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USA! Number 1!? Carlos R. Davalos | Sun, Jul 03 2011 12:00 PM

As we approach another anniversary of this country’s independence, the same tired question begs to be definitively answered: What does it mean to be an American? Maybe an epiphany will come to some of us in between sips of Pabst Blue Ribbon and our third and fourth servings of carne asada, burgers and lumpia.

Should this American life be modeled after the likes of Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck or John McCann? They and their “America, love it or leave it at all costs” rhetoric undeniably strike a chord with a large segment of the population. At times it seems as though the three of them have never met a critical thinker whom they liked, much less bothered listening to.

Or is a good American someone like Sen. Al Franken, Michael Moore or Keith Olberman, three men who loudly and routinely criticize the United States, and spend more time shining a big hot spotlight on all this country’s warts while glossing over its finer qualities. To qualify as a patriot, must you always be thumping your chest in an indignant display of mea culpa, all so that you can make this country “as great as it can be?”

Or are there other examples to follow? Who is a greater American, Ronald Reagan or Cesar Chavez?
Is it more patriotic to support your military and government when you know they are behaving immorally — but for a greater good — or when you challenge authority rather than blindly follow, orders be

In a country that was built on land grabs (hello, Native Americans, thanks for keeping our land warm) and immigrant idealism and perseverance, who has a greater right to wave the American flag — the indifferent 20-something who thinks um, like, and LOL are perfectly acceptable forms of communication, or the new
arrival who struggles to master “Please, yes and thank you”?

And when someone shouts “USA #1!” does a good American join in the chorus? Or would a real patriot ask, “It is? In what? Education? Healthcare? Literacy? Incarceration?”

Happy Fourth of July, everyone.

And God Bless America.

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