I didn't know.
I was raised as a liberal Democrat in Northeastern Ohio by two Unitarian parents during the 1960's, and I didn't know.
I didn't know there was more than one way to be patriotic.
Patriotism and love of country meant intense pride in our democracy. It
meant gratitude for our freedoms, especially freedom to learn, think,
speak, and worship as we saw fit.
It meant choosing one's own destiny, not dictated by an inherited social
class. It meant that hard work and intelligence could open doors. We
had a belief in the ingenuity and perseverance of American scientists
and inventors, admiration for Americans in the arts, respect for
craftsmen and laborers. Being American to us meant acceptance for all.
Patriotism meant accepting those who were different. My family cared a
lot about civil rights, the war on poverty, tolerance for those of
different faiths. Freedom was meant to be shared; the great American
experiment called all us to be inclusive, open-minded, casting wide the
net to bring the rights and privileges of democracy to all.
That is the flag that flew over my house. That is the flag that was in
my heart when I learned to say the Pledge of Allegiance at school.
I didn't know there was any other.
A quick search on the Internet reveals a very different sort of
patriotism, a very different America. I'm not a child anymore so I can't
pretend that I don't know. Sometimes I read views so full of hate,
judgement, and rejection that I am embarrassed to be patriotic. I look
at the flag and squirm. If that is America then I know I am not
What do we do with this America that is, more and more, two Americas?
Today is a day we should be able to celebrate in all of our diversity,
yet with a feeling of oneness. How can we do that?
I don't know.