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MATTER OF OPINION: Is patriotism lost?

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By Robin Bass

Happy 234th birthday U.S. of A!

Time to get those barbecues fired up for this weekend’s backyard festivities. Let’s see, we need burgers, hot dogs and chips. Check! A cooler full of Cokes. Check! Plastic cups, plates and utensils in shades of red, white and blue. Triple check! Oh, yeah, don’t forget to stop by the nearest fireworks stand. You know how the kids love sparklers.

I enjoy a family get-together as much as the next person, but is that all the Fourth of July means to us any more? Is it just another commercialized holiday?

I suppose, as a nation of consumers, we have no one to blame but ourselves. Retailers know that we are powerless against their product merchandising and placement. They know we can not resist an adorable ceramic chip and dip plate fashioned after Old Glory. And what about that inflatable beverage cooler that resembles Uncle Sam’s hat turned upside-down? It’s not only cute, but multi-functional. Guests are guaranteed at least a few minutes of entertainment when the thirstiest reveler at the party dumps the ice out and walks around with the cooler on his head, pointing at guests, and saying sternly “I want you.”

We all realize that barbecues and fireworks are the iconic symbols of the modern day Fourth of July celebration, but there is a whole generation out there that thinks that’s all the holiday is about. Sure many have read about the Revolutionary War in school, some can even name a few of our founding fathers, but have they really connected the dots that lead to our nation’s Declaration of Independence? More importantly, has anyone taken the time to explain the grander concept of American patriotism?

Over the past several years, covering the Fourth of July parade in Mt. Eden has become one of my favorite Independent Day traditions. Each year, residents in this tiny town line Main Street to wave at their neighbors riding by on horses, floats and bicycles laden with streamers. It’s quintessential Americana: honest and pure. Humbling, too, whenever I catch glimpses of veterans – both young and old – saluting a passing flag.

Patriotism is essentially about love. It’s an earnest love for one’s country and the principles on which it was formed. I don’t really believe patriotism is lost. It’s only clouded by commercialism, greed and alternate agendas. Patriotism is alive in the hearts of every American who truly wants to see our nation prosper and is willing to defend her in the face of adversity – even when that enemy comes from within her own walls.

These words penned over 200 years ago in our Declaration of Independence still ring true today:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its Powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”