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The Stupidest Shibboleth

December 18, 2009

Last Sunday, I went to a bar for lunch where they had football on the television. I forget what network it was, but there were a handful of middle-aged guys in suits tossing a football on a fake indoor set, creating a sense of relaxed familiarity. They may have talked to a hologram at some point; I can’t remember.

What struck me most, though, is that they were all wearing flag pins on their lapels. Has our stupidest shibboleth really gone that far? Did anyone doubt that the square-jawed hosts of Sunday morning football were anything but red-blooded patriots? Why are the practitioners of the paranoid style in American politics setting their sights so low? The ambitious among them should be demanding shows of loyalty from assistant professors of cultural studies at the least.

But for those of you who are more religious football watchers than I am, I have a question: have these guys been wearing flag pins consistently since 9/11? Or did the foofaraw around Obama institutionalize the flag pin for all public figures (who wear suits), once and for all?

Inasmuch as everything that is inane about this costless  shibboleth was already said during the primaries, I will accentuate the positive. Perhaps I should celebrate the fact that the leading American shibboleth is so easily imitated. I do think it good that Pakistani immigrants can wear a flag pin as easily as small town Pennsylvanians. A good shibboleth is not a good thing; thank god that the lapel pin could never serve as the basis for political massacres.

Until the point when flag pins become matters of life and death, however, I will continue celebrating the American experience in ways of my own choosing. Mainly, that involves naming cats after Union generals and mastering rye and bourbon-based cocktails.

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