Most reformers guard their patriotic credentials by moving quickly to the next logical step: that the true genius of America has always been its capacity for self-correction. I'd assert that this is a better argument for patriotism than any effort to pretend that the Almighty has marked us as the world's first flawless nation.
This telling of the Fourth of July story identifies the day as part of a long, progressive history and turns "agitators" and "plotters of mischief" into the holiday's true heroes. The Fourth is transformed from an affirmation of continuity into a celebration of change. The republic's founders are praised not because they inaugurated a system designed to stand forever, unaltered, but because they blazed a path toward what Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer has called "active liberty." They set the nation on a course that would, as Breyer put it, expand "the scope of democratic self-government."
This is not a philosophy for the stand-patter nor a recipe for living in the past. And it emphatically rejects any definition of true patriotism that cedes to a current ruling group the right to declare what is or is not "Americanism."
When I look at this picture I wonder if the symbol of this great nation was shedding tears because of the attack on the United States by al-Qaeda or if he was anticipating the internal attack on everything this country stands for from those in power.