Boy, when you see the people in Taiwan--or anywhere else--having free elections, it makes you proud that we invented modern democracy. God, I love this country.

Now, I don't want to get off on a rant here, but while I am cynical toward politics and government in general, I am, at the end of the day, a patriot through and through. I love this country for several reasons, not the least of which is that I know I'm allowed to hate it if I want to.

And I've been patriotic for a long time. I wasn't quite old enough to be drafted into the army during the Vietnam War, but had I been, you can rest assured that I would have used an American rifle to shoot myself in the foot.

You know, I hate it when foreigners come to America and start badmouthing this place. Because that's my job, and I'm getting really sick of everyone moving here and trying to take work away from us.

Some people may wonder why we are doing a show on patriotism when it's not the 4th of July. Well, I'll tell you why. Because we are a nation that celebrates our Independence Day by barbecuing ourselves into a hot-link kielbasa coma. And patriotism, my fellow Americans, should be an around-the-clock, 12-months-a-year job. That's why we are doing this show tonight. And besides that, we couldn't get any of the nominated actors or actresses to come on and talk about the Oscars, because the votes are all in and they don't need to kiss ass any more.

Some people deeply believe that a country is not just a collection of buildings and laws--it's a living, breathing thing with a mind and a soul. It demands and deserves your love and obedience, and occasionally even requires that you kill to protect it. Of course, if you feel that way about your country, it's patriotism, but for some reason, if you feel the same way about your neighbor's dog, well, you're crazy. What is that about?

When it comes to fostering patriotism, we have always depended on the unkindness of strangers--countries like Germany, Russia and Iran. And trust me--we need our enemies. I mean, without Bluto, Popeye's just a vegetarian sailor who likes anorexic chicks.

So who's the big red menace nowadays? Cuba. That's it? I'm sorry, but it's hard to whip up any "us against them" nationalist fervor about a country whose principal export is citizens who can swim.

My problem with patriotism is that often it's all too easy. Where's the challenge in saying that you're proud to be an American? Of course you love this place. It's like Tom Hanks--what's not to love? The real challenge is living in some shithole like Burma and getting teary-eyed when the radio starts blaring the Burmese National Anthem--which, if I'm not mistaken, this week happens to be Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You."

You tell me the worst thing that ever happened to this country and I'll tell you how it actually made America greater. The Great Depression? Taught us that if we really put our mind to it America can overcome any hurdle. Pearl Harbor? Led to the expanse of our form of democracy all over the globe. The oil crisis back in the mid '70s? Forced Detroit to start designing cars that required less fuel, so that whenever OPEC raises oil prices, it has absolutely no effect on us.

Hey, all you have to do is watch the nightly news to thank the risen Lord that we don't live anywhere else. We should be flying the stars and stripes every day just for not living in a country with barefoot soldiers, insane heat, flat breads, giant banners with a pockmarked beret-wearing leader's picture on them, or women who are so covered up they look like they're checking you out for a password before letting you into a speakeasy.

It's unfortunate that so many people these days are reluctant to take pride in being American. Hey, you want to dwell on this country's fuckups? Be my guest, but while you're going through that undeniably thick dossier, you might want to remember that when you stomped into CIA Headquarters waving your Freedom of Information Act permission slip, you were not summarily hustled into a damp sub-basement where some jackbooted sadist with one eyebrow and tinted aviators that Elvis wouldn't wear is smoking unfiltered cigarettes that smell like a skunk getting a perm, as he clamps jumper cables on your nipples and starts humming the love theme from "Midnight Express." God bless America! And God bless the Caymans, where I have most of my offshore accounts.

Of course, that's just my opinion, I could be wrong.


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