Everyone loves their country, but we can’t be blinded to the needs of the rest of the world by focusing exclusively on our own national interests. Nationalism is too often used as an excuse not to help those who seem different from us. No matter what form of government a country might have, or what political beliefs they may embrace, they are still human beings just like you and I, and they deserve our assistance for that reason alone. Each nation in the world, no matter how hostile or threatening they may be, is made up of people who have the same hopes and desires as anyone else. They love their children just as much as we do. They have the same basic needs for food, water, shelter and medical care as the rest of humanity. They need respect and dignity. They need opportunity, purpose and optimism. They need to be treated as equal human beings.  

Often the victims of extreme poverty are trapped in nations who are belligerent to the rest of the world. This only increases the isolation of those who are suffering. In many cases the affected individuals had no part in determining the political leadership of their country. Often there are no elections at all or the balloting process is rigged. In the worst cases, control is seized through armed conflict which increases the severity of the poverty. So, although they had no part in making the decision as to who governs their nation, they are still victimized by our refusal to help them because of the actions of those in power. We have to look at the citizens of a developing country and not just at the leadership. When we refuse to offer aid in an attempt to punish those who govern, it is the innocent who suffer and die . When we restrict aid we are only hurting those who need our help. When an abandoned mother of four, without food or clean water, watches her children die one after the other she is not concerned with the politics of her nation. She just wants to keep her babies from dying. That should be our priority too.

Presidents, prime ministers, kings, queens, dictators and warlords all come and go, but, unfortunately, extreme poverty survives generation after generation. We have yet to learn that, no matter what form of government is in place, the residents of every nation on earth are entitled to basic human rights. Nothing less is acceptable. It does not matter how much we disagree with a particular country’s leadership, it is vital that humanitarian aid be delivered without any conditions on our part. Innocent children deserve to have food to eat and clean water to drink no matter how the adults running the country behave. A five-year old is not responsible for the provocative actions of a tyrant.  We must think of the people first before any political considerations. Help must be given to prevent loss of life whether we agree with those in power or not. Saving a child must come before any political posturing.  

Nationalism can be taken to the extreme. If we focus solely on our own country’s needs we tend to neglect the deadly suffering that occurs in other parts of the world. Nationalism can become a form of shortsighted selfishness on a massive scale. In this day and age the world is interconnected in countless intricate ways. Politically, economically and socially we are all bound together. It is no longer possible for a nation to isolate itself from billions of other human beings. Our actions, whether we acknowledge it or not, have serious repercussions around the globe and so does our inaction when we refuse aid to nations we disagree with politically. Nationalism too often means putting yourself first. It is used as an excuse to only take care of those who share your view-point to the exclusion of those who don‘t. We must realize that in our lifetimes it is very unlikely that all nations are ever going to agree on anything. Does that mean that just because professional politicians and armed thugs behave in narrow-minded and self-seeking ways that we have to embrace that kind of mentality as well? Of course not. There are enough humanitarian organizations that flourish without the political backing of a particular country to make a significant difference in millions of lives if we will just offer them our support.  

When it comes to saving lives we must put nationalism aside. We must simply act as compassionate individuals coming to the aid of others. Ethnicity, political views, religious beliefs and economic status cannot enter into our thinking. We have to treat everyone as equals and we have to look past our perceived differences. Feeling national pride is something that we all have in common. In most of the Western world people have a very real and deep connection with their country of origin. There is certainly nothing wrong with this. It seems to be a very natural thing. We care about our nation because, after all, it is in our own best interest to live in a country that respects our rights as individuals and provides us with the opportunities and tools to improve the lives of our families. But we should also be aware that billions of people in the world do not live in nations that provide the conditions necessary to enjoy peace and good health. That is why it is critical that we look beyond our own borders and include everyone in our attempts to improve life on this planet.  

We cannot continue to let innocent children starve to death or die from treatable illnesses or preventable diseases just because we do not see eye to eye with the person who is temporarily in charge of their country. No matter how vehemently we disagree with their views we cannot justify letting the innocent die just to make a political point. That has been our standard operating procedure for decades and it has cost millions of lives over the years, and what makes the death toll even more frustrating is the fact that withholding aid for political reasons does not work. Too often if one ruthless individual is forced out of office he is succeeded by someone even more savage and brutal. If we are only willing to help when we completely agree with those in power than we will be waiting forever and the one billion human beings trapped in extreme poverty will continue to die at a heartbreaking rate.  


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