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Getting at the heart of the red, white and blue: How patriotic are you?

Today is The Fourth of July and BBQ grills are firing up all across "these here" United States in celebration. The fireworks are waiting to explode brilliantly against the backdrop of our night skies. Whether you're a "vegan" or a red-blooded, meat-loving, juicy-steak, hot-dog, chicken-eating American, you know the original meaning of this day, or I hope you do.

Independence Day to some means pride, perseverance, triumph, strength, unity, success. To others it might mean loss, exploitation, death, despair. As I always say, history depends on which vantage point you view it from.

America now stands united where it once was divided centuries ago, rising from the ashes of a historical tapestry rife with the deep darkness of tyranny, slavery, wars, blood, sweat, tears, agony and sacrifice. They say to know where you are and where you want to go, you must first know from whence you came.

Whitewashing our past does a huge disservice to those who bled, suffered and died under the weight of this Republic's "birthing pains." Regardlss of how painful or shameful, history must be told in all its accuracy, the thick darkness as well as the brilliant light.

We are now in an election year and the patriotism rhetoric is on high. Code phases like "real Americans" and "those of us who love America," are being used by candidate Mitt Romney, who has a three minute campaign ad out there extolling all the virtues of what his America would look like.

The fascinating thing is, he doesn't see that he is at odds with what he is selling." What is a real American?" What does patriotism mean to Romney, President Obama, the two dueling parties in Washington or to you and I? President Obama says he wants to pay his fair share of taxes and vows to discontinue the Bush era tax break for the very wealthy. Romney and the rest of his no-tax pledged GOP, are determined to continue those breaks for the rich 1 percent.

Is that being a "real American" and putting country first? In critical times, should we all do what is best for the collective, or is it every man for himself? No one would dispute we are living in critical times at this very moment. Romney is pounding Obama for the high unemployment, abysmal economy, outsourced jobs, astronmical deficit, just about any and everything that ails this country. He claims to have the solutions and our best interest at heart and promises to restore the U.S. to its former glory.

But there is just one problem with than utopia dangled before the faces of voters. Romney himself. Being rich is not a crime. In fact we all want to attain that elusive "American Dream." So, the problem is not that he is rich, it's the different shades of grey paving the way to those million-dollar holdings. The offshore accounts, the outsourced wealth stashed away from U.S. shores. The murky Bain Capital way of doing business. The weird IRAs with millions of dollars reportedly in them--things unheard of in ordinary dealings.

It's the shiftiness, the blurry lines that are at odds with his message. Again what does patriotic mean to you? Using our banks where taxes and revenue stay within our borders in deep financial times will certainly help our economy. Buying "American" can also put much needed money in our coffers. Keeping jobs here at home as opposed to outsourcing our best products can be the answer to our lagging economy.

So again, what does patriotism look like to you? We live in a free market society, where companies conduct business to maximize their bottom line. Apple Inc. reportedly has more money in their coffers than the federal govermment. Impressive, but what does that say about the company? Brilliant marketing and managerial strategies trump all else, for shareholders gain is paramount?

If a country has a few super rich citizens but it's coffers are running on empty and credit, is that country still the richest in the world?

If most of its citizenry are in debt, uninsured, jobless, are we still the most powerful because we have a mighty miltary? If student loans are so out of control that it may be the next bubble to bust explosively, are we still the best and brightest?

Our politicians love to chant this mantra: "God Bless America," like we are special in those omnipotent eyes. How about we do what it takes to bring "blessings" upon ourselves? Start by sacrificing a little, beginning at the top? Make the red, white and blue actually mean something more than hoisting it at events and draping it over the coffins of our fallen men and women? Don't let them be the only ones sacrificing. Now, that's what I call "Un-American." So as Mitt Romney and family celebrate the holidays at one of his many homes in New Hampshire and residents line the streets waving flags in support, please ponder the ponderous. Our country depends on it.

Happy Fourth of July to you, too.

If you like writing about U.S. politics and the 2012 campaign, enter "The American Pundit" competition. Allvoices is awarding four $250 prizes each month between now and November. These monthly winners earn eligibility for the $5,000 grand prize, to be awarded after the November election.