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When I was a lad...

When I possessed the charming innocence of a 12-year-old, I took offense at the wording of the Pledge of Allegiance. Why, I wondered, was I expected to pledge my allegiance to a flag? Proclaiming loyalty to my country I could understand; but to a piece of fabric? And so, while my classmates were dutifully reciting the full text of the pledge, I quietly edited my own recitation:

"I pledge allegiance ... to the United States of America ... one nation ... indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." By my final year in high school, however, I had learned the importance of symbolism and no longer resented being asked to swear loyalty to the flag that represented so much that is good in humankind and in the world. This weekend, conservatives attacked the NY Times for an editorial musing that the flag is no longer a symbol of unity. But, oddly enough, the Times is right. However, the problem is not with the flag. The problem is with those infected by the growing grievance culture that can't distinguish between the principles and ideals on which the United States was founded and the human imperfections that keep those ideals ever out of reach. The remedy is gratitude.

First, acknowledge all that is good in your life, your country, and your world as a defense against bitterness and cynicism.

Then, complain all you like.

Chances are you won't find nearly as much to complain about.

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