INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Olympic closing ceremonies are so much more meaningful than opening ceremonies for the very reason that athletes and coaches arrive in the arena as one, to mingle as freely as they feel, and this summer we saw evidence of much mingling and much comfort among 204 countries. Thanks in large to the Olympic spirit, patriotism has become less rigid, more malleable and more encompassing.
Back in 1775, Dr. Samuel Johnson cautioned us, “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” A century later Ambrose Bierce would protest, “I beg to submit, sir, it is the first.” Of course Mark Twain would get his shovel in there too, “Patriotism contemplates the opposite of a common brotherhood.”
Enter Doctors Without Borders. These dedicated professionals put themselves in harm’s way to treat battle wounds regardless of race, religion, political stripe or how much money you or your daddy might make. These champions of compassion are determined to fix you, or let you go to another world peacefully, and they will do it without pay, without thanks, and without waving a flag.
Just this week, Scott Sayare reported in the New York Times that an international team of Doctors Without Borders is presently hard at work in northern Syria. The government of Syria has let them know that they work “at their own risks and perils.” Sill, they work as close to the fighting as prudence will allow.
We Americans decorate our warriors for acts of valor with bronze stars, silver stars and Medals of Honor. Every one of these nurses and Doctors Without Borders should be receiving Medals of Honor from the United Nations. I only wish I could forge them and hand them out myself
I’m proud to know one doctor who has volunteered her time over seas, Dr. Johanna Koch of Incline Village. Like you, I have my heroes, and Dr. Koch is right up there with Harriet Tubman.
The 21st century is starting to see how wrong-headed is the old saw, “My country right or wrong.” That statement is an insult both to the speaker and to the country.
True understanding and tranquility can only be derived from a free flow of information and ideas across all borders. So let us rid ourselves of nationalists who effervesce the holy gas of pure unselfish “patriotism,” and let us raise in their stead Doctors Without Borders as our model.
Which brings us to this week, when representatives from 120 United Nations “nonaligned” countries are meeting in Tehran.
Here is a moment for Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to stand up to the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and strongly propose he stand down his nuclear enrichment program and allow international inspectors to complete their work before world opinion steps in and takes that decision off his hands.
The positive spirit of patriotism must defy and defeat the negative spirit of nationalism and religious zeal, or there will be holy hell to pay.
— Learn more about McAvoy Layne at www.ghostoftwain.org.