The Flag Pin And Patriotism

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

A special treat.  The following is an op-ed written by my father and published in the Harrisburg (PA) Patriot-News on March 18, 2008, a week after his 89th birthday.  My dad asked me if I would put the piece up at my blog, The Dream Antilles, but on reflection, I thought more people would see and appreciate it here.  My dad is a retired school administrator with a doctorate, a fabulous pianist, a veteran and a patriot.  Here’s the piece:

A large number of important political leaders and many ordinary citizens are wearing a lapel pin of the American flag. They do so, presumably, to convey their pride in and patriotism toward the United States and to show they are genuine American patriots.

But does wearing the pin really prove that the wearer is truly patriotic? And what about those who do not wear the pin? Are they automatically less patriotic or even unpatriotic? The answer to both question is a firm “No.”

Whether one wears the pin or actually refuses to wear it conveys little about patriotism. Performing a patriotic act has everything to do with patriotism. Like getting the flag folds correct if you’re interested in learning more about the meaning of the flag folds check out

It is patriotic to defend our country against those, internally or externally, whose avowed purpose is to destroy it.

It is patriotic to support the Constitution and the Bill of Rights; to defend vigorously those who wish to exercise the freedoms of speech, assembly and religion; and to oppose those seeking to impair or destroy the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the other amendments.

It is patriotic to decry intolerance and prejudice toward minorities.

It is patriotic to uplift America’s poor and to help those who have been victimized by natural disasters.

It is patriotic to oppose an unjustifiable war.

It is patriotic to refuse to wear the American flag lapel pin when the pin conveys support for and involvement in such an unjustifiable war.

It is even patriotic to burn the American flag — an action clearly supported by freedom of speech in the First Amendment — when that flag has become a symbol of involvement in a war detrimental to the best interest of the United States.

When one participated in or encourages the despoliation of our environment and/or national forests, but wears an American flag pin, how patriotic is that person?

When one hinders vital medical research and its potential to save many American lives, but wears an American flag pin, how patriotic is that person?

When one has avoided required military service, but wears an American flag pin, how patriotic is that person?

When one denies housing or schooling or jobs or voting to another American, but wears an American flag pin, how patriotic is that person?

When an executive, legislator or judge extends preferential treatment to a person or corporation and thereby distorts the principle of equal justice for all, but wears an American flag pin, how patriotic is that person?

Patriotism frequently requires the most awful of sacrifices — losing one’s limbs or one’s life. Because of that probability, patriotism should never be treated lightly, superficially and — absolutely never — hypocritically. Just wearing a pin is poor proof of patriotism when wearing it has demanded of the wearer absolutely no sacrifice whatsoever.

Doing positive things –with fortitude, if necessary — that add to or improve the welfare of the American people, such as truly providing them with meaningful jobs; making sure their children’s health is assured; enabling children’s education to be sound, positive and dynamic; protecting the air everyone breathes; making all neighborhoods safe and unthreatening; assuring honest and fair elections; protecting the healthfulness of our food and water, and guaranteeing the benefits of our Constitution even beyond our children’s children.

That’s real, that’s unadulterated, that’s true patriotism. If one wears a pin for those reasons, we should all be in favor. But wearing a pin to show support for an unjustified war to indicate affiliation to the “in” group must be labeled a superficial, or worse, a spurious form of patriotism.


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  1. Tips for the real thing.

    Thanks for reading.

  2. I wish the general public would stop buying into the propaganda that shallow public displays are true evidence of patriotism. There is a big difference between PR and substance.

    When you look back at history, it’s evident that in many socieites, the push for public displays of “patriotism” (a.k.a. nationalism) and criticizing others for “lack of patriotism” is often used as a weapon agasinst what many of us believe is humane, just and ethical.

    I find the argument about “what is patriotic” to be secondary in importance to “what is humane” and “what is just”.

  3. Because at 89, he’s right! At 89, if he wrote that Bush was a good president, I’d have to take a good hard look again.

    How great for your dad.

    Does he read a lot of your work on blogs?

    • creeper on March 21, 2008 at 7:37 pm

    It’s a symbol of my love for my country.  

    Your words have prompted me to turn it upside down.

  4. …to post this anecdote here.

    The thing that I’ve always found hilarious about the flag pin nonsense is the origin of how they became accessories for people.  For the pilot of the original Law & Order, actor Chris Noth (also known as “Mr. Big” from Sex and the City) and the costumes department were trying to find a look which would help define his character.  Since the character regularly defied authority, they thought adding a flag pin to his lapel would help show his mixed motivations.

    As so often happens, real police officers emulated those on television, in particular with the NYPD.  Particularly after the attacks of September 11, 2001, politicians began to emulate the police officers.  And now, our debate over who should be President is hostage to a decision made by an actor and a costume designer two decades ago.

    Life imitates art.  Goddamn hilarious.

  5. …are lucky to still have him with you at 89. Give him my kudos. And thanks for letting us see this.

    • pfiore8 on March 23, 2008 at 3:08 pm

    it makes me feel good to know your dad and his energy are part of the force field being exerted against

    the “in” group … a superficial, or worse, a spurious form of patriotism.

    • kj on March 23, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    to the wild, wild blogoshere, Mr. Davidseth’s Dad!  🙂

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