Patriotism and AHEPA
Why is the individual called upon, and how far is he called upon, to sacrifice himself for his country? Why should the good of his supposed kinfolk be more important to him than the good of anyone else? Why should he make their quarrel his quarrel and their enemies his enemies? These are questions which, one is not surprised to learn, occurred first to the Greeks, and one of the answers which the Greeks gave has penetrated deeply into the thought of the modern world. The stimulus which the Greeks gave to patriotism was by the force of their shining example. The Greeks excelled as incomparable analysts of virtue. They made patriotism self-conscious, reflective, rational. That which elsewhere was mere gregarious impulse became for the Greek something for which he could give a reason.
The Order of AHEPA .. preaches the Hellenic brand of patriotism -- patriotism which must depend for its excellence not on the accident of birth in a particular community, but upon the value of that community to the well being of the individual citizen; and the duty of the citizen to fight and protect the community for making it possible for him to enjoy the things which he enjoys.by Milton Meletiadis
For example, if you had asked a Persian in the Army of Xerxes why he was willing to and die for the great King, it is safe to say that your question would scarcely have been understood. Such loyalty was to him a matter of course, and if he had understood you at all, he would doubtlessly have replied that he was following the custom of his ancestors and obeying his ancestral gods. But if you had asked an Athenian why he fought for Greece against Persia, he would have replied that he was fighting for liberty, and if you had asked an Athenian sixty years later why he fought for Athens against Sparta, he would have replied that under the Athenian constitution life was more free, laws were less galling, larger opportunity was given for individual self-development; he would have spoken in almost modern language about a conflict of ideals, about democracy versus oligarchy, about individual rights, versus militarism. To him loyalty had ceased to be a matter of course. In short, it was the Greeks who took for us the immense step of making patriotism depend, not on the accident of birth in a particular community, but upon the moral value of that community to the well-bing of the individual citizen.
There is a very remarkable passage in Isocrates where this conception is definitely put forward. It is in the famous Panathenaic Speech, composed for delivery at the great national festival, and at a time when internal strife had torn the Greek communities asunder. "Let the Hellenes revive" he exclaims, "the united enthusiasm of earlier days; let them put petty quarrels out of sight, dwelling rather upon the things which constitute Greek as against non-Greek civilization." These characecteristic things were seen above all at Athens, namely, order, good govenrment, the culture of the individual, art, poetry, music, the refinement of life. "We have bought it about that the name of Greek is more appropriately given to those who partake of our Hellenic education than to those who are connected with us by the ties of blood."
Thus speaking of course, very roughly and generally, one may say that the reflective Greek justified his patriotism by the thought of his own civilization as inherently superior to that of the rest of the world.
The Greek loved Greece, less because it had been the home of his fathers than because it was the home of his own ideals. He was a democrat and he admired a constitution which every freeman had an equal chance of rising to public office. He had a taste for art, and he liked to be in a state where artistic genius was furthered at the public expense; he valued lesiure, and congratulated himself that his lot had been cast where abundant resources provided him with the neccessities, and where there was no burden of compulsory military training. He loved his country, not so much because it was his own, as because it was a superior country. This point of view has its intellectual merit, for Greek civilization was actually in advance of civilization elsewhere.
The Order of AHEPA, composed of citizens of Greek descent, advocates better citizenship and preaches the Hellenic brand of patriotism -- patriotism which must depend for its excellence not on the accident of birth in a particular community, but upon the value of that community to the well being of the individual citizen; and the duty of the citizen to fight and protect the community for making it possible for him to enjoy the things which he enjoys.
The Greeks in America, finding in this country the same conditions which prompted theis ancestors to formulate the principles of true patriotism, are readily grasping the opportunity to revive "the enthusiasm of their earlier days" and by their own shining example, make patriotism a virtue worthy of the best traditions of their ancestors and the land of their adoption. By the promotion and encouragement of loyalty to the United States of America and obedience to its laws, by instructing its members in the tenets and principles of American democracy, by infusing into them a sincere love for the United States, by teaching its history and traditions, by its advocation of intelligent and active participation in the political, social and commercial life of the United States, the essence of better social life and government, which our ancestors developed to a high level of perfection, we are rendering a real service to America, and by so doing we are advancing the Hellenic ideals and help marshal these ideals into active service for humanity.
By promoting and sustaining everything that America represents, we are sustaining and promoting the interests of mankind, for America today represents the ideals of humanity, in fact America means humanity.
The Greek dream and objective troughout the centuries has been to advance the interests of mankind and bring about peace and contentment to the nations of the world. What more can we do when we resolve, heart and soul, to stand by America, believe in America, fight for America, and faithfully serve America to make its ideals, which are truly Hellenic prevail throughout the world.
Man forever fights for liberty and the freedom of his ideals, for his worship and admiration of art and beauty, for the sanctity and peace of his home and the prevalence of justice, for can there be value in life unless man cherishes, and fights to win and sustain these truly human ideals? These are the thing which are greater and nobler and their value immeasurable than our petty daily strifes and quarrels. Man means life, and life implies action for the sake of humanity, peace and contentment, and he must forever strive to reach this goal of his dreams in spite of obstacles, misunderstandings, superstitions and intolerant ignorance.
Progress can be achieved through intelligent and constant fight against the forces of nature and the inequities of man, for its rewards are worth while.
Our mission then is great, our hope is promising, our faith is inspiring and our efforts are praiseworthy. There is nothing which we cannot achieve if we can learn to cooperate, band together and dare to act, for after all the road to progress and acievement is inscribed with "Courage and Action."
© Order of AHEPA