07/07/2010 06:21 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Con Games: A Primer on Patriotism for the Right

You know who you are. You believe in this country so badly sometimes your eyeballs pop out. You bleed red-white-and-blue, and what really steams you is when people criticize our wars in any way, shape, or form. Jesus Christ completes the picture and believes America is just as special as you do.

Here's a shout-out to you true Americans on the birthday of our country, but it comes with a smack upside the head to your national nativist narrative. You wear the flag like you own it but you don't--not even close. And here's the bad news: in your basic misunderstanding of patriotism you soil the flag that wraps you up like a tortilla.

Your narrative on the Right is a story of conformity and exclusion--an America of closed doors and privilege hidden by the rhetoric of self-reliance and reverential loathing of government. You draw the distinction between "government" and "country" and see government in present-day America dedicated to the extinction of liberty, freedom, and chastity.

To defend the country you must upend the government. Or so it seems to you.

Of course, when you and yours are in power, no criticism is permissible, particularly not when it comes to the dictates and diktat of war. For you, to question war is to question the essence of our country--and worse, to undermine our troops. For you, war is patriotism by other means.

Most important of all, you think to question our country's ways and means is tantamount to treachery.

You know this from the Vietnam War, when antiwar protesters stopped the war but not until over 58,193 soldiers had died. You know this from Jane Fonda and hippies and H. Rap Brown and Black Power and free sex and the subversion of institutionalized power in the Sixties. You know this to be true from the top of your head to the tip of your toes.

In falling for such a hackneyed and clichéd assumption, you not only miss what the Left is all about but whiff on the American ideal of protest completely.

You probably know in your heart of hearts that love of country does not include a slavish devotion to whatever the powers that be might happen to tell us. You know that from the Tea Party and those who call the current Administration "The Regime" and say the Commander in Chief is merely "President of the Democrats."

But when your side is in power, as in times just past, they can do little wrong, even when they act to extend entitlements and especially when they wage foreign wars. Your patriotism, my friends, is conditional, and hinges on a perception of the body politic that is always half-empty because it excludes all those who might quibble with you about personal responsibility in a democracy.

There is no "us" and "them"--no blue states or red states in our red-white-and-blue world. Because we live in a sweet land of liberty, we have the chance to make history over and over again.