someone who fell in love with the idea of America that I learned as a boyThrough a combination of circumstances (i.e. cable channel-surfing at the right time), a few years ago I found myself watching the opening ceremonies of a NASCAR race being held near Richmond, VA, not far from where I went to high school. It was a glittering pastiche of religion and patriotism - the Pledge of Allegiance led by a quartet of soldiers (black and white, male and female) from Fort Lee, where my late father Colonel Charley served for several years; the U.S. Marine Band performing the National Anthem; a minister asking God's blessing not only on "the sport we love" but "our soldiers overseas, defending our freedom".To the audience, it was ritual giving visible and audible form to their Love of Country, God and fellow human beings. I'm sure they swelled with pride as they pledged loyalty to the Flag, symbol of our forefathers and the sacrifices they made to give us all we have today. Meanwhile, as I watched this spectacle at home, I felt sick at heart as I thought that this handsome façade means, in practice, not just wholesale theft, but mass murder. What will it take to rip the mask off, to break the trance?I've read the Wikipedia entry about Muhammad Asad, born Leopold Weiss – a remarkable story. In looking at the publicity materials for the documentary film about him, titled A Road to Mecca, I found the following sentence: “I fell in love with Islam,” he said matter-of-factly shortly before his death in 1992, “but I overestimated the Muslims.” Similarly, I feel like someone who fell in love with the idea of America that I learned as a boy, but has been greatly disappointed by the reality of it, and of us.