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Patriotism in America

Aired July 4, 2003 - 19:54   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Independence day used to be a day when you were acutely aware of what it means to be an American. Well, since September 11, though, that awareness and love of country can make themselves powerfully known any day of the year. As CNN's Bruce Morton reports now, from the moment America was born, love of country here has meant pushing to make it better.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): So you're driving around in your gas-guzzling SUV, but you have a flag decal on the bumper. Does that make you a patriot? Sure, probably. The Sierra Club might not love you, but that's a different issue. Marching in a parade or watching one? Sure.

Where it gets tricky is when your bumper sticker reads, "America Love It or Leave It," or when you say questioning the president amounts to treason.

A look at our history suggests that's wrong. The patriots have often said love it and change it, make it better. That's how it all started. The colonists loved their new land, didn't love paying taxes to a king 3,000 miles away, so they fought a revolution and changed that. Then they decided squabbling colonies weren't the best form of government, so they wrote a constitution to change that. We the people of the United States in order to form a more perfect union. You remember. They decided over the years that you didn't have to own property to vote, decided after a bloody Civil War that America would be one country, free without slavery. Then fought another kind of war, marching, protests, to get rid of the legal segregation which had replaced slavery in the South.

CROWD: Shame on Bush.

MORTON: Dissent from a commander-in-chief, yes, lots of that. Many Americans didn't want to get involved in World War II, though just about everyone came around in the end. Korea was controversial. And Vietnam, two U.S. senators, Wayne Morse of Oregon and Ernest Gruening of Alaska voted against the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, which allowed President Lyndon Johnson to escalate the Vietnam War. Patriots? Looks that way now. And the 1,000 or so veterans of that war, including a young swiftboat (ph) commander named John Kerry came to Washington to protest the war they had fought in. Patriots? You decide.

Even the kids who demonstrated, chanting "hey hey LBJ how many kids did you kill today" were trying, they thought, to make their country better. Some did leave back then, but relatively few, and in an American tradition, a later president invited them back.

Argue, fight, protest, demonstrate, trying to change it to make it better. All very American.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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