Friday May 09 2008
And Another Thing: Proud to be an American, with or without the flag pin
By: Susan Rushton
I imagine even the people who wear flag pins roll their eyes over the flap about Barack Obama not wearing one. I think it’s just fine if people want to wear flag pins. I think it’s just fine if people don’t want to wear them. Some people I like wear them; some other people I like don’t wear them, and we’re all still talking to one another. And neither group has restricted my freedom of speech or sold state secrets or conspired to smuggle water bottles aboard a flight to Phoenix. I don’t ask much more than that from anyone. Wearing a flag pin proves nothing. It just means you want to wear a flag pin. A friend recently pointed out that in the recent debate, NOBODY wore one — not the candidates, not the commentators. Nor does John McCain. Yet it’s only Obama who gets singled out. What an odd thing. Wearing a flag pin ... or not wearing one ... is a choice, that’s all. If you wear one — does that mean you love your country more than someone who doesn’t wear one? If that’s the only way you can think of to express your patriotism, you’re in big trouble. And if we start thinking that not wearing a flag pin means you hate America, we’re all in big trouble. I’m reminded of a cartoon I saw in several years ago. Children tooling around on their trikes, with an American flag flying from most of the handlebars. And one boy says to another, whose trike doesn’t have one: “A word to the wise, Jack — people are wondering why you aren’t riding with a flag.” I hope that those who choose to wear flag pins can see the insidious nature of that cartoon. We’re guaranteed freedom of speech in this country — and that includes the freedom not to speak. “It’s a symbol,” said David Gerrans at the Bowman post office. He doesn’t wear a flag pin. “Just about any politician can wrap himself in it. I’m proud to be an American, but it’s getting to the point that if you don’t restrict certain people’s freedoms, other people accuse you of hating America.” “Wearing something patriotic — like a flag pin — is something I do,” said Betty Samson. You know Betty Samson. She’s been around forever — and in the 1940s, she was an aircraft engine mechanic at McClellan Air Force Base. “On all my jackets I have something patriotic. I’ve always been that way,” she said, “and at 83 I’m not about to change now.” “I don’t wear flag pins because I don’t wear things,” said Roger Strahle at Wild Bird Station, holding out his ringless hands and watchless wrists to me. “I’ve tried, and they drive me crazy. Besides, it’s not necessary to wear a flag pin. The last time I looked, we’re all Americans.” If you don’t wear a flag pin, are you necessarily sending a statement? If so, what are you saying? I don’t wear one for the same reason I don’t put bumper stickers on my car: I don’t want to be identified. I want to fly under the radar. Now — does this mean I don’t like my country? That I disrespect the flag? No. Granted, I’ve been a tad cranky lately about the direction my government is going, but one has nothing to do with the other. “It never occurred to me to wear a flag pin,” said Chris Phipps. “I don’t know why it’s an issue. Do people wear them to impress others with how patriotic they are? Like children in a playground? I don’t know why people have to show their patriotism.” “I wear one every day,” said Jerry Kopp at Uptown Signs. Those of you who know him know it, and nothing he says about it will surprise you. “I wear it because I’m proud to be an American. I don’t know why others do or don’t, but what other people do has nothing to do with it. I wear it because I love America, my town, and my business. We’re all fortunate to be here.” Jean Bisbano at Placer Speech and Hearing believes that “people are waving the flag for the wrong reason: out of politics, not patriotism. My father, who fought in WWII, made it possible for you to burn the flag if you wanted, or wave it if you want to.” Ah. He fought to protect the Constitution. It’s clear to me that she respects both the flag and that document. Even though she doesn’t wear a lapel pin. I have one final point: Can you get a flag pin that wasn’t made in China? Susan Rushton’s column appears every other week in the Auburn Journal. Her email address is Rushton@cebridge.net.