Love of Country vs. Love of Heritage


I would like to discuss the dynamics between the love of one’s country and the love one’s heritage (family, cultural, etc.). For example, many in the U.S. can trace our roots to the Old World - Europe. How does one balance the cultural legacy of one’s forebears and the love due to one’s country. Also, how would one balance love owed to two countries in the case of dual-citizenship (especially in the case where those two countries are at war)?

Hi JMJ_coder,

I think a lot has to do with how far back one’s heritage is. In my case, I have a grandmother who is full German, but the rest of my heritage is mixed going back to the 1600s. While it is almost all European (one of my great-great or g-g-g…not sure…grandmothers is Sioux), I don’t really consider myself anything but American.

My wife is first generation Filipina, and she is a little closer to her heritage…but not much. We discussed it, and we think the heritage connection is dependant on how tied-in you are to the immigrant community, the language and family - too many variables to make a generalization. Certainly, the further you get generationally, and the more mixed the ethnicity, the more you identify as American without a hyphen.

In the case of dual-citizenship, in my experience, most Americans with dual-citizenship tend to be very proud of their other heritage, even if they are proud to be Americans. This makes sense, as their family roots come from the “old country.” As far as the “at war” situation. I would say that depends on the feelings about the “old country.” A lot of Iraqi-Americans, for example, hated Sadaam Hussein. The conditions in their previous homeland is part of the reason they are in America.

Maturity may come into play, as well. I remember in '79-80 I was a freshman in high school, and an Iranian student at my school was saying “yes! Yes! We are going to war with the US!” I thought to myself, “is this guy absolutely nuts? Does he realize what war with the US would mean to Iran?” :eek: :stuck_out_tongue:

I think you can love more than one country, the same way you can love more than one child or parent. Why not? At war it’s wise to find out the issues that sparked the war and decide for yourself.

I’ll be in that situation soon enough:) I’m attaining dual citizenship with Italy (my dad’s a dual citizen and my grandfather never left Italy) as are my two siblings (my mother is not Italian or she would too). Italian has been our “nurture” ancestry because my dad was born over there.

That said, I’m an American and an Italian. I love them both. And I don’t see the US and Italy fighting against each other. I think I’m OK:)

I love my Italian ancestry! I’m always cooking the dishes and speaking Italian. I listen to music and try to learn what I can about the culture and country. Lol, because I’m northern Italian (Florentine), I’m a rarity among my Italian friends (mostly Sicilian or Neapolitan) and they never hesitate to tease me, lol. I’m even attending an Italian Mass soon with one of my friends!

At the same time, I love America. I live in the capital and love how alive and impassioned everything and everyone is. I love the Jersey shore, BBQ’s, baseball (YANKEES!!!), the Superbowl, etc. I love seeing a blend of different cultures and nationalities. I love learning about our history and knowing how my ancestors and everyone else’s really worked to build up this country. I love the principles our country was based on.

So I really am an Italian-American :thumbsup:

Love all countries, not just your own. You can carry some level of love for your own country in order to prevent "civil’ war and unification, but if you love your country above your others you aren’t doing a good job of loving your neighbor.

Oh boy…I hear a chorus of Cumbaya in the background. :rolleyes:

Sorry, but I don’t agree that loving your country above other countries is a breaking of the greatest commandment.

I don’t expect you, or anyone to. Humans, in general, love borders. We need to break down and see past these borders, though. We need to look past our heritage as well. The USA is a great country and there is a lot to love. Italy is a great country too and there is a lot to love.

It’s not easy.

Of course there is a lot to love in many/most countries…but not all. Some countries are downright terrible places to live. This does not mean that I don’t love the people (my neighbors).

The question of heritage vs. country cuts a little deeper than even nationality for Catholics. I think you owe your country loyalty, and in a conflict of nationalities, I still think you owe your country loyalty although your affections may rest with the land of your ancestry.

But we share a Catholic heritage as well, and this country was not founded as a Catholic nation. Quite the contrary. At Williamsburg, for example, a stranger was required to swear that he rejected Consubstantiation and that he was not Catholic on pain of imprisonment. Catholics were not permitted to own property or hold office. Because the Vatican is also a nation, in the minds of some this creates a conflict of loyalties.

Just wanted to add a layer of complexity to the matter.

OMG! I woke up in the middle of the night - believe it or not - and sat bolt upright realizing that I had written consubstantation in the foregoing post. Where did that come from and why did it come to me in my sleep? I may need psychiatric counselling. Is my Lutheran friend wiedling into my subconscious? Have I been spending too much time pouring over these threads? Have I been (gulp!) shooting my mouth off too much? :eek: I am so sorry and I do know the difference. It was probably ok to be a Lutheran in colonial Virginia.

Wow, I’m glad I got a chance to correct it. So sorry.

There was a lot of prejudice towards Catholics in the beginnings of this country. That’s one of the reasons the Knights of Columbus was formed. But, did you know that Maryland was founded by Catholics! And that they decreed from the start complete religious tolerance - but, it went south when the Protestants from Virgina came in to enjoy this freedom and tried to oust the Catholics!

I did know that Maryland was a Catholic settlement but I did not know the Virginia overlay.

What do you make of the potential conflict between loyalty to religion and loyalty to country? I think it is a more real problem considering the split between natural law and statuory law as to abortion. When the common Christian could fully believe the country’s laws were derived from natural law via common law there was no need to pick sides but can’t you almost see the day ahead where we are going to be called to make a choice of loyalties.

We must obey God rather than men. (Acts 5:29)

Going back at least to Saint Augustine is the teaching that an unjust law is no law at all. And not only do we not have to obey immoral laws, in some cases we may have a duty to disobey them.

You don’t see Italy and the US fighting each other? They did so in WWII, possibly did so in WWI (I’m a bit hazy on my WWI history), so they certainly could do so again.

I live in an interesting part of the country for your topic, the environs of Cincinnati, OH. We were subject to two waves of German immigration, largely Catholic. In my city streets were originally named after German heroes, i.e. Hindenburg Street. We had several German language newspapers at the turn of the century, and grammer school was taught in German for those who chose it. The Catholic parishes and neighborhoods were broken down according to old country sensibilities - there were high German and low German neighborhoods and parishes. During the war, the streets were renamed after American heroes - Hindenburg Street became Pershing Street, etc.

My grandfather on one side was first generation American, I am German on both sides, and (unfortunately) the family has pictures of relatives in Nazi unifroms serving in the German army during the war.

I studied German language two years in High School and one in college. I vividly remember, when my proficiency had arrived at a point, trying to engage an elderly neighbor lady who was strictly Deutsch and spoke little English in her own language. “Gutten abend, Frau Ortwein” I belted out when I saw her on the street one evening. She shreaked and ran away crying. It never occurred to me that she thought I was mocking her as, perhaps, she had been many times during the war.

I can say that in my opinion, German Catholics are the most hard headed of all. We survived Luther and hung on when all our brethren were reforming.

Und das ist alles ich kann gesacht.

I live in the hear and now, as an American. Heritage is part of history, I know of the things my grandparents did and the past generation before that. I am prone to look into my genealogy of the past and adapt traditions from those countries from time to time.

Assuming someone with dual citizenship, you have to do the best you can. You care about your home country but also your adopted country. If you look at any two countries across the world, the people are much more alike than not. It is often a few in the government who cause problems (normal tension to war), they speak for the government not the people. You in that case can easily embrace both cultures.

Biggie, one musn’t confuse the average wehrmacht soldier with Nazis and SS. An entire generation (perhaps two generations) of German men and boys fought in the war.

If you read some of Anthony Beevor’s fascinating books one “Stalingrad”, and “The battle for Berlin”, he talks all about the wildly varying views and opions within the Wehrmacht when it came Hitler and the Nazis.

I am 100% Cajun and proud of it! But if I go to lets say France, they’ll look at me and say…“Dang Americans!” :smiley:

Rightly corrected. I did read “Stalingrad”!

Of course. The Acadians came to North America a long time ago. Both continents have changed a lot since then.
I see heritage as family ties and learned contextual thinking. Family ties have a power that goes beyond the natural and can’t be undone, and I even believe ancestors themselves sometimes want something from us and find many ways of letting us know that. It’s not a matter of fractions. You can be 50% French and 25% Bavarian and 12.5% English and 6.25% Appalatchee and 6.25% Dutch, and any or every one of those ancestors could affect you spiritually. Your connections may not even be exactly the same as your full siblings’ – or they might be the same. That’s part of why I don’t subscribe to identity police, telling people whom they are allowed to identify with. A person with the heritage I made up above might well be getting messages from early childhood from a Dutch woman who lived centuries before the one who left the Netherlands. There’s probably a reason. No one gets to say, “Well, you’re more of a lot of things than you are Dutch, and your ancestry can get you tribal enrollment with the Appalatchee, but how are you Dutch?” Who cares? It’s part of you and you can’t just reject it, or you’ll hurt yourself. Instead you have a need to make sense out of it. What sense it makes is individual and not available as a statistic.
As for learning context, well, it can be accidental, subliminal, covert or shame-ridden, and still very much part of how you understand everything. Or it can be open, loud and bursting with glee; either way, it’s still just part of who you are. Suppose the person I made up in the last paragraph is married to someone whose mother was born in Cuba and whose father was born in Kenya. Things like what you’re communicating by singing in the shower, who does the bills, and what it means to slow down while arguing, to name just a few, are cultural beliefs that affect daily life and yet may be too subtle to come up before you’re married. Not only marriages but workplaces and roommate situations can have such misunderstandings. To communicate about these things you first have to be aware of them, which means knowing your family’s story. This leads to self-awareness, which can be rewarding even aside from the bad things it can prevent.
Heritage is just part of identity though. Nationality is another part. I am an American. I know perfectly well I say things that people elsewhere don’t understand. I’ve been asked why we are so aggressive, why we are so eccentric and why we are so antisocial and puritanical. In answering such criticism I spoke for Americans, family histories aside.

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