What can sustain these necessary attributes other than an attachment to place of the kind that Abbey describes? A citizenry jealous of its liberty, its independence, its autonomy and its traditions of democracy lives within a geography drawn and written with its own footprints. This is the foundation of true civics. Brand loyalty won’t get the job done. Nor will waving the flag at anti-war protests.
We do not need more symbols, or the one-upmanship that patriotism usually spawns. We need our asphalt streets and our steel-truss bridges, our granite peaks and our swampy bottomlands, our disenfranchised shantytowns and our Capitol dome, to locate ourselves. We need to know, bone-deep, where, and what, our home is. Then we won’t need self-avowed patriots. We’ll just be them, without the nomenclature. And chances are we won’t be easily fooled either by a dull muttering “war president,” shrill squawking talk-show hosts, alarmed wailing homeland-security specialists, or incessant cooing pitchmen selling the good life through easy credit.