One small thing has continued to bother me, a literally small thing. That would be the roughly half-inch by half-inch cloissone mouse that roared, the American flag pin whose conspicuous absence from Barack Obama's lapel has had the power to completely derail conversations about policy and voting records and reduce the debate before two pivotal primaries to why do you hate America?
Obama's response to the inane videotaped question from a Latrobe, PA voter was impressively long, and hit salient points such as him actually, in fact, being pro-America, but he missed a huge opportunity to tell the flag idiots to STFU. A recap, in case you missed it the first time:
NASH MCCABE (Latrobe, Pennsylvania): (From videotape.) Senator Obama, I have a question, and I want to know if you believe in the American flag. I am not questioning your patriotism, but all our servicemen, policemen and EMS wear the flag. I want to know why you don't.
What his answer should have been, short version: Wearing a Stetson doesn't make you a cowboy. Next question.
What it should have been, long version:
I do not wear a flag lapel pin on a regular basis because I believe doing so creates an unnecessary and foolish distraction from the substance of our work as policymakers.
Good policy is not negated by the absence of a flag pin on its authors' lapels, any more than the authorship of bad policy is exonerated by the presence of a pin. What matters more? That I spoke out against the Iraq war, or that I did so with unadorned lapels? That I voted to increase funding for veterans' healthcare, or that I did so with unadorned lapels?
What matters more? That George Bush led our country into an unjustified war that has claimed the lives of over four thousand of America's best and brightest, and sent tens of thousands more home with grievous injuries, and sent hundreds of thousands home with emotional and psychological wounds the VA refuses to acknowledge, much less treat, or that he did so with a flag pin on his lapel?
What matters more? That the national security adviser, attorney general, and vice-president of the United States of America held meetings in the White House during which they discussed the specific techniques of torture they would authorize for use against our prisoners, in open defiance of both the Geneva Conventions and basic human decency? Or that they were wearing flag pins on their lapels while they did it? What matters more?
I do not wear a flag pin because I believe fervently in representing the country and constitution that flag stands for on a daily basis. I do not wear a pin because I believe it is far more important to live the flag you ask if I "believe in" than wave it in a charade not backed up by the substance of my actions.
Patriotism is not empty window dressing. Patriotism is a behavior. And a preoccupation with window dressing to the exclusion of real issues when you're picking a presidential candidate is the antithesis of patriotism.
How much longer is this crap going to continue? Actually, the real question--assuming Obama does get the nomination, if he and Clinton haven't gnawed each other to tiny piles of bone dust before then--is whether he's going to finally have a STFU moment and put this ridiculous question to rest the very first time the McCain camp raises it, or if he's going to continue to attempt to talk it out with reason and reserve. Since neither of those attributes resonate well with the electorate in general, I'm hoping for a mini explosion.