked at many occupations in several cities, including Paris, New York, Los Angeles, Calgary and Vancouver. His interest in haiku/haibun is of recent origin, but the satisfaction it provides is a growing part of his life. He is also at work on a biography of Cyrus Stephen Eaton, a famous figure in American business, who is a distant relative of his.









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