I grew up in a very small and very homogeneous town in which everybody knew everybody. And worse, I grew up in the 1950s, the most conformist decade in American history. It was a time and place in which the least deviation from a narrowly rigid norm was a scandal. Believe me, if the length of a skirt hem was off by so much as an inch, the wearer would feel repercussions. In the early 1960s I rebelled and took to wearing multicolor knee socks instead of the de rigueur white bobbie socks. It was an act of courage, I tell you.
So you’ll understand when I say that the “scandal” over Barack Obama’s lack of a flag lapel pin feels very familiar. We’re seeing the most suffocating, small-minded, Ã¼ber-conformist impulses of America writ large.
I don’t have a thing against flag lapel pins, especially in commemoration of 9/11. On the morning of September 13, 2001, I returned to Manhattan for the first time since the attacks, and I will never forget the flags I saw then, flying all along Madison Avenue and on the scaffolding in Times Square. It was a beautiful thing.
But the flag stands for freedom, and enforced conformity isn’t freedom. I say it’s a gross disrespect of the flag and everything it stands for to require lapel pin wearing as socially mandated proof of patriotism.
This “issue” is symptomatic of our national dysfunction. We can’t have honest discussions about our real critical issues — Iraq, health care, the economy — so we have symbolic squabbles over non-issues like lapel pins and MoveOn.org. Please, people, get a grip.
The U.S. is going through a transitional period at least as important as the early post-World War II years. New worlds in energy, technology, the economy and global interdependence are either upon us or coming fast.
Yet much of the nationâ€™s top leadership is either wasting its time on complete nonsense or trying with great determination to push us back to the era of top hat and tails.
Among other things, Republicans are trying to figure out what to do about Larry Craig, the loony senator from Idaho who got caught in a public toilet behaving as if he thought the promised land was just one stall away.
Democrats, unable to do anything about George W. Bushâ€™s policy of eternal war in Iraq, found themselves reduced to fulminating in official Congressional proceedings about the latest wackiness from Rush Limbaugh.
Meanwhile, the president and his priceless band of canâ€™t-get-it-right-wingers, are busy vetoing health insurance for children, dreaming up secret torture protocols, funneling lucrative federal contracts to friends and cronies and fulfilling their paramount mission â€” making the very rich richer.
So much for leadership.
And so much for Conservative Correctness. Righties can take their flag lapel pins and white bobbie socks and whatever else the “CC” police want to enforce and shove ’em where the sun don’t shine.
Update: See also Republican Attack Schtick Entering Backfire Realm.