It has been a matter of wonder to me for some time that "patriotism" in America, which is a suddenly hot topic in the media, has been relegated to a couple of very narrow political areas.

The first concerns the American flag. It seems to be a common assumption that anyone who displays a flag, either at their residence, place of business, or perhaps attached to the antenna of a vehicle, must by that very act be seen as politically conservative. Or perhaps even Republican.

Now, I feel certain that many liberals and/or Democrats believe themselves to be every bit as patriotic as their opposing counterparts. How, then, has it happened that they have given over displays of the flag to conservatives? After all, the flag is a national symbol, not one representing a single political view.

Yet it seems that liberals and Democrats have allowed their opposing political fellows to take over the flag and claim it as their own. We would do well to begin a game of "capture the flag" and return it to its rightful position as one representing all Americans, regardless of their individual biases.

In the current state of divisiveness in our country it is wrong to place the flag on one side of that division. When we salute it, do we not proudly say, "one nation...with liberty and justice for all?”

The second has to do with our nationwide practice of letting only our military personnel represent our patriotism at public events.

Before public governmental ceremonies and high-profile sporting events such as baseball and football games when the national anthem is sung, a group of uniformed military members march out in a dignified manner carrying the American flag. It's as though our military best represents what patriotism is in America. And perhaps to some, solely represents it.

But should patriotism be limited only to our worthwhile respect and support of the dedications and sacrifices of our military men and women? It is true that our service people (at least some of them) put their lives on the line daily for America.

But it is arguable that many other Americans put their "living" on the line in commitment to the people of our country.

Support of the military is not the same as patriotism. Love of country is not love of the military. There are many other American "forces" besides military forces that make up the greatness of America. Firefighters are such a force. So are nurses and teachers. And farmworkers. And so many others.

Let us show our respect to these unsung American patriots also. Invite members of these forces to carry out the flag and sing the national anthem. Personally, I would like to see members of the American Red Cross carry our flag onto a playing field and lead us in singing the anthem. What they do for all of us is wonderfully patriotic and represents a part of the soul and spirit of what it means to be American.

Richard Morgan

Napa

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