07/09/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Don't Run it Up the Flagpole

Can we put a lid on the debate over "patriotism"? Can we just stipulate that each of the candidates devoutly loves this country, since there's no way to disprove otherwise? Slimy rumormongering just won't cut it.

I'm sure this will propel the crazies right out of their bunkers, but it's not only a bogus issue, it's a dangerous one. The line between patriotism and jingoism can be so narrow it's invisible.

It was in the name of patriotism, after all, that the United States, since 9/11, has often embarrassed itself with its government sanctioned excesses of torture, domestic spying, unnecessary secrecy, and other outlaw behavior.

All this begs the question: Is it patriotic to undermine the very principles which make this a nation to love? Or are those who advocate super-patriotism really out for themselves more than their country?

There are so many problems we need to fix. Someone who challenges the status quo is quite possibly every bit as patriotic as the person who recites the Pledge of Allegiance from memory, or wears an American Flag pin on his lapel. To question someone's dedication to the United States because he or she recognizes flaws demeans the most fundamental right we enjoy, the right of free expression.

Putting this another way, the kind of smears and careless rhetoric we are seeing in this campaign on both sides, are themselves arguably UNpatriotic.

So let's cool it, can we? Let's get on to a debate over the many problems that face us. And let's leave the argument over which candidate is more patriotic to those with minds too dull to comprehend the important issues.