wrapping dissent in a flag
You and I have different ideas of patriotism.
By definition, patriotism is love of country and willingness to sacrifice for it.
Patriotism is not "I'm gonna kill all them Iraqis and towel heads." Patriotism is not "I'm going to burn this flag just because I can."
I love this country. I am, for the most part, proud to live here. I wish that we were not still surrounded with racism and anti-semitism and homophobia. I wish there weren't so many hungry kids and so many loud mouthed blockheads who do not think before they speak. But that is par for the course when you have so many different types of people gathered in one place, all calling that place their home.
When I was younger, there was a popular saying, seen on bumper stickers and t-shirts and aimed mostly at the anti-Vietnam crowd. It was a simple saying: America, Love it or Leave it.
When I see people burning the flag and carrying signs that degrade our country, I wonder why they do not leave America. I wonder if they would like life better somewhere else. And I mostly wonder why they think what they are doing is patriotic. Loving and appreciating your freedoms and those who gave you your freedoms is patriotic. Biting the hand that feeds you is not. Just because we are so privileged as to have freedom of speech and freedom of assembly does not mean that you have the right to use those freedoms as a chance to throw rocks, make anti-semitic remarks and threaten the president. That is not patriotism. That is abuse of freedoms.
When I see people degrade someone who is not like them, when I hear those people say that if you are not white you don't belong in America, I wonder why they believe they are being patriotic. Patriotism is not thinly disguised hatred. Patriotism is not defined by how many different races and religions and nationalities you can openly hate. Wrapping your mean spirited words up in a flag does not make you a patriot. A wolf in sheep's clothing is still a wolf.
Patriotism is not waving a flag in someone's face and shouting "I'm better than you." It is not taking your right to dissent and morphing that dissent into violence, destruction and personal attacks.
Patriotism is not loud. It is not crass. It is not rude. You do not have to wave a flag or say the pledge or know all the verses to the Star Spangled Banner to be a patriot.
You do have to love this country and with love comes respect. Dissent stops being patriotic when it is accompanied by lack of respect for your fellow human beings. Pride is not patriotic when you take pride in only what someone of your race, religion, ethnicity or sex has accomplished and you demean the accomplishments of anyone else. Patriotism is being proud of your rights and not denying anyone else the same.
Being patriotic has nothing to do with sticks or stones or name calling. It has nothing to do with signs that call for death to your fellow countrymen, it has nothing to do with disrupting the lives of others.
Love of country and willingness to sacrifice for it.
To sacrifice in this sense would mean to lower your voice. Put your angry signs down. Stop spreading hate. Give your loathing a rest.
Prove that you love your country, that you appreciate everything this country has to offer you. If you love it so much - and if you are claiming yourself to be patriotic that means that you do love it - then stop hating it as well. Stop trying to tear this country apart. Stop waging your own private war against those who are engaging in a war. Stop saying you are for peace when you are for anger, hostility and violence.
America, love it. You don't have to leave it if you don't love it, but you don't have to burn the flag, either.
That is not patriotism.