(The following runs as a column today on our political web site, Capitol Hill Blue. It also runs here because, frankly, it was the only thing I felt like writing on this Independence Day.)

The American flag flies in front of our home on this Independence Day, just as it does the other 364 days a year.

Sadly, it does not fly as proudly as it once did because the America it represents does not stand as tall as it should.

Perhaps our flag should be tattered because the America it stands for is but a tattered remnant of a once-great nation, a country that once stood for truth and justice. That was, we were taught, the American way.

But truth is a disposable commodity in today’s America, cast adrift in a sea of political expediency, drowned by a tsunami of double-speak, treachery and deception by our government, our leaders and the definers of our culture.

Truth cannot exist when our elected leaders lie as matter of course, where Americans are expected to fight and die in wars based on misstatements, misdirection and mistakes.

Justice is a natural casualty of war when truth dies in battle. Justice fades into oblivion when the attorney general of the United States calls the Constitution “an outdated document.” Justice cannot survive in a nation where government agencies are given carte blanche to spy on its own citizens or hold them without due process.

Nor can justice exist in a nation that violates its own stated standards on human rights, tortures prisoners or operates gulags under the shadow of an American flag.

On this Fourth of July weekend, the America we once knew, honored and loved is missing in action, driven into exile by a government for sale to the highest bidder, led by zealots who put political agendas above the best interests of the country and who are kept in office by brain-dead lemmings who allow political conformity to displace individual initiative and thought.

America is no longer the home of the brave or the land of the free but a nation of cowards held in check by radical nutcases who use fear as a tool to turn a nation founded on the notion of freedom into a refugee camp of oppressed, distrustful, bitter partisans.

America cannot be great when it is ruled by a corrupt government that answers not to the people but to fatcat special interests with huge political action committees and the money to buy access and influence. It cannot stand as a shining example of what democracy could be when its own democracy is gone, replaced by an increasingly dictatorial form of government where wars are launched without proper review or where key facts are withheld from the people, Congress and our allies.

America cannot expect to earn the respect of the world when its leaders cannot even win the respect of its citizens who tell pollsters that they expect their leaders to lie, they expect their government to be corrupt and they no longer feel their elected officials represent their interests.

Yes, the flag flies in front of our house on this Independence Day 2005.

But it cannot fly proudly because it can no longer represent America.

The America it is supposed to represent no longer exits. On this day when most of us should celebrate many of us will, instead, cry.