I confess, I didn’t watch the presidential debate on Wednesday night. Partially because I was trying to decipher the barely legible directions that came with the bookcase that I was struggling to build by myself, but mostly because working in politics has cured me of my previously ardent love of politics.
Once you’ve glimpsed behind the curtain, it’s hard to keep pretending that The Wizard is great and powerful. It’s so much less infuriating and more informative to just read the transcript in the morning.
Despite my reservations, I did turn on the debate for all of 48 seconds. And in that brief span, I noticed something: Mitt Romney’s flag pin was bigger than President Obama’s flag pin.
“Wait? What the hell? Did I really just think that thought? Am I seriously measuring flag pins?” [facepalm]
I turned off the debate immediately and resolved to seek out some kind of treatment program. But the next day, a brief review of the headlines on Google News revealed that I wasn’t the only one breaking out the ruler. (So the disease is contagious, you say?)
The earliest photo that I could find of a President wearing a flag pin was Richard Nixon in 1970. Maybe he was the first, maybe he wasn’t, but over the past few decades (and since 9/11 in particular) the nation’s collective obsession with American flag pins has reached laughable proportions.
When then-Sen. Barack Obama stopped wearing a flag pin in 2007, he was forced to explain why he no longer wore his national loyalty on his lapel. Earlier this year, Mitt Romney took a beating in a primary debate, and some speculated that his lack of a flag pin was the cause. And more than a decade later, the former head of ABC News is still answering questions about why his reporters and anchors were the only ones not wearing flag pins after September 11th.
I have never understood why so many journalists and pundits and conspiracy theorists are obsessed with flag pins. Because if wearing a pin is so important, why make it optional?
Let’s require every American to wear one. We can distribute them in the public schools and post offices. And then, we can establish some kind of punishment for people who don’t wear them, nothing serious, maybe trash collection for a first offense and deportation for recidivists. After all, without the pins, how will we be able to separate the true patriots from the poseurs?
What? You think love of country and national pride should be defined by a person’s beliefs and actions and not by a one-inch hunk of metal probably made in China? How adorably naive of you.
Most politicos, commentators, journalists and citizens will tell you that the flag pin debate is completely ridiculous. That what you wear on your lapel matters little compared to what you feel in your heart. But they still engage in it, and we still engage it, and then we wonder how we all got talking about it in the first place.
Here’s hoping that the staff on President Obama’s campaign resist the temptation to buy him a bigger flag pin for the next debate. But if they do need a more visible symbol of the President’s patriotism, may I suggest a tasteful American flag belt buckle? That’ll give ole’ Mitt a run for his money.
So what do you guys think about Pin-Gate? Does it matter that a candidate isn’t wearing a pin, or if a candidate refuses to wear a pin? Or is this all just fodder for the 24-hour news cycle?