On this Fourth of July, it seems, patriotism is hot.
President Reagan, in red-white-and-blue tie, issued a flag-waving call to patriotism last Sunday with his cover story in Parade Magazine (circulation about 23 million) entitled "What July Fourth Means To Me."
"It's rising feeling. I feel the pulse all over the country," says William Fisher, national commander of the Veterans of World War I of U.S.A.
"I think in this country the pendulum is swinging towards patriotism," says Ruth Frye of Woodbridge, Va. "When I look out there at night and see our Washington Monument and what it stands for, and when I see our flag, I can't describe my feelings. Many times I have goosebumps."
Goosebumps may not be the order of the day for many Americans; there have been no reports of spontaneous outburst of America the Beautiful" or an epidemic of flag draped porches. But the events of the last six months -- the outpouring of national joy when the hostages came home from Iran and renewed confidence in America's technology symbolized by the successful flight and landing of the rocketship columbia -- have apparently contributed to an intensified patriotic spirit on this country's 205th birthday.
Still, for the unemployed, the disillusioned, the politically alienated, the flag-waving strain of patriotism can be a real turn-off.
"Hey, what's the Fourth of July?," asks H.M. Bundy, a Washingtonian who expresses the feeling of some in the unemployment lines. "You don't have time to be patriotic when you're trying to feed yourself."
Luke Hurst, a Mennonite active with the Committee Against Registration ane the Draft, said he feels "sad" that many Americans consider his action in choosing not to register for the draft unpatriotic. "I think it is patriotic to think for yourself and state your position," he says. "What good are freedoms if you can't exercise them?"
At the Northwest church where nine men are on a hunger strike for medical rights for Vietnam veterans, one of them, John Michel, says: "We all have this deepseated patriotism. We all want the best things to happen to this country. . . . We are waving the flag, too, it's our flag. This country can only operate if all concerns are heard."
Time will tell if future history books devote any space to this new breed of American patriot.
"Most times in history patriotism has become an overt cause because of the fear and instability of the times," says Professor Ronald Johnson, director of American studies at Georgetown University. "In the present day, we're having this coming/going, rising/falling patriot fervor . . . . It's related to Reagan's success as president, his great stress on long-standing values, and loyalty to flag and country."
"There is a turn in this country's mood and though it's early in 1982," says sociologist and George Washington University professor Amitai Etioni. s"It's not that I want this to happen. I am sad to say that this high is not cemented."
"I don't see a long-term rebirth of patriotism, I just don't see it," says Thomas Courtless, professor of law and sociology at George Washington University.
Bruce Laingen, the senior American official held hostage in Iran, says of this Fourth of July: It is "part of a continuing daily celebration of freedom since we left Iran. Last year on the Fourth of July we just looked out the window and looked for fireworks that weren't there." In the diary Laingen kept during the ordeal, the entry for July 4, 1980, contained some reminiscenses about past holidays in Minnesota and some words about freedom spoken by the pope.
"I recall that it was obvious that what all of my colleagues there felt at the time was the massive contrast between what the freedoms of that day symbolize for us as Americans and the situation we were in at the time," he said.
This year, Laingen will spend the day speaking to a group of elderly people at Leisure World in Montgomery County and then, at night, view the fireworks.
"I was out on the Mall at the foot of the Washington Monument wrapped in a blanket on the day the hostages from Iran returned," says Dorothy Williams, recording secretary of the Daughters of the American Revolution. "And I have never felt that people had more patriotism. I was also at the foot of Memorial Bridge when Eisenhower came home at the end of World War II. People were in the streets waving flags. The two events were a comparable experience for me . . . Patriotism has been on the rise since the Bicentennial. I think a lot of it is logic and good common sense: We know we should be appreciative.
"If you ever do a crossword puzzle and it calls for the name of a women's patriotic organization," says Williams, "It's the DAR." The organization of 208,000 women, which has the most patriotic address (1776 D St. NW) and phone number (628-1776) in town, reports that last year they gave out more than 42,000 American flags all over the country and distributed 46,000 pamphlets on the proper use of the flag.
Wahington's answer to the much-balleyhooed, two-acre flag draped across Central Park a few weeks ago is Evan Sholl, 82, founding father of Sholl's cafeterias. Miniature American flags on each table have been a fixture of his restaurants for the last 53 years. "From a kid all the way through I've had love and feeling for America. It is a wonderfully beautiful gift we have for children and old people. And we should never stop saying thank you for what God has given us in this beautiful country," says Sholl.
For Sean Francis Yates, 16, of Berwyn Heights, one of the area's newest Eagle Scouts, being a Boy Scout has meant learning about patriotism and respect for the flag. "The Boy Scouts are so patriotic that you can read the handbook and smell patriotism coming out of it," he says. Yates says he "doen't run across too many liberals or refugees from the '60s" who might think wearing a Boy Scout uniform is "corny." He says he feels "optimistic" about the country and hopes "that Reagan can clean things up." "This Fourth of July," says Yates, "I will do some thinking about patriotism and watch the fireworks."
Tuy do and his wife Bich Tran may be feeling a little more patriotic than usual today. At 10 this morning in the We The People Hall at the Smithsonian Museum of American History, they will be among 30 people sworn in as new American citizens. Do, a technician for Xerox, came here from Vietnam with his wife in 1975. Says Do: "We consider ourselves Americans. We stay here, we work here and everything we are doing every day, an American does. This ceremony is just to make if official . . . . It's a special day."
Unless they are members of a traditionally patriotic organization, most Americans don't wave flags to proclaim their patriotism. Many express their feeling about the country in their own special way.
Says entertainer Pearl Bailey, speaking from a pay phone booth in front of a Howard Johnson's in Wheeling, W.Va., "Patriotism? I'm an American, honey, and this is it."