The War Over Patriotism

The two parties have starkly contrasting views of what it means to love your country. Can they be reconciled?

Christopher Morris / VII for TIME

When critics challenge Barack Obama's patriotism, his supporters have a ready reply: True patriotism has nothing to do with little flags on politicians' lapels. It's not about symbols; it's about actions. It's not about odes to American greatness; it's about taking on your government when it goes astray.

But there Obama is, in his first TV advertisement of the general-election campaign, talking about his "deep and abiding faith in the country I love." And there, perched below his left shoulder, is a subtle, but not too subtle reminder: a tiny American flag.

Obama's no fool. He may not believe that things...

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