“God bless America”

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Without being too flippant, this whole “patriotic thing” is starting to get to me. Living in middle America, with children in school, it is almost too much. There are flags in front of so many homes, pictures of flags on billboards and commercials, and stickers on cars, not to mention signs and flags at innumerable places of business. I often wonder if these people put any thought into their actions, and what meaning the flag holds for them.

My children, like most children, want to be like their peers. This makes me deeply uncomfortable. I think of the atrocities committed over millennia, by those willing to take leadership at its word, to blindly follow orders. How to explain that to an eight year old, asked to fly a flag or sing patriotic songs or wear red, white and blue to school? Do I give the history, or allow the symbols, hoping that for my children, the meaning will be different?

The thing is, I’m not opposed to all the actions taken by the current administration, although I frankly am still opposed to the current administration as a matter of principle. Not for a moment do I believe the proper recourse against bad government policy is to kill innocent people indiscriminately. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the reaction of Mr. Bush, although this may be because the expectations were so low.

Where to go, then, from here? I am not anti-American. The freedoms and respect for the individual that form the foundation of our Nation are of paramount importance. As we’ve seen since September 11, the residents of this country are incredibly compassionate and dedicated.

It is the rush to grab at symbols that I take issue with. An inanimate object, such as a flag, can mean a variety of incompatible ideas. The concept that someone would interpret one as a desire for vengeance, for American superiority, or for a blind desire for blood is unsettling, to say the least.

While I am not one driving around with “God Bless America” written across my windshield, this does in no way lessen my love of the country of my birth. Each time someone exercises his or her rights of dissent and free speech, this country is honored. Every protest, every thoughtful debate, makes us stronger and better. I only hope my fellow countrymen will not forget this.

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