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    Patriotism should be learned, not prodded

    Jeff Jacoby’s op-ed piece “Cheap patriotism at the ballpark” (Opinion, Sept. 27) is an excellent commentary on what has become ritualized patriotism. It falls into the same category as flag pins worn in the lapel of a suit jacket. Patriotism is an attitude that can only be learned by being taught ethics, the Constitution and the rule of law, how our government works, the many freedoms that our country provides, and an appreciation of the people who died to keep it that way.

    What we have on the football field is a ritual: A huge flag is rolled out and held. An aspiring singer attempts to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which, with its one-and-one-half octave span, is a difficult song at best. People stand respectfully — God forbid that any should not do so. At the end, they cheer — but is it for love of country, or for the upcoming game and for the home team?

    Public rituals are of questionable meaning but require participation for fear of ridicule or ostracism. Ritualized patriotism is an oxymoron.

    Peter A. Goodwin