Over Independence Day, I was reflecting on the idea of patriotism and how its conceptual dynamic in our country has radically shifted.

Since the 1960s, there has been a widely disseminated narrative – unabashedly proclaimed by Republicans – that the Republican Party was the only true upholder and defender of American ideals.

The Democrats had pretty much ceded this ground to Republicans during the social upheavals of the civil rights movement and the passionate reaction to the Vietnam War. Indeed, for decades, many left-leaning Democrats viewed Republican fervor regarding the flag and other outward trappings of patriotism as being hypocritically unseemly, since some governmental policies were clearly seen as antithetical to American principles.

While our government has sometimes acted in ways that are contrary to our country’s fundamental doctrines, this fact does not negate the profound value of the precepts themselves. Core ideas such as fair elections, equal justice under law and the freedoms of religion, speech and the press are not only laudable, but also essential for our nation’s identity.

These concepts – long taken for granted – are now under grave threat by the man in the White House. Rather than being the champion of these ideals, Donald Trump has shown himself to be their adversary. And the once-proud Republican Party has abandoned its principles to mutely follow him as he turns a blind eye to Vladimir Putin’s attack on our democracy, alienates our allies and works to undermine the free press and the rule of law.

Since Republicans have forfeited their claim to be true patriots, I encourage Democrats to actively take up this role. I’m getting a flag decal for my car and, when the Pledge of Allegiance is recited, I will not just mouth the words but will speak with resolve for our republic, and for liberty and justice for all.

Tom Berry

Kennebunk


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