Congratulations. You've now joined the networks in equating patriotism with support of the Persian Gulf war and lack of patriotism with dissent against the war. This simplistic assumption insults those who consider themselves patriotic but who see this war as unwise and unnecessary.

In the "War Almanac" of Jan. 31 {Style}, Martha Sherrill called Randy Newman's antiwar song "Lines in the Sand" "considerably less patriotic" than a pro-war song she quoted. Newman's lyrics, bemoaning the loss of "brave sons and daughters" who die to "defend some lines in the sand" is by no means unpatriotic. It simply questions whether the possible benefits of the war can justify its likely costs in human life and, indeed, whether war is the best means by which to secure U.S. policy goals in the Persian Gulf.

Patriotism is not the blind support of government policy; that is better characterized as nationalism, a force of dubious value. Rather, to be patriotic is to be, according to Webster's, "directed by zeal for the public safety and welfare," a definition that certainly applies to Newman's lyrics.

Only through informed debate can we as a nation arrive at a popular and sustainable foreign policy. This debate, however, becomes impossible when one side is dismissed as "less patriotic."

-- Laura Germino -- Paul Asbed

Is a potted fern bedecked with an American flag and a yellow ribbon really a "pro-war" display {Metro, Jan. 29}?

I always thought our flag represented our country and that a yellow ribbon signified the yearning for the return of a loved one. -- Laura Walker