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Are you a symbolic patriot?

It's a red, white and blue week, and (surprise!) patriotism has flared over the presidential race like a turbo-charged bottle rocket. Retired general-gone-slightly-loopy Wesley Clark questioned the value of John McCain's military service in critiquing his fitness for the White House. Critics of Barack Obama dredged up old photos of the candidate standing by, not covering his heart, during the national anthem.

But what exactly is the American patriot litmus test? Do you wear a U.S. lapel pin? Do you know the U.S. flag code and place your right hand in the proper place while singing the national anthem?

Those are symbolic actions. What about these?

Would you risk your life and livelihood to speak out against repression practiced in your own country? Would you defend the First Amendment rights of a fellow citizen who uttered words or ideas you found repulsive or dangerous?

Those are harder. Yet they directly support the principles in the U.S. Constitution.

What do you think makes an American a patriot? (Posted July 1)

Comments:

(July 1 at 5:07 p.m.) Patriotism is not about what we wear or what we think. … It is about who we are and how we live. Mean spirited attacks, judgmental views which paint errors of judgment as lies and deceit and the hateful rhetoric of modern political strategy are the subtle enemy attacking all that is good and true about our nation. The patriot is the one who stands up and cries “Enough!”

(July 1 at 10:10 p.m.) The whole concept of patriotism is pure nonsense. Too many Americans treat politics the same way they treat sports – My Team is always good and Your Team is always evil. We are supposed to love our country unconditionally for no better reason than that we were born within its boundaries. … What sense is there in that kind of mentality.

(July 1 at 5:15 p.m.) If you belittle people for whom the symbols are important, then you can lay no claim to being a patriot. … for the patriot understands and respects that some people need those externals to help them live up to the ideals they represent.

(July 1 at 5:16 p.m.) If you cannot show respect for the office of the President, whether or not you agree with the current occupant, you need not apply. We can disagree and dissent, but to disrespect the office is to disrespect all who have ever held it, and all those who voted for the person holding it.

NAKED CITY/Mary Newsom

DOT's excessive affections

The billboard industry wants to be able to legally cut more trees in front of billboards, so that you, the motoring public, can better view those ads. (You might say it's as if your friendly local newspaper wanted permission to kill more housecats if they have the nerve to jump into your lap and obscure your views of the Queen City TV ads. In other words, if a billboard's in a bad place, remove it or charge less for it.)

Current state rules say billboard owners can clear trees and shrubs from 250 feet in front of signs. The industry wants to raise that to 375 feet.

Further, there's a spat between the billboard lobby and NCDOT. Upon occasion, trees are illegally cut in front of billboards. The NCDOT releases an “illegal cutting inventory, that lists the names of billboard owners and businesses where the trees were cut.

“Unfortunately, NCDOT has demonstrated an unyielding preference for vegetation, and has been unwilling to adopt a vegetation policy equally accommodating to commerce,” wrote Betty Waller of Cary, a lawyer for the billboard industry.

I don't say this often, so pay attention: Hooray for the DOT, for its “unyielding preference for vegetation,” in this instance. (Posted June 29)

Comments:

(June 29, 11:17 a.m.) How many trees PER DAY are cut down to produce the 3 million newspapers?

(June 30, 8:04 a.m.) The owners of the billboards are no different than the homeowners in Highland Creek who didn't realize a pre-existing manure plant next to their houses might stink a little, or the NIMBYs in Fourth Ward who didn't want a bar in their urban, yet ANWR-like, pristine neighborhood.

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