Does loyalty matter?

Salt PosterOkay, I started out wanting to write something about a movie I watched recently: Salt.

In one scene toward the end of the movie, Orlov, a master spy, has captured Salt’s husband Mike Krause. In order to prove her loyalty to Orlov’s cause, and her patriotism to the Mother Country, Evelyn Salt must watch, but do nothing while he murders her husband by drowning.

Hmm …aside from the horrific nature of what we find entertaining (another discussion altogether), I got to thinking, what exactly is loyalty and/or patriotism? I mean, is it relevant, as demonstrated by this scene? The whole point of the scene is to show exactly how far the character Salt is willing to go to ‘serve’ her master and his cause. At this point, we don’t know who is her true master, but we suspect.

What is country? What is nationality? I ask again: Is it relevant?

Countries come and go. What is loyal and patriotic now will have very little significance, if any, in the future. For example, step into the past with me—do the loyal soldiers, spies, agents of the ancient Roman empire, their patriotism, have any significance today?

Statue from the Elgin Marbles at the British M...
Image by Chris Devers via Flickr

No. Whatever or whoever the heroes of the time sacrificed to the cause of the Roman empire died as they did.

The Roman empire doesn’t exist, long gone, all legacy funnelled into some distant influences on our languages, out custom, our laws here in the Western World.

The development of language, custom, law, infrastructure—these are all the natural course arising out of human activity and interaction. They arise out of one’s loyalty to other human beings, real, tangible, reciprocal.

It is a question of morals. Is patriotism moral? No. It is merely indifferent and vulnerable to time and place.

What is loyalty then? Family, friends, community. By this reckoning, the characters of Evelyn Salt and her spy masters are intensely immoral. And like all politically motivated stories, real or fiction, they miss the point altogether, which is life, love, family, friends …in other words, if Salt had been a truly patriotic, loyal human being, she would have saved her husband.

Why do we find the alternative so entertaining?

Salt Poster image credit