There was a time (before 9/11, obviously) when I often worried about a lack of pride in this country. Up until the fall semester of 2001, I don’t think I knew anybody else who prominently displayed an American flag in their dorm room.

But even when that concern was at the forefront of my mind, I don’t think I could ever endorse the kind of patriotic revival that the band Madison Rising promoted when it played Lewiston on Saturday. The band’s song lyrics make me think the band’s definition of patriotism is akin to Russian President Vladimir Putin, suggesting that love of country is synonymous with loyalty to a narrow, hawkish, hard-line conservative ideology.

I know the Androscoggin County GOP sponsoring this event billed it as a fundraiser for wounded veterans, and will spin my criticism as not supporting the troops, just like during the Iraq War. But just like the Republicans at the World War II memorial — masterminds of the shutdown that delayed benefits to many soldiers — I think the GOP is once again using the veterans as pawns for its own political ends.

My old fear of the balkanization of this country is more likely to come true if an uncompromising definition of patriotism is accepted. It is bad enough that the tea party has hijacked the “Don’t Tread On Me” flag. Don’t let them try and pretend that the Stars and Stripes do not represent all of us.

Paul Parsons, Portland

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