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There's more to patriotism than a sticker

January 21, 2007|by DAVID BUSSARD

On a recent trip home to Maryland, I had a strong desire to take a walk. Despite what Woody Allen said about the country, that there's "no place to walk after dinner," there actually are a lot of really beautiful trails relatively close to where I live.

One of them in particular is especially beautiful.

To the left is a rock face covered in ferns and moss and to the right is a drop-off leading down to a small stream. Sometimes there are deer stopping to drink at the blue pools. I walk a lot here in the city, but New York is a very different animal.

Where I might trip on a fallen branch while taking a walk back home, here I'm more likely to trip on a homeless person's cup of change. Branches won't kill you.

I didn't take that walk though while I was home, something that I'm starting to regret now that I've been back in the metropolis for a week or so.

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The reason I didn't take the walk is actually quite simple. Hunting season had just started and I'm a big fan of earth tones, so all of my coats are brown.

So instead I opted to take a drive, something that I can't really do in the city considering how paranoid my mother is. As I was driving down back roads in the Clear Spring area, I saw tons of signs that said things like "God Bless America" and "We Support Our Troops."

Immediately I began to picture the people who probably lived there as wearers of camouflage, watchers of NASCAR and, well, Republicans.

As stereotypical as that may seem, I'm most likely correct. We live in an interesting vacuum here, a place where patriotism is emblazoned on truck windows. American flags are plastered everywhere - on T-shirts and bumper stickers, even on mouse pads and coasters. Nothing says patriotism like a cold Miller Light leaving a ring of condensation on our stars and stripes. What's next, toilet seats?

To be honest with you, I'm a little frightened at the way things are going. America isn't a love it or leave it kind of place.

People like myself - you know, the scary big city liberal types - may not parade our patriotism with lapel pins or red white and blue visors, but we do love our country. It takes a lot of courage to love your country enough to see its faults.

I do sincerely believe that this is the best country in the world, and I don't need a big sign in my front yard to let everyone know that.

I can say it in the paper. But even if I couldn't, the fact that other liberals and I want to further this country's history of achievement proves the level of respect we have for it.

It's easy to buy a yellow ribbon at Wal-Mart and slap it on the back of your sport utility vehicle, but for those of you reading this who have done that, do you know what it really means? Whenever I see one of those hitching a ride on a soccer mom's Volvo or a big macho truck, I always think of it as a person. One person, one soldier, that has died in the name of I'm not sure what.

Just the other day as I was watching the final minutes of Saddam Hussein's life on CNN, I couldn't really comprehend what was going on. If there's anything the Christian right should know it's that killing an icon doesn't stop a movement.

I like to think that I have a lot of things figured out, but that was the moment when things started to fall apart for me.

I really didn't understand why we were in Iraq. I didn't understand why hanging Saddam was a good idea. If we respect life so much as to prosecute the deposed dictator for killing thousands, wouldn't the humane thing to do be to not kill him?

I read over some of the responses I received to one of my editorials a while back. Someone called me idealistic. I took that as a compliment, but apparently it's not a good thing to be idealistic.

It's not logical anymore to think that war is inherently wrong and unjustified. It's immoral to respect love. Moreover, it's not patriotic to want our sons and daughters and brothers and sisters to be safe here instead of thousands of miles away in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Let's just face it, the new conservative movement just isn't working. I can't even take a walk in my own backyard for fear of being shot down by a disgruntled hunter. Or the vice president, for that matter.

David Bussard is a Clear Spring resident attending school in New York City.

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