Defining Patriotism: From The Left Hand of Darkness

While rereading Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness for this month’s reading group post, I found a quote that seems all too appropriate for the current political climate here in the US.  Estraven, the king’s adviser, asks Genly Ai, an envoy from off planet, if he knows what patriotism is.  When Ai answers that he doesn’t know, aside from love of one’s country, Estraven explains:

“No, I don’t mean love, when I say patriotism.  I mean fear.  The fear of the other.  And its expressions are political, not poetical: hate, rivalry, aggression.  It grows in us, that fear.  It grows in us year by year.  We’ve followed our road too far.”

I’ll have the reading group post up later this month, but I wanted to note this passage before then.  How do we keep ourselves as a nation from following our own patriotic road too far?


  1. Kwt says

    I think that bridge has been crossed so far back that it has collapsed for want of maintenance. Was it this bad in the Civil Rights era? I don’t know, I wasn’t there. It feels like the US is headed for explosive (or implosive) dysfunction.

    Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series remains great science fiction today even though the technology is amusingly quaint. The inexorable crumbling of the Empire seems applicable here.

  2. Robert, not Bob says

    Time to abandon the hopelessly rotten concept. Dig into patriotism, and what do you find? Enormous amounts of mindless hate, and just a little bit of “positive concern for the welfare of the nation”, which seems rather out of place. (And the nation isn’t a real thing, anyway. Only the people are real.)