October 5, 2007

By their fruits ye shall know them

flagcross.jpg The Fox News bloviators are trying to gin up some outrage over Barack Obama's refusal to wear an American flag pin on his lapel.

But it won't work, because this debate is actually already a very familiar and largely settled one, particularly among the conservatives Fox apparently wants to reach. Many "real Americans" already agree with Obama's choice, and those who do not still accept it as a reasonable decision, not grounds for vilification.

To understand how this can be, read what Obama said and imagine that instead of talking about a flag pin, he's talking about a tacky Jesus t-shirt.

I decided I won’t wear that pin on my chest. Instead I’m gonna’ try to tell the American people what I believe what will make this country great and hopefully that will be a testimony to my patriotism... I haven’t probably worn that pin in a very long time. I wore it right after 9/11. But after a while, you start noticing people wearing a lapel pin, but not acting very patriotic. Not voting to provide veterans with resources that they need. Not voting to make sure that disability payments were coming out on time.

My attitude is that I’m less concerned about what you’re wearing on your lapel than what’s in your heart. And you show your patriotism by how you treat your fellow Americans, especially those who served. You show your patriotism by being true to our values and our ideals and that’s what we have to lead with is our values and our ideals.

During the two years I spent talking to evangelicals for my book Rapture Ready!, I heard over and over again this exact same argument against the ostentatious, thoughtless or hypocritical donning of "witness wear." Obviously many people do choose to wear their faith on their shirts (or I wouldn't have much of a book), but even they would acknowledge that this is not enough — and that it doesn't matter if someone else chooses not to, as long as they have Jesus in their hearts and reflect him to the world. [Update: I appreciate the link from Andrew Sullivan, but while I generally share his opinions about "Christianists," the people I'm talking about don't necessarily fit that category.]

Obama, of course, is himself a devout Christian, and the language he so confidently uses here — "testimony," "values," "what's in your heart" — pretty strongly indicates that his feelings about displays of faith are informing his opinion about displays of patriotism. And Iowa audiences will easily pick up on that same language in making their decision about whether or not this is really an outrage.

Posted by Daniel Radosh


>>Said Sean Hannity: "Why do we wear pins? Because our country is under attack!"

That would only make a lick of sense if he were, say, planning to stab terrorists with it.

Sweet Jesus, what a moron.

Substance over showmanship? What a concept...

I fly the American flag 5 times a year: the real and observed Memorial days, the 4th of July, Labor Day and Constitution Day. I do not leave it out over night, neither do I fly it in inclement weather nor in a tattered condition. The car dealers and banks and other users and abusers of the flag take little care as far as I can see. For them flying the flag is a business decision. For bloviators and pundits the purpose of wearing the flag pin is to tell us, the common folk, that THEY are the most patriotic of all. "Mirror, mirror on the wall..."

Oh say can you see by the media lights
What’s upon the lapels of the candidates speaking
Who’s got stripes and got stars, who supports what is right
Whose campaign we can squash with our fashion critiquing
For you clearly declare by the doo-dads you wear
You support our troops’ fight, otherwise you don’t care
Those wearing that star spangled flag pin proclaim
“We are under attack!”, those who don’t are to blame

One sign of the desperate measures Fox is going to in order to turn this into a story: Yesterday, Bill Hemmer had David Corn and the right-wing talk-radio host Mark Williams on to discuss Obama's decision. Williams claimed that Obama took his pin off "after 9-11, and he felt, apparently, some sort of an affinity or some sort of a connection, because at that point he felt it OK to come out of the closet as the domestic insurgent he is." Corn pointed out that he didn't take the pin off *because* of 9-11, and Williams said, "He took it off after 9-11!". Which is true only in the sense that any event that's taken place in the past six years can be considered "after 9-11". My favorite detail: After Corn corrected Williams, the newscaster, Bill Hemmer, said, "Mark, is that true?". Gee, Bill, if only there were people in this world whose job it was to go out into the world, find facts, and report back on them. I wonder what you'd call someone who did that.

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