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Joe Henderson: There is more to being patriotic than wrapping yourself in the flag

in 2017 by

Kellyanne Conway, as she has a way of doing, said something Friday on “Good Morning America” that was over-the-top baloney to, well, everyone – including supporters of President Donald Trump.

If they don’t realize that, they should.

Asked about the escalating war between the president and the media, Conway defended her boss by saying, and I quote, “It doesn’t help the American people to have a president covered in this light. I’m sorry. It’s neither productive nor patriotic. The toxicity is over the top.”

Well, you know what they say – when in doubt, question the patriotism of the opposition. Conservatives have been doing it for years, labeling liberals as subversive cretins out to destroy America.

For the most part, liberals let that happen, and so gradually the American flag became a weapon to be unfurled by conservatives – as Conway just did – whenever things get rough and logic won’t win the day.

Over the years, the attacks have gotten more personal – like the outrageous video the NRA just released with conservative radio host Dana Loesch that sounded an awful lot like a declaration of war against the faceless “them.”

“They use their media to assassinate real news,” Loesch begins. “They use their schools to teach children that their president is another Hitler. They use their movie stars and singers and comedy shows and award shows to repeat their narrative over and over again.”

It gets worse.

“The only way we stop this, the only way we save our country, and our freedom, is to fight this violence of lies with a clenched fist of truth,” she said. “I’m the National Rifle Association of America and I’m freedom’s safest place.”

Notice the wording: save “our” country.

Not “their” country.

“Our” country.

Last time I checked, we’re all in this together. I was born in Dayton, Ohio nearly 66 years ago and that makes me as American as apple pie. Just so my NRA friends understand, I’m not declaring war on anyone who thinks differently, acts differently, looks different, or worships differently.

If someone wants to wave the Second Amendment, fine. But then don’t tell me the First Amendment is “unpatriotic.”

You want to wrap yourself in the flag? Go ahead.

But the holiday we’ll celebrate the Fourth of July got its start because a group of Patriots decided to be decidedly unpatriotic and questioned authority.

While we’re on the subject, just because someone uses the name “patriot” doesn’t make them righteous. The Southern Poverty Law Center has identified 623 “Patriot organizations” in 2016 that it says really are “extreme anti-government groups” in the United States, including 28 in Florida.

A lot of them have names like America, Freedom, Liberty and, of course, Patriots.

So, Kellyanne Conway, it absolutely is “patriotic” for the media to aggressively challenge the most powerful man in the world. That check and balance – or, as you might call it, that freedom – is what really makes America great.

You can wrap yourself in the flag and paint your face red, white and blue. You can change your telephone ringtone to the national anthem. You can trim your bushes in the likeness of Mount Rushmore and ride around with a big American flag flapping proudly from the back of your Ford F-150.

None of that will matter two hoots, though, unless you understand this essential truth: America belongs to all of us and we don’t have to think alike.

Joe Henderson has had a 45-year career in newspapers, including the last nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. He covered a large variety of things, primarily in sports but also including hard news. The two intertwined in the decade-long search to bring Major League Baseball to the area. Henderson was also City Hall reporter for two years and covered all sides of the sales tax issue that ultimately led to the construction of Raymond James Stadium. He served as a full-time sports columnist for about 10 years before moving to the metro news columnist for the last 4 ½ years. Henderson has numerous local, state and national writing awards. He has been married to his wife, Elaine, for nearly 35 years and has two grown sons – Ben and Patrick.

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