Patriotism: Is it About Anger or Pride?

Apparently for many people, "patriotism" and "being an American" is all about anger more than it is about pride.

I say that as a casual observation. After Sept., 11, 2001, in a stampede of national furor and anger, Americans by the millions went out and bought new American flags and they displayed them with a vengeance, violating laws and protocol to display them 24-7-52. That's 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 52 weeks a year. Wal-mart was one of the biggest beneficiaries of the sudden rediscovery of the American Flag.

Bumper Stickers were everywhere, screaming at cars behind them "Love it or Leave it." And, "9/11. Never forget!"

Well, here we are about seven full years since the terrorist attack that claimed nearly 3,000 American lives, and many more lives lost after. It is Saturday, June 14. And for some Americans, that date is called "Flag Day."

I live in the Southwest Suburbs of Chicago, a place which has a large Arab Christian and Muslim population and notorious for militant anti-Arab and anti-Muslim attitudes. I say militant because twice in the past decade, once before and once after, citizens came out in hordes to attend what would normally be uneventful zoning and village board hearings to protest the building of mosques.

The campaign before Sept. 11 in Palos Heights succeeded. The suburb has several dozen Christian Churches so it was no surprise that one church remained abandoned and unwanted for five years until a group of Muslims thought they could purchase the building and turn it into a mosque. No way.

After Sept. 11, in Orland Park, the same thing happened, but this time, reminded that religious freedom is guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution and with the U.S. Justice Department watching carefully, the village board approved the mosque, even though one citizen "testified" at a public hearing forced on the board, "If we build the mosque Osama Bin Laden will come to Orland Park and kill our people."

It became the foundation of much of my standup comedy. I can just see bin Laden in his cave, speaking in his guttural Arabic accident, "kha-ing" like crazy as he barks, "Okay. Which one of you al-Qaeda killers is responsible for Or-land Park? Yalla!"

Nearly every home in my neighborhood had at least one flag waving. (It seemed like I've written before, they were all pointed at me.) I didn't have to go out and buy a flag, though, that day. I owned two. One that I display every Flag Day, Memorial Day and American holiday. And one that is tightly wrapped in a display case that was given to my mother when my father, a World War II veteran who fought the Nazis in Europe, died.

I drove from Palos Heights to Orland Park zig-zagging through communities and looking, searching, hoping. I saw a couple dozen flags flying, clearly out of pride.