Lou Dobbs, the anchor of Lou Dobbs Tonight on CNN, has sometimes expressed views I support, the US flag in the lapel flap is not one of them. According to Mr. Dobbs he began to wear his flag pin following the 9/11 attacks to show respect for those killed and support for the “war on Islamist extremists”. I have never understood why some people feel it is necessary to display these symbols of nationality inside the country. I understand national pride and support displaying the flag in front of government buildings or national shrines, I understand displaying it on certain holidays, but to display it on your lapel seems a bit over the top. The problem I have with it is that it seems unnecessary and has been co-opted by forces that I choose not to associate myself with.
Why must I display an American flag inside of America? Is there the possibility that I am going to wake up someday and not know I am in America and will require a vision of a flag to reacquaint me? That I could mistake my Midwestern home for Germany? If you have fought for the flag in conflict, then you have every right to display that flag anytime, anyplace. The problem is that most of those with flag lapel pins did not fight for the flag when given the opportunity, wearing the flag provides them with some false patriotism that assuages their guilt for not being willing to fight for the flag they now cherish so deeply. Based on his bio, Mr. Dobbs would have had an option to fight for his flag in Vietnam. I do not find any record of military service in his background.
I find Mr. Dobbs defense of his lapel pin and his critique of those who choose not to wear one to be naïve. He would have us to believe that the strength of one’s patriotism, character, and words cannot be measured compared to the symbolism of the American flag. So according to Mr. Dobbs the wearing or displaying of the American flag trumps one’s actions, using this logic you could be against everything the flag stands for but as long as you have one on your lapel or in your yard your patriotism goes unquestioned. It does not matter that you are hijacking the ideals and values of that symbol as long as you are displaying that symbol. You can torture, suspend the Constitution, and conduct warrantless searches against other Americans; by God but if you got your flag pin you’re alright.
Here is some of Mr. Dobbs logic.
Sen. Barack Obama put away his lapel flag pin. The senator says instead of a flag pin, his words will be a testament to his patriotism. I don’t know what’s wrong with the senator or why he can find any discomfort at all, but that’s his right as an American. But any politician of any political party who believes their words can be an adequate substitute for the symbolic power of the American flag is sadly arrogant and horribly mistaken.
Several years ago PBS’ Bill Moyers said the flag’s “been hijacked and turned into a logo — the trademark of a monopoly on patriotism.” I respect Moyers and his work greatly, but he’s simply, utterly wrong on this issue. The flag belongs to no group, to no party, to no special interest and to no corporation. Our flag is America’s. And if journalists, by some tortured reasoning, believe the absence of the pin suggests neutrality and that gives them the pretense of objectivity, they couldn’t be more wrong. CNN
I don’t understand how Mr. Dobbs can ignore the rhetoric that has engulfed the very nature of patriotism in this country by the wing-nuts. He ignores the accusations against decorated war heroes as being unpatriotic because they questioned the rationale for war. He ignores the “us versus them” propaganda being committed by the same people wrapping themselves in the flag to deflect criticism. For Mr. Dobbs to say these things are irrelevant is naïve at best and misleading at worse.
This whole flag pin flap is just more distraction from the real questions we should be asking. The question is not should we be wearing lapel pins or even do we support the troops. The real questions we should be asking is why are our civil liberties being taken away under the guise of security, or why isn’t the best way to support the troops is to bring them home? Saying someone supports the troops or the country is just empty rhetoric without being willing to question the direction of this country or the sacrifice of those troops.
You clowns can wear your lapel pins, those of us who truly support this country and the troops will continue to fight not for the America that was, or the America that is, but the America we have yet to become. The America we support is the one that truly believes in democracy and the rights of all people regardless of their race, religion, or ethnicity. An America where equal opportunity is provided to all of its citizens and equal protection under the law is guaranteed. An America that is willing to provide healthcare, shelter for the poor, and a living wage for all.
Just because you sit in a chicken coop doesn’t make you a chicken and just because you wear a lapel pin does make you a patriot. Just as a chicken has to lay eggs to be a chicken, so a patriot has to do more than wear a flag. There are many in this country who want the sizzle, but where’s the beef?
The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived and dishonest — but the myth — persistent, persuasive and unrealistic – John F. Kennedy