Obama Won’t Wear Flag Pin
An eagle-eyed reporter for the ABC affiliate in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, noticed something missing from Democratic presidential contender Sen. Barack Obama’s, D-Ill., lapels. “You don’t have the American flag pin on. Is that a fashion statement?” the reporter asked, at the end of a brief interview with Obama on Wednesday. “Those have been on politicians since Sept. 12, 2001.”
The standard political reply to that question might well have been, “My patriotism speaks for itself.” But Obama didn’t say that. Instead the Illinois senator answered the question at length, explaining that he no longer wears such a pin, at least in part, because of the Iraq War. “You know, the truth is that right after 9/11, I had a pin,” Obama said. “Shortly after 9/11, particularly because as we’re talking about the Iraq War, that became a substitute for I think true patriotism, which is speaking out on issues that are of importance to our national security, I decided I won’t wear that pin on my chest. “Instead,” he said, “I’m going to try to tell the American people what I believe will make this country great, and hopefully that will be a testimony to my patriotism.”
In Iowa, some Obama supporters applauded the candidate’s fashion statement. Said Carrie Haurum of Waterloo: “He doesn’t need to wear that flag on his lapel. He wears it in his heart.”
But talk radio and cable news quickly pounced on the issue. “It just shows you he’s not ready for the big time,” conservative Laura Ingrams opined on Fox News. Said Sean Hannity: “Why do we wear pins? Because our country is under attack!”
Ed Morrissey‘s instincts here are right:
So what? Big deal. I’d have more respect for Obama if he had just left it at “lapel pins don’t solve problems,” but this is hardly worth the attention it will no doubt receive.
While we’re at it, let’s get rid of all the ribbons that get adopted for every cause. I’d like to end this fashion of wearing our hearts on our lapels and making that a requirement for demonstrating compassion for an endless litany of victims. In that sense, the flag pin at least had the novelty of supporting the entire country, and not just its victim classes.
What Obama’s true motivations are here, I couldn’t say. Frankly, I’m not all that interested.
I’m reminded here of two pop culture moments: The comedian George Carlin’s aphorism that “symbols are for the symbol minded” and the classic Seinfeld episode wherein Kramer refuses to wear an AIDS ribbon at a rally and is greeted with outrage.
ORGANIZER: But you have to wear an AIDS ribbon.
KRAMER: I have to?
KRAMER: See, that’s why I don’t want to.
ORGANIZER: But everyone wears the ribbon. You must wear the ribbon!
KRAMER: You know what you are? You’re a ribbon bully.
ORGANIZER: Hey you! Come back here! Come back here and put this on!
New scene – Kramer in the AIDS walk. Some AIDS activists accost him for failing to wear the red ribbon.
WALKER #1: Hey, where’s your ribbon?
KRAMER: Oh, I don’t wear the ribbon.
WALKER #2: Oh, you don’t wear the ribbon? Aren’t you against AIDS?
KRAMER: Yeah, I’m against AIDS. I mean, I’m walking, aren’t I? I just don’t wear the ribbon.
WALKER #3: Who do you think you are?
WALKER #1: Put the ribbon on!
WALKER #2: Hey, Cedric! Bob! This guy won’t wear a ribbon!
BOB: Who? Who does not want to wear the ribbon?
New scene – Kramer surrounded by Cedric, Bob, and the other walkers.
BOB: So! What’s it going to be? Are you going to wear the ribbon?
KRAMER (nervously): No! Never.
BOB: But I am wearing the ribbon. He is wearing the ribbon. We are all wearing the ribbon! So why aren’t you going to wear the ribbon!?
KRAMER: This is America! I don’t have to wear anything I don’t want to wear!
CEDRIC: What are we gonna do with him?
BOB: I guess we are just going to have to teach him to wear the ribbon!
I’ve got a flag lapel pin and have worn it a few times, although I can’t recall the last time that I did. I wear my Bronze Star pin with some regularity and sport miniature Airborne or Air Assault wings when the mood strikes or it seems appropriate to the occasion. But wearing the flag simply feels trite.
For that matter, the playing of the National Anthem before a baseball game — nowadays followed by the singing of God Bless America around the 7th inning stretch — usually strikes me as hollow as well. It’s not a patriotic occasion and simply seems like a forced ritual during a recreational event.
I don’t mind people wearing pins or putting stickers on their cars as a show of support for their country or their cause. I am, however, irritated by the notion that so doing makes them somehow superior to those who don’t. There are certainly more tangible and meaningful ways to participate.
UPDATE: Steven Taylor reports this one is getting even sillier, courtesy Fox News.