There has recently been debate in this forum on patriotism and who can claim that word. What made me start to think about this is that recently I rediscovered two women I know from my past. The first was raised in conservative Palo Alto by a family of registered Republicans, who believed in and repeated the mantra of small government and fiscal responsibility. Her father was an attorney, her mother a court reporter and they instilled in her a respect for the law and the Constitution of the United States. When she was old enough to vote, she registered Republican. After college she traveled abroad and lived in Europe. She was glad to return to the U.S. and believes to this day that the U.S. is the best model for democracy and individual rights. After the death of her father, her mother remarried. Her new family included a dad who served in the U.S. Army, a brother who also served in the U.S. Army and a sister who was in the U.S. Army Reserves. Sadly, this new sister was killed serving in the first Gulf War conflict. This first woman friend remains socially and politically active.The second woman was also raised in Palo Alto, but in a very socially progressive family. Her mom and dad were both actively involved the civil rights and anti-war movements. They were both staunch environmentalists. Her father did pro bono work for those accused on minor drug possession charges. When no local court reporters could be found, her mother traveled to Mississippi to take the depositions of people involved in civil rights trials. Her first presidential vote was for a Democrat. After college she traveled and lived in Europe and came back to the U.S. with a new perspective on how the U.S. was viewed in the world. She became active in women’s rights issues, environmental issues and is currently working to get John Kerry elected.Which of these women has the right to the label “patriot”? Both of them; they are the same woman: Me.I was raised by socially progressive Republican parents, at a time when that was not a mutually exclusive phrase. My mom was a court reporter, my dad an attorney. I participated in anti-war and pro-civil rights marches from the time of my earliest memories. My parents taught me to value and respect the law and to work for changes in it where they were warranted.When I was finally old enough to vote, I registered as a Republican and then I voted for the Democratic candidate. My mom re-registered as a Democrat because she felt the Republicans had moved away from her and their roots. I lived and traveled in Europe and came back to this country both proud of it and aware of its shortcomings. I subscribe fully to the sentiment “My country, right or wrong,” but I am always sure to add the second half of that quote, “If right to be kept right, and if wrong, to be set right.” (Republican Sen. Carl Schurz of Missouri, 1872). I am now not a member of any political party. I have an American flag decal and a John Kerry bumper sticker on my car. I am a patriot and I question the policies of George Bush and his Cabinet. I support our troops and I believe this new Iraq War to be predicated on fabrications. I love my country and I doubt that our current government represents the best interests of the United States. To question the president and his party in not un-American, it is profoundly pro-American. It is in fact so American that it is enshrined in the First Amendment to our Constitution. My point is that some people will see me as a patriot and some will not. But patriotism is not the sole possession of one party or of one way of thinking.President McKinley (also a Republican) said “The financial honor of this country is of too vast importance, is entirely too sacred, to be the football of political parties.” The same holds true for patriotism.Jennifer Montgomery is a resident of Soda Springs
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