When Love of Country Trumps Love of Humanity

Eight years ago, when I was part-owner of a yoga center, I stood on my driveway facing my business partner.

We were arguing. In fact, we had been arguing almost daily for about a year, from everything about what kinds of classes we should offer, to how much to charge for classes, to how much to spend on marketing. We had gone into this venture holding hands, and I assumed, wrongly, that we would work through our differences the same way. As she was getting into her car, I said, “I want you to know, I am committed to this partnership.” She replied, “And I am committed to [the business].”

While it took me several more months to pull the trigger and leave, in hindsight, this is the moment I should’ve known there was no hope left. As long as she was prioritizing the business over the partnership, the partnership—and my human heart—would never get what it needed. As long as she believed that a business—something that lacks heart, mind and emotions—deserved her efforts and support but not me, her real and human partner, there was nowhere to go but out.

This memory, and her words, bring up all kinds of things for me. I think about the phrase “It’s not personal, it’s business.” Anyone who has ever been told that knows it’s not ever true. Or, I think about how, in arguments against raising the minimum wage, we are asked to consider the “health” and “sacrifices” of the company. But we are not asked to consider the health and sacrifices of those who work for them.

Yet, by earning a living wage, employees will themselves have greater health, will have to make fewer sacrifices, and will have an overall better state of mind, which would in turn contribute to greater health for the company. Health and well-being of employees are not taken into account when measuring profitability. Rather, employees are treated like “widgets” that can be replaced, added, removed, in and out of the equation. On the other hand, companies are often treated as if they have feelings, options, biases. Almost as if they were human.

Remember the Hobby Lobby case in 2014? This Washington Post stated this,

“In a manner of speaking, these issues pose the question — a topic of energetic debate in current American political and social discourse — of whether corporations are “people.”  The First Amendment protects the rights “of the people,” and the 1993 law protects the religious rights of “persons.”  Do profit-making companies qualify as either?”

In quite an opposite example, recently, when Michael Flynn invoked his 5th amendment right against self-incrimination, the Senate Intelligence Committee delivered subpoenas to his business instead, because businesses could not invoke the 5th. Well, of course not. Businesses don’t invoke, people do. Business don’t engage in shady behavior, people do. Business don’t [insert verb], people do.

But businesses are not the only entities that we sometimes treat as though they were living, breathing humans.

So are countries.

In the wake of our recent contentious American election—you know the one—we have seen and documented a marked increase in hate crimes that is likely tied with constant, repetitive, negative rhetoric about immigrants and minorities. We are also seeing an increase in misogynistic behavior and woman-shaming and/or marginalization antics. I have already watched more hateful encounters and racist rants online than I care to recall. Some of this isn’t new. But we still all must realize that having someone in the Oval Office who speaks down to so many people, who divides the world into “good” and “evil,” who has little grasp of nuance or respect for words, has a real, day-to-day effect on how we see and treat one another.

Ironically, as hate crimes swell, I have never before seen such an outward display of love for our country. I’ve never seen more American flags flying in front of houses, (it’s like the 4th of July every day), waving from the backs of motorcycles, and used as avatars on Facebook to engage in hateful, vile language towards another American.

Two examples of this irony come to mind from just recent weeks. First, Republican Greg Gianforte won a seat in the US congress. This came the night after he assaulted a reporter who was doing his job: asking him questions on the eve of the election about the health care bill. The assault was audiotaped and verified by several eye-witnesses. While early voting did come into play, I was horrified to hear that even after this brutal attack, voters essentially shrugged and voted for him anyway. Only once he won did he apologize, to a chorus of “I forgive yous” from a crowd of supporters who clearly were not the victims. As long as “the other guy” didn’t win, it seems, anything can be forgiven. He even got away with calling his assault a “mistake.”

And last weekend, two men were stabbed to death, and another injured, on a train in Portland, Oregon, while defending two women from a man shouting anti-Muslim rhetoric at them (only one of the women was actually Muslim). The Portland Mercury, a local newspaper, reported the accused as a “known right wing extremist and white supremacist.” In pictures of him at a recent rally, he is draped in a Revolutionary War-era flag.

It took Trump three days to respond to the murders, and when he did, it was lukewarm.

America is not a “person.” It is not one singular idea. It is not one color, or one religion, or one set of beliefs. Countries are not people. Countries are made up of people. If we do not love the people, then we only love an idea of a country. We cannot love this country and hate the people in it at the same time.

We need to begin a new revolution–one built from love, compassion and generosity. Our leader for this revolution is not our current president, who personally has normalized and even become a gateway for this behavior .

But no matter. We are our own leaders.

Our voices—those that speak of tolerance and kindness and acceptance—will rise like cream from the bottom to the top. Each of us is empowered to make a difference. We can choose an inclusive, unconditional (but not blind) love everyday. We can choose to let our love for country be a testament to how much we love the humans we live alongside.

Through our love for our fellow Americans, we can show what it means to be true patriots. 

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