Edith Cavell: "Patriotism Is Not Enough"

Illustration for article titled Edith Cavell: "Patriotism Is Not Enough"

On this day in 1915, British nurse Edith Cavell was executed for her role in helping over 200 Allied soldiers escape to the Netherlands from Belgium during World War 1. Ms. Cavell, who was stationed at the Berkendael Institute, a nursing school that was converted to a Red Cross military hospital once the Great War broke out, was captured after several Allied soldiers were reported missing from the hospital. After roughly 10 weeks in solitary confinement, and despite the protestations of the United States government, who warned Germany of the potential repercussions of harming Ms. Cavell, she was led before a firing squad and shot to death at the age of 49. The night before her execution, she made peace with her impending death and the circumstances that led her to it, telling her pastor: "Patriotism is not enough, I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone."Cavell's execution is seen as one of the turning points of World War 1: the British government was able to capitalize on the overwhelming public outrage surrounding her death by creating anti-German propaganda that bolstered military support in the United Kingdom and public support for the Allied cause in the United States, which had not yet entered the war. In a time when patriotism is still being watered down to the kind of pin you wear on your lapel, it's important to remember what a real heroine looks like. And Edith Cavell was one; not only for her bravery, for her strength, for her willingness to put the lives of others above her own, but for her ability to hold these beliefs and act upon them without resorting to hatred for others in order to bolster them. Edith Cavell stayed true to her beliefs until the end, knowing that it wasn't just patriotism, but patriotism and the knowledge that her actions brought some good into the world that would give her the peace she was looking for before she met her fate. For you can try to conjure up ideas of patriotism all you want, but if your heart is in a bad place, and you're using "patriotism" as a means to create more hatred in the world, there's nothing heroic about your actions at all. And that's a lesson certain politicians could certainly stand to learn right about now. Edith Cavell [Wikipedia] "The Heroine Who Humbled Me" [Nightingale Declaration]



Great post Hortense, and hooray for Edith Cavell. I'd never heard of her until this post, like many of the other commenters here.

Weekend Jezebel is all I dreamed it would be and more...