red and blue states
Having lost connection with more intellectual views, some Americans have also lost a sense of what's most uniquely and valuably American.

It has become a sine qua non of today’s polarized red state/blue state mentality that the people who are quickest to proclaim their love for their country tend to be on the red state side.

Unfortunately, few people in this group seem to realize that what they’re embracing and celebrating these days has drifted away from the values that most genuinely distinguish their country.

My son saw a rather  sad example of this when a choral group from his high school had the good fortune to be invited to travel to China and perform in a kind of cultural exchange and goodwill-building program.  In a restaurant on one of their last evenings in China, a member of our local school board rose to make a speech.  She reminded the student singers that what they had seen of China on their tour had been all well and good, but that it couldn’t in any way compare to what they had back home:   freedom.

Back home, she pointed out, if they didn’t like McDonald’s, why, there were a Burger King and a KFC right down the block!

She went on to give other examples she found moving, not once mentioning anything beyond consumer choice.  Not only was she oblivious to the fact that even the Chinese were getting this type of “freedom,”  but more disturbing, in the entirety of her dewy-eyed paean, the woman never showed so much as a glimmering of appreciation for the hallmark American freedoms that are the envy of the rest of the world:  freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, and on and on.

Failure to apprehend what is significant about our country is not limited to just this one school administrator.   It’s widespread today in America.   Its prevalence is what is ultimately behind the hit country song that toasts servicemen for putting their lives on the line in the purported defense of fried chicken, blue jeans,  loud radios, and beer.

In the absence of real understanding of our traditional ideals, a belief has become widespread among Americans today that whenever a president dispatches troops, it is by definition in defense of freedom.  This belief also tends to be accompanied by a hair-trigger readiness to challenge the patriotism of anyone who questions such an action, no matter how ill-justified, poorly planned, or ineptly executed the operation in question may be.

This leads to the sad spectacle of people who believe themselves to be ardent American patriots promoting a kind of everyone-in-lockstep spirit that is actually more in keeping with the values of a country like North Korea.  Meanwhile, they remain oblivious to the profound disrespect they show to America when they fail to find anything at all to celebrate in the world's greatest democracy, other than consumer choice and a few essentially tribal artifacts (flags, songs, favorite foods, etc.) that are as readily to be found  in banana  republics and tinhorn dictatorships as in the land of George Washington,  Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln.