Don't Wear Out Old Glory

Sept. 11 boosted Americans' admirable patriotism. But now it's out of control

In the early 1990s, I attended a Washington lunch at which Admiral William Crowe, who had just retired as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, talked about taking his Soviet counterpart to visit the admiral's hometown in Oklahoma. The Russian general wanted to know what holiday was being celebrated. None, Crowe told him; his neighbors just flew the flag from their stoops as a matter of course.

Patriotism comes naturally to Americans. Sometimes it's gaudy, with stars and stripes painted on the faces of sports fans; sometimes it's quietly moving, sensed in the hush of the Lincoln Memorial; and sometimes...

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