The conservative flag cult reminds us once again that for them the flag symbolizes a Disunited States, divisible (the better to conquer) without liberty and certainly without justice for anyone but themselves and those who can pay for the privilege. And the God it is under is Mammon, the only God that conservatives have ever worshiped. Coerced reverence for a symbol and its use to divide The People is against everything good that the United States is supposed to be.
From the conservatives sweatshop where they manufacture imitation, shirt sleeve ready, outrage comes the rage over Barack Obama deciding to stop wearing a flag lapel pin. I’m not sure if this product is selling or not but it is interesting. Obama’s reasoned and entirely respectful reasons for foregoing the conventionalized and entirely meaningless symbolism won’t matter except to those who are reasonable and reflective. We don’t know yet what the political effect will be, though I’ve got to say, it was gutsy and courageous for a presidential candidate to tell, almost certainly, too much of the truth on a non-issue like a lapel pin.
The American flag is most used by conservatives and they have put it to some of the worst use that a symbol has been put to in the post WWII period. Like all bullies everywhere, they think they own it. Considering their political program that is uniformly opposed to the good of the majority and pretty much anything that is decent and good, their effective use of the flag to cover their piracy is a lesson in the uses of very effective deception. Maybe they listened to George M. Cohan who once pointed out that the show biz use of the flag had saved “many a bum show”. Few shows are more bum than the corporate stinker the conservatives have given us today.
If you are curious about the amazingly baroque rules laying out the real, right way to use an American Flag you might want to look at the Betsy Ross Homepage Flag Rules and Regulations. I think they are largely the ones taught in my infancy, adopted by some congressional action or other. If you do I’d call your attention to two items in the Flag Code Violations in the News. One was about some entertainer using one as a poncho which was a violation. “Section 8d. reads, "The flag should never be used as wearing apparel." The other is right below reminding us that George W. Bush was violating the flag when he autographed it to tacit outrage from the conservative outrage industry*.
Was it wise for Obama to let this become an issue in his political career? I don’t know. What he said was certainly true and it should be said by someone. I’d never put it high on the list of important issues. Symbols are malleable and can mean different things. He might have continued wearing it and talked about what it meant when he used it to good political effect. But he has the right to make that decision for himself. Never having much liked symbolism to start with, he certainly climbed higher in my personal regard. But politics is the art of the possible and the practical. A large part of the practical is weighing the importance of issues, what those issues will cost for any gain and in politics always keeping in mind that someone out of office has no chance to make law and to change bad ones. We will see if it was worth it politically.
*UPDATE: How could I have missed this clear abuse of the flag? Didn't Bush or any of his lackies attend 4th grade? Maybe they didn't teach flag etiquette in the schools that rich boys and girls went to.
September 11, 2006, President Bush and first lady Laura Bush stand on a carpet of the American flag at Ground Zero in Manhattan, the site of the September 11, 2001 attack. Section 8b of the Flag Code reads, " The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground..." Photo credit: Reuters/Jason Reed