I smiled and thanked him. “Not sure how long it will last this time,” I said, “but we’ll see.”

by Stefanie Badders Laufersweiler

“Patriotism” has taken on so many different and sometimes wildly varying meanings and interpretations that even the word itself feels divisive, a point of constant contention. A contest rather than a coming together. Who is truly a patriot and who isn’t? Are you patriotic enough, or at all? Do your views, does your existence, insult the very idea of patriotism?

I wish we could throw out the word and find another.

It feels loaded, weaponized, and as worn out as this flag that someone painted at the edge of our dock. A few flags have come and gone in that same spot over the years. Fresh paint from some well-meaning fellow lake-goer always gives way to waves and wind that batter the concrete over time. But, someone always repaints it, eventually.

Today is the 4th of July, and some (like me) woke up not really feeling it. For those reeling from recent events (take your pick), it feels disingenuous right now to celebrate independence, unity and democracy as they relate to America. For others, it feels more celebratory this year; for some, it may feel the same way it does pretty much every year. And we all manage to offend each other with our individual takes, long after the fireworks and barbecues are over.

I still love this country, even when it’s hard. Even when I believe we have endless work to do to make it a better place. Even when it doesn’t feel all that united. Even when the weight of our differences, our inequities and our struggles feels incredibly heavy. Because, perpetually, underneath all of that is hope.

I still love this country, even when it’s hard.

Hope is what powers and empowers us. To keep trying, and talking. To show up always, or anyway. To set boundaries, but still leave a door cracked. To appreciate what’s been done that we can be proud of, while acknowledging there’s still much more to do, because this country is, if anything, a work in progress.

Today I walked down to the dock with some brushes and got to work repainting that worn-out flag. I didn’t do it perfectly; the stars barely resemble stars, and the stripes run into each other in places. But each stripe and every star is there, messy as it is. It got me wondering who painted it in the first place, and who repainted it after that.

As I packed up my painting supplies, I wished a father and his son good luck as their fishing lines hung over rail.

“It looks great,” the dad told me, eyeing the fresh paint. “It’s needed to be done for a while.”

I smiled and thanked him. “Not sure how long it will last this time,” I said, “but we’ll see.”

Stefanie Badders Laufersweiler is a freelance writer, editor, and resident of Loveland.

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