I was somewhat confused by Robert Rush’s recent commentary on patriotism (“Patriotism runs deeper than flags, pins,” Community Commentary, July 23).
Initially, I had the sense that when Rush wrote about touring his neighborhood streets, counting the number of flags on display, he was, in essence, calculating the measure of patriotism as it was exhibited.
Rush also noted that the number of flags on display had diminished and, while he was at a loss to explain the decreasing number, speculated that perhaps it was some sort of general malaise or apathy affecting many Americans due to the ineffectiveness of our elected officials.
Perhaps Rush is also confused by his own sense of patriotism.
While he suspects that there are many reasons for the lack of flags flown on the Fourth of July, in the following sentence he begins with “But we are at war, and our troops are getting killed almost every day.”
Is he making an argument to fly the flag?
On the one hand, we should not make patriotism an issue or consider the decreased number of flags displayed on the Fourth of July as the litmus test for patriotism, and yet he describes his neighbor as one who shows pride in country by displaying her flag every day.
This same neighbor glommed onto characteristics of presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama that make him unpatriotic. They include the absence of the American flag on his lapel, his middle name, which the neighbor incorrectly identified as Osama when in fact it is Hussein, and, finally, indicating Muslim as his religion, which is also erroneous.
Rush then states that he and his ill-informed neighbor share at least one political thing in common, and that is that they proudly fly the flag on the Fourth of July.
It sounds like someone has made patriotism an issue in the neighborhood — political or not.
I am not sure what to think at this juncture.
Is wearing an American flag pin on your lapel not patriotic?
Is flying the flag patriotic and not flying the flag also patriotic?
Can we proudly fly our flag and just as proudly not fly our flag?
And what about that bothersome lapel pin that is in absentia on Obama and superficial when worn by celebrities and other notable personalities?
Patriotic or fashion accessory?
What Rush failed to mention, or perhaps overlooked, may be one explanation for the decreasing number of American flags on display, and that may be due in part to the growing number of people who have immigrated to the United States seeking a better life for their families.
For many, when they speak of my country, they are not referring to the United States of America. They are speaking of their country of origin.
Many of these immigrants have been granted legal permanent residence, and make it possible for them to legally work here, send their children to public/private schools as well as universities, own property and pay taxes.
Still, for some, retaining their cultural heritage supersedes a desire to rush to the local home-improvement center to purchase an American flag.
Try explaining patriotism to a parent with limited English, who is struggling to complete an employment application or register a child for school.
However, when encountering an immigrant who has made what must be a difficult decision to become a U.S. citizen, some wear their patriotism and love for this country on a lapel or jacket.
Oftentimes, they may know more about the U.S. than some of the people who were born here.
They have worked hard and studied diligently to achieve citizenship, and when presented with a miniature American flag, you can see the pride radiate in their faces.
Maybe true patriotism is far more complex and unique than the flag displayed on national holidays.
For some, it is when the heart swells with enormous pride while the national anthem is played, or when throngs of people stand tall, hand over heart, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
It is when a family member joins the military to fight a war on foreign soil and they find themselves running a finger over the pages of a world atlas in search of some country they have never thought twice about.
We will wear our lapel pins, fly our American flag every day, support our troops, and regardless of what I think about our current administration or any other administration, I would never visit another country and air my grievances and criticisms about America.
I will make it my job to know and understand the issues, to ask questions and equally as important, listen to the answers.
My expectations of any administration will be realistic given the time constraints — no candidate can expect to fulfill all the campaign promises and address every issue in four years or even in eight years.
Equally as important, for the blood-soaked soil here and abroad, for the lives cut short, for bodies maimed and scarred, for all the grieving families worldwide and for all that is right with America, I will cast my vote.
To sum it up, when it comes to patriotism, I would paraphrase Associate Justice Potter Stewart of the U.S. Supreme Court who, during an obscenity case, was unable to define hard-core pornography but said, “I know it when I see it.”
Well, I may not be able to offer a universal definition of patriotism, but I know it within my heart, and that’s good enough for me.
BILLIE BARRON is a Burbank resident.