Patriotism is a relative concept.
In essence, it means loving your country. But here in America, loving your country doesn't mean the same thing to everyone.
The soldier who fights to defend his country has a different notion of patriotism than the peace activist who marches on Washington, D.C. to protest a war he doesn't believe in.
But both could argue they cherish freedom.
Which makes the current Pledge of Allegiance debate in Colorado all the more mystifying. State lawmakers in Denver have come up with a proposal that will require the Pledge of Allegiance to be recited each day in public schools, but allow students and teachers to opt out for any reason.
It begs the question: Why force the issue at all?
Lawmakers who support the bill say they just want to give students a chance to express their patriotism. Such sentiments are running at an all-time high in the wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 and the war in Iraq.
Nobody can blame elected officials for wanting to do something as pure as instilling patriotism in our children. The problem is, we can't agree on what that means.
A federal judge has already declared that making the Pledge of Allegiance mandatory is unconstitutional. So the House introduced a watered-down version of the proposal that requires the pledge be recited only by "willing" students.
What's next? A state law requiring all "willing" Coloradoans to rise and sing the national anthem before ball games?
Such convoluted logic only clouds the integrity of the First Amendment. If constitutional scholars can't agree on what freedoms the Bill of Rights affords us, what chance do fifth-graders have?
They're the ones who will be living up to -- or subverting -- everyone else's definition of patriotism.
The Colorado Legisla-ture has plenty of other pressing issues to attend to, namely surviving another budget crisis, without wasting time cobbling together a politically correct "patriotic" gesture that can pass constitutional muster.