It’s odd to feel so self-conscious about flying the flag on a national holiday; to feel conflicted about being genuinely proud — honestly grateful — to be an American, and at the same time saddened and angry about what’s been done in our country’s name. I’m not certain… does that make me a true patriot, or a reluctant one?

I believe that patriotism isn’t a matter of whether or not you fly the stars and stripes, or wear a lapel pin, or place your hand over your heart for the pledge of allegiance or sing along to our national anthem. These are platitudes; they don’t reward the blood of our forefathers, nor honor their sacrifice.

Of course, mine isn’t the first generation so conflicted. Others — far more astute than I — have observed that our nation’s actions aren’t always lined up with our aspirations; that blind patriotism is the worst sort of sedition, a pernicious, psychopathic form of idiocy, and the last refuge of scoundrels.

But of all the reflections on patriotism in America, the one I find most compelling — and most true — was penned by the American author to whom I am most indebted, and in whose footsteps I have frequently trod (literally, if not figuratively), the hometown hero of Hannibal, Missouri, Mr. Samuel Clemens:

“Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.”
~ Mark Twain

Words to live by.

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