For months the American flag has been showing up on cars, porches, football helmets and basketball uniforms. The display has made us wonder about the meaning of this unprecedented—for this generation—expression of patriotism. It is, of course, a display of solidarity with the victims of the terrorist attacks and with the firefighters and police officers who tried to rescue them. But why has the flag, the symbol of the nation, been the vehicle for this expression and not, say, a yellow ribbon? What notions of American purpose and identity have been evoked? Does the flag-waving signal a renewed commitment to national ideals and to a sense of common destiny? Might it indicate a new willingness to sacrifice for the sake of the larger community? Or is it simply a way of encouraging the military pursuit of Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaeda network?
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