Many of the war protesters here and around the country say that they also support the troops — that they want them promptly brought home safe. Some also maintain their opposition to the war does not make them anti-American.
Fair enough on both points. In a free society citizens have every right to disagree about public policy.
But too often we hear the professions of support for the troops as an afterthought — delivered up defensively. And it's hard to view the sometimes raucous demonstrators on some American streets as anything but contemptuous toward the society that tolerates them.
We don't see many protesters waving American flags in appreciation for the hard-fought freedom to take to the streets without fear of government persecution. Flags are seen almost exclusively in demonstrations supporting the president and the troops.
We're not suggesting that true Americans must wrap themselves in the flag. Far from it. But especially in wartime, regardless of where one stands on the issues of the day, rallying around key national symbols can be very important not only in terms of reinforcing basic American values such as freedom but sending a visual message to our countrymen in harm's way that we support and value them.
Too often protesters wrongly view the American flag as a symbol of current administration policy. It symbolizes something far more enduring but, sadly, too often taken for granted: individual liberty.
The live video from Iraq brings home the life-and-death struggle our troops are in — in a forlorn land whose people have known not freedom but oppression for more than 30 years. Those troops — our loved ones and fellow Americans — need and deserve expressions of support from the home front, and not only from close relatives.
Displaying Old Glory or simply a yellow ribbon is more than symbolic these days. It's a visual display, for our troops and all the world to see, of our common values — freedom and life itself.
It means, regardless of differences, we stand together as Americans.