For months now, Barack Obama has been criticized for his refusal to wear an American flag lapel pin. He has been branded unpatriotic and called un-American by right-wing bloggers, media, and other pseudo-patriots who equate wearing an American flag pin (made in China, of course!) with patriotism. Unfortunately, Obama has now begun wearing one in recent weeks, thus pandering to critics who don’t know what true patriotism is.
Today’s New York Times contains an editorial about this “important issue,” along with suggestions from various designers, illustrators, and artists about the type of lapel pin Obama should wear on the campaign trail. Various designs are suggested, but the first one mentioned is this lapel pin of Old Abe. The illustrator who suggests this, Tamara Shopsin, says that for her, Abraham Lincoln represents the best of America. Tamara, I couldn’t agree with you more!

The ironic thing about all of this brouhaha over a cheap metal pin being equated to patriotism is that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are the two major politicians who wear their American flags proudly in their lapels. George W. Bush of course was placed into the National Guard courtesy of his family during the Vietnam War and then disappeared from his unit for a long time. Dick Cheney is really patrotic for wearing his pin, but obtained an unprecedented five deferrments from serving in the military while thousands of his generation died in battle.

Contrast this “patriotism” with both Obama and John McCain. Obama hasn’t served in the military, but has dedicated his career to serving the poor and helping to better their lives. McCain was in the military and was held as a prisoner of war for years.

UPDATE: 09/10/2008: Senator John McCain accepted the Republican nomination for President Of The United States on September 4, 2008. McCain is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, served his country honorably in Viet Nam, and was of course held captive by the Viet Cong for over 5 years. No one would ever question his love of country. However, Senator McCain didn’t wear an American flag lapel pin during his acceptance speech. Does this make him unpatriotic? I think not, just as Obama was not unpatriotic when he didn’t wear one.
A lapel pin doesn’t make a person a patriot. Serving one’s country with dignity, grace, and honor does.