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Jewish World Review Sept. 24, 2001 / 7 Tishrei 5762

Don Feder

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Patriotism is more than flag-waving -- SUDDENLY, every day is the Fourth of July. Flags sprout from lawns, car antennas, caps and lapels. Dan Rather cries while reciting a stanza from "America the Beautiful."

Ordinary Americans are responding to our national crisis in the only way they know how. By displaying Old Glory, they are silently affirming their allegiance to the republic for which it stands and the values the republic represents.

That's a good beginning, but not nearly enough.

Americans must rediscover patriotism -- rescue a virtue assigned to obscurity by cynics and grudge-bearers. As it was by the World War II generation, patriotism must again be proudly proclaimed.

Patriotism is a love of country expressed as a set of attitudes and ideals.

A patriot knows his nation's history -- the events and personalities that shaped our character. His patriotism is informed as well as impassioned.

It's high time that we began to teach American history to American children again. Our educational system has been preoccupied with inculcating an appreciation of other cultures to the detriment of our own saga. James C. Reese, overseer of Mount Vernon, observes, "George Washington has been virtually eliminated from elementary school textbooks."

In a survey last year, nearly 80 percent of seniors at schools like Harvard and Princeton earned a D or F grade on a high-school level American history test. If the coming elite is so woefully ignorant of our past, what hope is there for the future?

A patriot defends America from baseless charges. Under the guise of revisionism, multiculturalism and victimology, the assault on America is relentless.

We saw it in the aftermath of the World Trade Center carnage, when the usual suspects declared America had brought this on itself through an aggressive foreign policy, an arrogant disregard for the aspirations of others and hogging the world's resources.

Patriots must remind their fellow citizens of our greatness. It was America that defeated the 20th century's twin horrors -- Nazism and communism. After World War II, we could have colonized Europe and much of Asia. That we chose not to, but instead poured our wealth into devastated lands, including our conquered foes, is a testament to this nation's nobility.

For more than two centuries, our democracy, which balances majority rule with individual rights, has served as a model for developing nations.

Military cemeteries around the world bear mute testimony to the price we've paid for manning the ramparts of civilization. When Saddam Hussein occupied Kuwait, the call didn't go up to send in the Swedish army.

It's true, we use a lot of the world's resources -- to make the products that give Liberians and Laplanders a better life. In the century past, invention after marvelous invention flowed from American workshops and laboratories. American capitalism may not be perfect, but it does a remarkable job of floating smaller craft in foreign ports.

A patriot promotes national cohesion by championing that which unites us as one people. This includes English as our common tongue -- the language of American democracy from the Declaration of Independence to last week's presidential address.

A patriot resists efforts to fragment our people. He opposes hyphenation in all its manifestations. He scorns politicians who frame appeals to Latinos, Asian-Americans, Catholics or Jews. The only legitimate appeal to Americans is as Americans.

A patriot understands the intimate connection between faith and our identity as a people. Washington said no man could call himself a patriot who seeks to undermine religious principles. After Sept. 11, people sang, "G-d Bless America," not, "We Are the World."

Patriots must model themselves after the fighters referred to in "America the Beautiful": "O beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife. Who more than self the country loved, and mercy more than life."

While we rally round the flag, let us understand what so proudly we hail. There's 225 years of struggle and sacrifice entwined with those broad stripes and bright stars. It's a banner woven of dreams by millions of anonymous hands, preserved with their blood and anointed with their tears.

JWR contributing columnist Don Feder's latest books are Who is afraid of the Religious Right? ($15.95) and A Jewish conservative looks at pagan America ($9.95). To receive an autographed copy, send a check or money order to: Don Feder, The Boston Herald, 1 Herald Sq., Boston, Mass. 02106. Doing so will help fund JWR, if so noted. He is also available as a guest speaker. To comment on this column please click here.

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© 2001, Creators Syndicate