I confess. To those who saw me as--accused me of being--an unrepentant non-PC believer in American "exceptionalism", a (dare I use the word) "patriot", you were right all along. I don't wear a flag pin on my lapel but that's only because I'm not big on adornment (I didn't even have my own campaign bumper sticker on my car); in my heart, though, I wave the flag. And I do so because I (a) love this country, and (b) believe that it is different, better, "exceptional."
In the strange ways we screw up the language, many Americans are derided today as super-patriots, America-first chauvinists, cross-my-heart flag-wavers, yet they are the people who don't really believe in America at all, who finds its values quaint or ridiculous, who don't trust its most fundamental principles, its systems, its people, its institutions. Who, when it comes right down to it, think the Soviets might have had it right after all.
Who are these people? These non-believers?
Ironically, they are the people with the loudest voices demanding that since we have enemies--a lot less fearsome than either the Japanese or Germans during World War II--we should toss away our archaic ideas and structures, dismiss the Constitution as a meaningless essay unsuited for the modern world, and run, cowering, for the nearest deep hole. They are the people who praise the use of torture (if it was good enough for the Inquisition and Mao, why isn't it good enough for us?); who would lock suspected evildoers in dark cells and hold them captive until they die or are condemned in show trials that forego every modern means of evaluating guilt or innocence (good enough for the Tower of London and the king's chopping block).