Suppose I'm keen on Wildcats basketball. All season long, I've been rooting for the team, religiously watching every game. I have marveled at so-and-so's athleticism, been awed by the point guard recruited out of junior high school, learned to appreciate Joe Humongous at clutch time and empathized endlessly with every player's heartaches and triumphs alike. Then, finally, at the end of the season, they win a championship, and like a good fan, I go absolutely batshit with the joy of it all.
Yet the truth is, my team's victory has nothing to do with me or anything I've done. I may imagine that the win reflects the worth of my city--and thus somehow my own worth--but of course it doesn't. It simply has to do with a bunch of highly talented athletes, the legions of tutors who kept them from flunking out, and their coaches and trainers.
The Wildcats would have won whether I had followed their every move or gone into a coma and missed the entire season.
Patriotism is like being a big fan--remembering, of course, that the word "fan" comes from "fanatic." You just have to substitute a country for a sports team. If you live in a very big and powerful country, you can imagine you're big and powerful, too. And big and powerful is a very popular thing these days; the popularity of SUVs comes to mind.
I was watching television the other day while some learned expert opined that the reason people drive things like Esplanades, Excursions, Excoriators, Expectorators, Eructators, Humvees and the like has solely to do with the reptilian part of the brain. You know the part, and so do I, probably much better than we'd like to admit. It's that glob of gray matter that sits atop your spinal cord, the part even the so-called brain dead strive to keep intact beyond all others. This reptilian part of the brain is absolutely convinced that bigger is better. To this reptilian part of the brain, or inner lizard, "smart" has nothing to do with anything.
So if you live in a big city, and your children are choking on smog, the inner lizard will never put together the fact that the massive vehicle you've parked your ass in just might have something to do with it. Nosireebob. The reptilian part of your brain will remain forever pleased as punch that should push come to shove, you'll be able to crush the living shit out of anything that gets in your way.
Or think about food. Americans eat an enormous amount of food. Psychologists are interminably explaining this phenomenon with elaborate theories describing neuroses of all sorts, but I think the reason is very simple--very lizard. We want to be big so nobody can hurt us, and putting on loads of fat is a terrific and easy way to get real big. Any komodo dragon will tell you that if you're big enough, you rarely have to fight, because others instinctively move out of your space. It's why most people scooch over when an obese person overflows into their airline seat. What we should do is elbow the bastard all the way off the armrest and into the guy on the other side.
Americans are not even embarrassed about being too fat anymore. They go on Dr. Phil and talk about fat people's rights. And speaking of big, what about all these knuckleheads living in gyms across the country? Those guys aren't doing aerobics or yoga; they're lifting weights. Why? So they can get bigger; instead of working on the fat cells, they're working on muscle cells. The reason for this is obvious: The muscle in their head, the one that's dictating their choices, is the very same that tells one monitor lizard to go ahead and take that maggot-infested dead goat from the other one--because it can.
The problem with being all down and dirty with your inner lizard, of course, is that lizards don't think and don't give a damn about anybody else. This works well for them. No use getting all touchy-feely when you're trying to digest a maggot-infested goat--a full-time job if ever there was one. I'm just not convinced it's the best approach toward life for human beings. There is more to life than being big and powerful, or there was, anyway, the last time I looked.