I may be a raving liberal, but by God, I am a passionate patriot.† We are meant to be the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, and when we don't live up to those things is what stirs me up.
With the arguable exception of the Dutch, we were the first country in the world to be formed the way that we did, and to stand for something in the world community (yes, predating the French and their revolution).† The American Revolution was not the end of History (nor has anything else been) but it did usher in a new phase, and for the most part our foreign policy has reflected that, though there has always been an important element of vital interest embodied in it as well.
And yes, our popular culture is very important, vitally so.† Different songs or movies embody different parts of the spirit of western culture, but American pop culture -- most of all Hollywood, but also Detroit, Nashville, Manhattan and other forces -- has been the leading force behind the expression of, and the expansion of, the western spirit for decades at least.† And its very success is, in the most important analysis, what scares many less vibrant cultures which fear for their own values and their dearly-held traditions and ways of life, and with good reason.
How you gonna keep 'em down on the farm now that they've seen Paris?† But of course as central as Paris is to western culture, it has been eclipsed by that of the United States.
Over the course of American history, we have made real progress and solved real problems.† It took a civil war to free the slaves, but it happened.† Women earned the right to vote, first in Wyoming, and then it spread all over the land.† Yes, the Germans had social security first, but we adopted it too, as well as Medicare, and one day we will have universal health care (though we will be one of the last countries in the world to do so).† I'm old enough to remember this country before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and take my word for it -- it made an enormous difference.
Joseph Califano, who served in Lyndon Johnson's cabinet, wrote that soon after becoming President, Johnson swore that if there was nothing else he did while in office, he would wipe out the use of the word "nigger," and for most practical purposes he did, even if so much else of what he did was wrong.†
My grandmother was ashamed of her Irish heritage, and faced terrible discrimination because of it.† Now, who even thinks about whether or not someone might have Irish blood?† We have actually defeated some evils.
Remeber the phrase, the Arsenal of Democracy?† We fullfilled that purpose in the Second World War.† America has for good or for ill often been the world's policeman ever since.† When you're the biggest kid on the block and some brute starts bullying one of the little kids, it's partly your fault if he gets hurt and you haven't lifted a finger to help the little guy.
We started the League of Nations, though stupidly we failed to join it.† We founded the United Nations too, and for most of its history we funded it.
I could go on and on, but I hope that I've made my point?†
Yes, we need to support our troops (and we treat our veterans badly, one thing we don't do right), but remaining silent when they need someone to speak up in their defense is not supporting them.† Yes, I love our flag, but one of the most important things that it stands for is the right to burn it.† Yes, I am one of the most ardent adherents of American culture in all its forms that you will ever know, but I welcome immigrants and encourage their arrival -- and I do remember that there was a time when strangers were welcome here.† Music would play, they tell me the air was sweet and clear...
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands.† One nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Edited to add: In two days we will celebrate the Fourth of July. Frequently you can get the chance to see the great movie 1776 on that day. There's a much more eloquent argument than any I can ever make about what this country was created to stand for, while being bluntspoken about its faults as well. I don't believe that there has ever been a more powerfully antiwar film (it came out during the Vietnam war), but I don't think that there has ever been a more powerfully prowar film either, not even Casablanca.