Reading about the condemnation of a Croatian soccer player leading the cheer “Za Dom Spremni” got me thinking about why people are up in arms about this. “Za Dom Spremni” literally means “For home…Ready!” (The second part is given in answer to the first.) The cheer “Za Dom” has existed for a long time in Croatian history. It first appears in the Hungarian epic The Siege of Sziget, written by Miklos Zrinyi, the great-grandson of the epic’s hero, Croatian Duke Nikola Subic Zrinski. (We celebrate the 450th anniversary of the battle’s end on September 7th. Cardinal Richelieu called it “the battle which saved civilization.) It also appears in the 1876 opera Nikola Subic Zrinski by Ivan Zajk in the patriotic song “U boj, u boj!” And, the cheer appears to have been used in a fuller version by Duke Josip Jelacic (1801-1859). Jelacic would shout “Za Dom!” and his soldiers would respond with “Spremni umrijeti!”–i.e. “Ready to die!” So, the cheer has existed for a long time, and the sentiment probably as long as Croats have wielded a sword in battle.
Despite this long tradition, various leftists and Serbs (who fall in the former camp) have married the cheer exclusively to the Croatian fascist government of WWII and the Ustashe. And so, the soccer player above was accused of being a fascist…and, I suppose, all Croats who love soccer. The Croatian fascists did use the cheer with regularity; however, they tended to add “Za poglavnika” (“For Poglavnik”), referring to the commander-in-chief’s deputy, Poglavnik Ante Pavelic.
The fact of the matter is that Nazis are nationalists, but not all nationalists are Nazis. Furthermore, not all people willing to fight and die for their country are nationalists: some are patriots. Many of the Croats cheering “Spremni!” in that game may easily have fought in Croatia’s War for Independence (1991-1995). And, think about how universal this saying is. Would it be hard to find an American willing to say “For America, I’m ready to die”? The British also express zeal to lay down their lives when they say “For king and country!” Heck, my high school’s motto is “Pro Deo et Patria,” indicating two things one should be willing to die for. Very few countries on earth cannot appreciate this sentiment.
However, there exist political philosophies which can’t bear the sentiment: socialism and its ilk. Socialism is essentially a global movement–superficially similar to the Catholic Church. Socialism seeks to create a Utopia based on equality. Patriotism does not exist in a world of perfect equality, because it creates a dimension of inequality. Simply put, the patriot loves his country more than all the rest, because he feels that he owes a debt of gratitude towards the country in which he was raised. For me, no country in the world can replace America–as fine as so many are.
So, the socialist or communist undermines patriotism in order to attain his goal. (Stalin even made the Vietnamese Communist Party change its name to the “Indochinese Communist Party.”) Whenever you see people protesting monuments of famous Americans, flag burning, or demeaning America by focusing on the worst in its history, you can be sure that a socialist mind is at work. Patriotism is a shield against their ideology and so are the other two great pieties: toward God and one’s parents. God, country, and family all draw one’s loyalty away from the state. Indeed, one’s allegiance to the state is measured by how the state treats one’s religion, country, and family. Socialism wants the state to be your God, the bureaucracy your country, and the society your family.
Think about that the next time you hear the Left denouncing patriotic sentiments or American Exceptionalism. Let the Croatians have their cheer “Za Dom Spremni”: most countries have their own version.