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Patriotism, circa 2004

Page 2 of 2 -- Almost two and a half centuries since 1775, we live the miracle of American democracy, warts and all. Every choice we make about how to live our lives is a gift from those early patriots. We scrap and scrape and go to battle every day to have our say and make our way. Now, as then, the debate can be ugly.

John Adams shared a few choice words about the press in a letter to his wife Abigail: "[They]. . . are hot, indiscreet men . . . under the influence of others as hot, rash, and injudicious as themselves." Sound familiar? All men are endowed by "God" or "their creator" with "certain unalienable rights." Now that was a debate.

Today we rail against corporate greed and gnash our teeth over a gravely flawed health care system. We wonder where the jobs have gone, and fret for all the children who come home to empty houses. In the gaping hole of our collective hearts, we grieve for the America we lost on a beautiful September morning, and we cannot bear to look at the images of too many, too young, who have died in a desert too far away.

This year Americans will again exercise the birthright secured for us in the Revolution. We will vote in a national election to select our president. The debate will be rancorous, the process imperfect. But we will do it openly and freely, on the airwaves, at the picket fences, and on the produce lines. It is just as the founders intended.

I encourage Bostonians to spend time on the Freedom Trail this election year. Taxes, trade, labor disputes, education, and, of course, war, ugly and sad were all part of the debate right here so many years ago. Let these beautiful places tell you their breathtaking stories. Extend a nod of appreciation to the people who lived them and left them for us to recall and retell to the world. Debate, dissent, participate, and vote. We owe it to them.

My friend and I want the same things for America, but have oh-so-different views about how to get them. We cajole, quarrel, disagree, and sometimes even call one another names. We are reckless in the way we deride one another's choice of candidates and turn words like liberal and conservative into caricatures. We love our country together and we grieve together. We know that each of has a potent weapon to employ in advance of our views. We are equally powerful. We have our voice, we cast our vote. We are patriots.

Linda McConchie is executive director of the Freedom Trail Foundation. 

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