Saturday, July 05, 2008

Patriotism, Flag Lapel Pins, and Barack Obama

Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer gleefully notes that Barack Obama is sporting a US flag lapel pin these days, just in time to appeal to more conservative voters in the general election.

A Facebook friend, Amy Goldman, an embittered Hillary Clinton supporter who now is supporting John McCain, pointed earlier today to Krauthammer's column on the subject and said simply, "the faces of obama. NO DEAL," presumably meaning that Obama's seeming lapel pin "hypocrisy" is one more reason she will not be reconciled to his nomination for the presidency.

Frankly, both Obama and his assailants crack me up on this "issue." There are several reasons for my chuckling.

First of all, wearing a pin is no proof of patriotism. It's the easiest thing in the world to don a patriotic lapel pin, irrespective of one's true sentiments. (Although I must confess that every time I've owned and put on flag lapel pins, they've fallen off within hours, a problem I've not encountered with pins of any other type.) Inauthentic or showy patriotism often is the last refuge of political scoundrels.

Secondly, because a flag lapel pin really is no proof of one's patriotism, Obama shouldn't be so defensive about the matter. Now, he looks ridiculous whenever he puts a flag pin in his lapel, tacitly agreeing with the purveyors of photo op patriotism, pandering to them.

I wonder though how many folks who are exercised about this issue though, wear flag pins every time they're in public? I doubt it.

When I pointed this out to Amy Goldman, she didn't agree, saying that, as a presidential candidate, Obama should be held to a higher standard for patriotism than others.

But I don't think that we should have separate standards for presidents or would-be presidents from what we expect of other citizens. Are flag lapel pins now required of all citizens, a la loyalty oaths from the McCarthy era?

We ought to have other measures of the sort of patriotism that commends people for public office, including the presidency. The criteria might include:
1. Evidencing taking the time to be informed about public policy issues.
2. Voting regularly in those candidate and issue races in which they've become informed and being honest enough to refrain from voting in those races in which they feel they're insufficiently informed.
3. Regularly engaging in service to neighbors and community and when possible, to the country.
4. Displaying an openness to hearing others out, even when their views differ from their own.
5. Displaying a maturing awareness of the country's history and principles.
6. Believing in the Constitution.
7. If a veteran, having a record of honorable service.
If these attributes of citizenship are absent, no flag lapel pin will compensate for their lack. If they're present, no flag lapel pin will make the wearer any worthier for office.

So far as I can remember, none of the country's greatest presidents wore US flag lapel pins. Not Washington, Lincoln, either Roosevelt, or Eisenhower.

Is Obama a patriot? I don't know. But a piece of metal or plastic on his suit coat won't answer that question either.


Liberal_Fish said...

I'd love to see the written transcript of your entire conversation w/Amy Goldman... Who are we to judge this woman if we don't know all of what she said, or why you have decided to include her quotes in your commentary??

What is the point in mentioning someone who is merely "an embittered Hillary Clinton supporter"?

Wouldn't your argument be stronger if you allowed readers to measure the true character of your 'foe', and not rely on your presumptions about her?!

Mark Daniels said...

We didn't have a "conversation." Everything that transpired between us is on Facebook. I quoted Amy's enitre original post here.

Amy, by the way, is an original PUMA person and has even been quoted in some newspaper articles on the subject.

I don't take "embittered" to be a derogatory description. Many Clinton supporters, of both genders, are embittered, angry, upset, ticked off. They believe that Clinton was subjected to sexism by the media (and some media people have been sexist toward her), that the DNC shafted her over Michigan and Florida, and that the Obama campaign was insulting to the New York senator.

Like the signers of the Declaration of Independence, many Clinton supporters are upset about what they perceive to have been "a long train of abuses and usurpations" meted out against their candidate. It seems to me no less appropriate to describe them as being embittered over these perceived offenses than it would have been to describe Mr. Jefferson and company to have been embittered toward King George III and Great Britain. (In offering this analogy, I don't intend to equate the cause of Clinton supporters to that of the American revolutionaries, only to say that "embittered," to me, is not a pejorative term, as not intended as such, and, in my judgment, should not be so taken.)

I think, from my correspondence with her, that Amy Goldman is a thoughtful, intelligent person.

Thanks for dropping by.