Ronnie Chapman has hidden away his American flag for much of the past eight years.
"I felt it was no longer a symbol of the country I love, but of Bush and support for his war," said the 48-year-old pharmacist from Cary. "The first thing I did the morning after the election was take it from my den and fly it proudly in front of my house."
Chapman's response to the presidential election reflects the emergence of an unusual -- and some might say contradictory -- new figure: the flag-waving liberal.
After a divisive presidency and strident campaign in which patriotism was used as a wedge issue, supporters of President-elect Barack Obama are hanging flags, donning Old Glory lapel pins and humming the national anthem.
"We just feel this pride and this swelling of joy," said Cheryl Kimmel, 49, of Cary, who worked on Obama's campaign with her 18-year-old daughter, Jeanelle Alexander. "We're extremely proud to be Americans today."
"For years it's felt like patriotism was a Republican thing," said Raven Moeslinger, 21, a senior at UNC-Chapel Hill. "Now I feel like we've reclaimed it."
"The night after the election, I got in bed and started reading the Declaration of Independence for the first time in a long time," said Sherry Harmon, 55, of Cary. "I felt I needed to touch base with our roots because I think we need to refresh our ideas of who we are as Americans."
Though many Republicans -- including President Bush and Sen. John McCain -- have hailed the election of the first African-American president as a watershed moment in which Americans should take pride, others view the outburst of patriotism with feelings that range from chagrin to bewilderment. They find it ironic that Obama has inspired such feelings.
After all, they say, he's the same man who refused to wear a flag pin in his lapel, whose longtime spiritual adviser, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, had chanted, "God damn America," and whose wife, Michelle, had said during the campaign: "For the first time in my adult lifetime, I'm really proud of my country."
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