I grew up a die-hard patriot. Be true to the red, white and blue. Let freedom ring. Be all that you can be. God bless America!

I maintained a relatively untarnished view of our country through Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton. Hostages. Inflation. Gulf War. Stain on a Dress.

September 11 found me riding the wave of refreshed national pride like most every other American. Bound by fear and anger and revulsion, United We Stood, singing Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the USA.

I liked the optimistic buoyancy of my youthful patriotism, and it still seems best to infuse my two daughters with it. As we decorated scooters yesterday, I thought of this, but still, even as opportunities arose to explain about national pride and history, I let them slide by. Sometimes it’s really really hard to love your country. This has been one of those times.

I need not have worried. Some things come with childhood–innocence, joy, believing in the good in things, and patriotism for patriotism’s sake. Today Elizabeth found a forgotten flag under a chair and said, “Mama, this one fell off my scooter!”

I told her, “No, it’s an extra. You can keep it.”

She ran to the front door and struggled to unlock it.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“I have to see if it still waves!”

“Waves?” I asked her, opening the door.

“Yes! Over the land of the free and the home of the brave!”

I watched her, standing framed by the entry and looking out in the street, holding up her flag to the blinding light of the noonday sun, the day after North Korea tested its long-range missiles, notably long enough to reach the US, on a national holiday, just to be provocative.

She doesn’t need to know that, not yet. Nor of her enemies, enemies of the state, who plan their terror or their futures as players in an international stage for power.

She just needs to know where she’s from, that it can get better, and no matter the problem, we can get rid of it in about four years because that is how democracy works. How America works.

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