I'm sure you've also noticed that American flag lapel pins on politicians are getting bigger. Is there a contest I'm unaware of? At New York City's 9/11 commemoration, politicians dispensed with the pins altogether and stuck small American flags in the upper pockets of their coats. Despite the solemnity, it made me laugh at its one-up-man-ship, another form of a p----ing contest.
I have never burned an American flag, nor been at a demonstration when one was burned. I have only seen it on TV, and it makes me cringe, because I was raised on the notion that one only burned the flag if it touched the ground, had been desecrated in some other way, or simply worn out.
These days I see many American flags that should be burned because they have been desecrated by being left out 24/7 in all kinds of weather and are ragged-looking and need to be replaced. This seems also disrespectful.
As a youth I was honored to be selected to raise an American flag at my school which had flown over the nation's capitol buildings--in the days when we were proud of how Americans of different political parties could work together in those buildings.
The pastor of a church to which I belonged during the Vietnam War moved the Christian flag to the place of honor on the chancel, demoting the American flag to the other side. I liked the symbolism, but it was very controversial. You might not know that U.S. churches started placing American flags in their sanctuaries to follow the model set by the Episcopal Church after the Revolutionary War, trying to convince citizens that it was truly an American rather than a British church.
I have never worn an American flag as jewelry. In college I wore a cross around my neck until I once checked to see if my cross was on straight before worship, and I realized I did not want to wear any sacred symbol as jewelry. It's my Calvinist roots showing, I suppose, wary of idolatry, affectation, and displays of piety. I've noticed among Christians a similar "size matters" mentality, from crosses to Bibles to churches.
Even so, I have no objection to those wearing American flag pins--just the notion that they are obligatory to show one's patriotism. And the implication that the bigger your flag, the greater respect you have for your country. To paraphrase Shakespeare, "Methinks they doth protest too much!"
As a journalist, I once was assigned to write a story about a stripper who draped an American flag on his body as part of the act--also controversial. When AP provided a photo, I realized the flag was the only part of the act of which he had a right to feel proud!
To me the most respectful use of the flag is when draped on the coffin of a soldier returning from war, of a public servant, or of a veteran having served the country in past wars. I was proud of the flag presented my mother at the funeral of my father, who served in WW II. I was proud also because I knew he would have been proud.
And I don't feel the need to wear an American flag pin to prove it.
Copyright © 2012 by Chris R. Glaser. Permission granted to Huffington Post to publish with attribution of author.