I spent the weekend with Ehren Murburg's dad, Mike, who I consider a new friend. We ate, drank, and talked, and Saturday night a college friend of his from Princeton was in town, so dropped by for a few hours and we talked about everything except the thing which brought us together.
We wound up talking about - shockingly - patriotism, and going back and forth (both Mike and his friend Steve are forthright liberals) on the need for a patriotic liberalism. I told them that in my view, liberalism had become identified with a cosmopolitan view that denied the unique place that America has in the world and that wanted badly to reduce America to a country among others.
Steve offered the notion that America is an idea, and that that idea is inherently welcoming, and I chimed in supporting him; we are not a nation of blood or land, we are a nation of an idea, and possibly the first great nation that can say that.
We need - as liberals, as Americans - to embrace those ideas which are our patrimony, to accept their greatness and the imperfections of the realizations. Just as we recognize the greatness and flaws of our children.
Mike Murburg's son Ehren was buried under an American flag, and like all of those who died and were buried under that flag wearing the uniform of our country, he died for a set of ideas. Those ideas are not liberal, not conservative - they contain American liberalism and conservatism and so are greater than either.
I am an American liberal, and as such, I owe my first loyalty to my country.
And because of that - like many modern liberals - I have no problem being grateful to those who died, were wounded, who simply or heroically served in defense of our flag and the ideals it represents.
So on this Veteran's Day, let me - belatedly - say once again to all those serving and their families:
So thanks, veterans. Thanks soldiers and sailors and marines and airmen. Thanks for doing your jobs and I hope you all come home hale and whole, every one of you.
Thank you Ehren. And Mike, for loaning him to us.
And finally, thank you to Eric, my son. For protecting me and the rest of us, and for choosing to wear the uniform and defend the ideas that make this country what it is - great. May we and all our leaders be worthy of you and all your colleagues.