A friend who — for purposes of this discussion will and should remain nameless — walked into Cafe del Sol Friday and opened the discussion with a sneering "what’s with the flag waving?" He referred to that morning’s article on this web site that suggested we put partisan differences aside and approach the problems that face this nation as Americans.

The comment pissed me off. I decided to leave the coffee shop rather than say what was on my mind. I get angry when comments are made that, in my opinion, question my love of my country.

I am called many things: a gadfly, a cynic, a curmudgeon and  a troublemaker among other names. I am all of those things and more. But the only label that I wear with pride is being called an American. As an American, I believe it is my right — and in many cases my duty — to question the leaders of my town, my county, my state and my country when I feel they are wrong but doing so does not mean I ever question my country or those who serve it by putting on a uniform and placing their lives on the line. I do not question the patriotism or love of country of those who hold different points of view and I expect to be shown the same respect for my beliefs.

I tried to open the New Year with a positive commentary that draws on American resolve and hope for the future.  We — as a community and a nation — face serious challenges in the weeks and months ahead and we cannot begin to solve the problems with partisanship or a strident belief that our beliefs are superior to others.

We have become a society with contempt towards others with differing points of view and an intolerance towards ideas, philosophies, attitudes or lifestyles we don’t embrace or understand.

I’ve been as guilty as anyone in the past of being judgmental, dismissive and contemptuous of others.  I realize now that the problems that threaten our way of life can be better resolved through cooperation, not confrontation.

We face a tough year ahead — perhaps several tough years. But we cannot overcome those problems if we insist that only Republicans or Democrats can succeed. We cannot succeed if we believe that only liberals or conservatives have the answers. We will fail if we believe that only the right or the left is the way to proceed.

Partisans cannot save this nation. Americans can.