I am thinking about three things on this Independence Day: Plymouth Rock, Anne Frank and a Brazilian flag in a garden outbuilding.

I am thinking about what it means to be a patriot. The word, the concept, has been co-opted in recent years. People calling themselves patriots fly huge American flags from their trucks, which may also sport a “We the People” bumper sticker. But at least some of these “patriots” oppose abortion rights and support book bans.

Where does that leave me, a patriot who’s a registered Democrat and a proud liberal?

Well, with fewer flags to fly. My husband, Paul, and I have a flagpole on the front of our house. Our collection of flags includes two Revolutionary War-era gems: “Don’t Tread on Me” and “An Appeal to Heaven.” I’d love to display either one today.

Can’t. They’ve been co-opted.

Paul and I are interested in history. And we’re both from Massachusetts. Growing up in the home state of Faneuil Hall, the “Cradle of Liberty,” made me keenly aware of our nation’s beginnings. My hometown is about 30 miles from Plymouth, and my family frequently visited there. Before we headed off to junior high, my sixth grade class toured the USS Constitution, “Old Ironsides.” That early banner of colonial dissension, the “Taunton flag” (“Liberty and Union”) originated two towns over from mine.


As a young teenager, I named my dog Sam, after Mr. Adams, the patriot.

I knew exactly why our football team, with its red, white and blue logo, was called the Patriots. I’d been to Lexington Common, and Concord’s North Bridge.

Patriots were the people who had risked their lives so we could live in a democracy. My part of the bargain was to vote in every election and behave myself. Later, I would add speaking out for what I saw as the tenets of democracy, i.e., the Bill of Rights. As a journalist and a librarian, I found the need and desire to defend the First Amendment at many turns.

It was as a librarian that I began teaching middle school students about Anne Frank and anti-Semitism. I’d read her diary in the sixth grade. As a teenager, I studied the Holocaust, trying to understand what had happened in Germany to result in such horror. Much later, when I was a middle school librarian, a teacher asked me to provide background information for her students who were reading the play version of the diary. The Holocaust was painful for her to talk about.

It wasn’t easy for me, but I was on a mission. In order to understand Anne Frank’s story, the students needed to know what Judaism is, and the history of anti-Semitism. They needed to hear about the rise of Nazism, and what happened in the death camps. My presentation grew, and I eventually attended an invaluable one-week seminar for educators presented by the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine.

I am distressed, disgusted and, yes, astounded at the rise of antisemitism in America in recent years. Hate talk, in general, abounds. How can we possibly have a presidential candidate who says he wants to be “dictator for a day”? I know a little more about how the Holocaust happened than the average American, but it boggles my mind that we as a society have learned so little from history.


At the simplest level, I wonder if those who hate, who support would-be “dictators,” think they are immune from the hatred, the abridgment of freedoms? The famous poem “First They Came,” by Pastor Martin Niemöller, perfectly expresses what happens when we don’t defend the safety and freedom of everyone.

We are all at risk if we let democracy slip away. As a patriot, I stand on the side of freedom of speech and worship; the right to read, to paint, to sing; the right to vote; the right to simply live my life as I choose. As a patriot, I respect the rights of others to do the same.

That means respecting the rights of all of my fellow Americans — wherever they may have come from, however they got here. My paternal grandfather, Victor Faria Soares, was born in Rio de Janeiro, to parents who had emigrated from Portugal. He emigrated from Rio to Fall River, Massachusetts, where he married Rose Raymond, whose parents were born in Quebec. Everybody worked in the cotton mills at one point or another, but in due time, Pépère got a sales job with Nabisco, and my grandparents bought a comfortable house in the suburbs. When they retired, they moved to Maryland to live with their physicist son, who worked for the federal government

My maternal grandparents, also Portuguese immigrants, did well for themselves, too.

I am a product of the American dream.

This patriot is proud of her immigrant roots, as was Pépère, who kept that Brazilian flag as a reminder of where he came from.


As a patriot, I support immigration. We are a nation of immigrants. We need them to fill the many empty spots in our workforce. Immigrants bring with them colorful traditions and foods, and enrich our culture.

Cries of “Build the Wall” make me cringe. We need immigration reform — there are definitely problems — but we don’t need mindless hatred and random bigotry.

What we do need is more patriotism — more people who are willing to stand up and defend democracy. No tricorne hats required.

Liz Soares welcomes email at lizzie621@icloud.com.

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