PATRIOTISM

  
Patriotic songs may be more popular now than theyíve been in years, but did you know that when you sing "America the Beautiful," you are reciting lyrics penned by a lesbian? Katharine Lee Bates was 34 when an 1893 expedition to Pikeís Peak in Colorado inspired her to write the poem that later became one of the nationís most beloved patriotic songs.

Bates graduated from and taught at Wellesley College, where she met fellow scholar Katharine Coman. The women had an intense and affectionate 25-year relationship, until Coman succumbed to cancer in 1915. Bates, writing to a friend a few years before her death in 1929, said, "So much of me died with Katharine Coman that Iím sometimes not quite sure whether Iím alive or not."

-- The Advocate

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Patriotism is as volatile as any emotion; once released, it can assume ugly forms. "Iím a patriot," said Frank Roque after being arrested for murdering a Sikh in Arizona. But in the past decade, our national disorder has been narcissism, not hysteria. Anyone who wants reform should figure out how to harness the civic passion that rose from the smoking debris. Like jet fuel, it can be used for good or ill. All the calls for pacifism now issuing in e-mail petitions from the left and all the impassioned critiques of American arrogance will be irrelevant if they donít speak to Americansí patriotism.

Patriotism has nothing to do with blindly following leaders. But the American flag now represents a national community that came under attack, and that in turn represents, at least in the minds of the terrorists, the whole decadent civilization of the modern world. Our civilization is, of course, decadent, but it is also free enough for us to wake up to that fact.

-- George Packer, "Recapturing the Flag," New York Times Magazine


56th Street and Fifth Avenue: Henri Bendelís. Tiffany, Trump Tower, September 25, 2001