There they go again. The pseudo-patriots are all up in arms over Barack Obama’s recent comments about why he no longer wears an American flag lapel pin. In a recent campaign stop, Obama noted that he had been wearing a pin soon after 9/11, but he had stopped doing so because such symbols “became a substitute for, I think, true patriotism.” In a speech about the appalling state of veterans’ health care, he asserted, “My attitude is that I’m less concerned about what you’re wearing on your lapel than what’s in your heart…You show your patriotism by how you treat your fellow Americans, especially those who served.”
I’ve got one of those flag lapel pins myself. I wore it for a while, wanting to reclaim the image of the flag for what I consider to be a more reasonable patriotism, one that is more interested in compassion than jingoism, more concerned with genuine security than with fear-mongering. Eventually I stopped wearing mine too, for the same reasons Obama cites. I do have a yellow ribbon sticker on my car; it reads, “Support the troops. End the war.” (And yes, I got that sticker from John Edwards’ campaign.)
I want to go on an extended rant about empty patriotic symbols and false loyalty tests, but I think I’d wind up with a bigger rant than I have time for right now. Here’s a preview of something else I’ve been pondering, though – it’s time to stop living in the past. Instead, we should live into the future. This applies to politics, religion, and sports (whether that’s choosing not to re-sign a star center fielder with declining skills, or a boneheaded soccer coach’s decision to bench his star goalkeeper). I’ll work on that rant for you in the coming days.
P.S. If you want to read an extensive speech by Obama about a "new beginning" for American foreign policy, check this out. It's really first-rate stuff.