Some people say, "My country, right or wrong." Other people think argument and dissent are the signs of a true patriot. Auden’s poem falls more toward the latter end of the spectrum. The poem tells us that "in everything he did he served the Greater Community," but we’re not sure what this means. Who decides what the interests of the Greater Community are? Does this group exclude anyone? Is individual identity at odds with it? These are a few of the disturbing questions that the poem raises in relation to patriotism. And, of course, things are complicated by the fact that the poem seems to be set in America but was written by an Englishman.
The Unknown Citizen argues that patriotism is always a bad thing, and that a person’s primary loyalties should be toward mankind.