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Commentary: Make wearing a flag pin the 28th Amendment

  • Story Highlights
  • Roland Martin says flag lapel pin debate is useless, tiresome and distracting
  • He asks: If those pins are so important, why shouldn't underwear, hats be, too?
  • Decisions about candidates should be based on substance, he says
  • He says topics such as secure borders, drug fight, economy are real issues
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By Roland S. Martin
CNN Contributor
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Roland Martin says that whether candidates wear a flag lapel pin shouldn't be a political issue.

(CNN) -- When is the last time you watched a mindless movie that had no redeeming value for you intellectually, but all it did was make you laugh?

That perfectly describes the raging debate among voters and the rabid television and radio talk show hosts who love to yell and scream from the top of their lungs, "I'm an American, and by golly, you better show as much appreciation for this country as I do!"

But once you finish listening to these high-minded bloviators -- and yes, that includes the voters who have bought into this nonsensical issue -- ask yourself: Does it really have anything to do with anything?

I've watched this debate reach the levels of absurdity this year because journalists and commentators have raised the question to Sen. Barack Obama, "Why don't you wear a flag lapel pin?"

I really got a kick out of that one during the ABC debate last month because not one person on stage -- Sens. Hillary Clinton and Obama, along with moderators Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos -- bothered to accessorize their attire with a flag lapel pin.

Sen. John McCain has been traveling the globe as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, and this former Navy pilot often doesn't wear a flag lapel pin.

It has become sort of like bird watching as I've surveyed elected officials on the local and national levels and looked them over like a hen-pecked mother or a foaming-at-the-mouth military drill sergeant, studying their attire and deeming them insufficiently American because of their lack of decency and respect by refusing to adorn themselves appropriately with a lapel pin.

So, after listening to radio callers and the folks that e-mail various TV shows, maybe we ought to expand this need to express our Americanism even further. Shouldn't we insist that our politicians all begin to sport red, white and blue socks in order to feel good knowing that they are walking as Americans? How about asking officeholders to sport the American colors as undergarments to show that their undying love for the country is so important, they want the flag pressed against their skin?

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There have been times when the candidates -- especially McCain, who has beaten back skin cancer -- have worn hats on the campaign trail. I want to know, datgummit, why the people running for the highest office in the land didn't cover their head with an American flag baseball cap to express to the nation their love and affection for the U.S. of A.

Since it is clear that our nation is paralyzed and so not able to close our borders, feed the homeless, develop businesses in the inner cities and save people from having their homes taken by foreclosure due to ruthless mortgage companies, all because some folks don't wear a flag lapel pin, we need to lead a national movement to demand that Congress and the states make requiring officeholders to wear a flag lapel pin the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

See, if it is so important, then take it all the way. Don't make it optional. Don't leave it up to someone to choose to wear a flag lapel pin. Let's really show those politicians that nothing is more important to us than seeing them with the U.S. flag on our chest.

That's what zealots do. They take something so simple, so personal, so voluntary, and absolutely lose their mind, trying to force someone else to do as them, and everyone else be damned.

Folks, the first year I ever cast a ballot for political office was in 1988. And in the last 20 years, whether it was mayoral, school board, city council, or a statewide, congressional or presidential campaign, the thought of what was on a politician's lapel never entered into the equation as to whether they are worthy of office.

Those who will criticize me will say, "Well, Roland, if it's no big deal, then why not wear one?" And the reply is the same: "If it's no big deal, then why do you make it a big deal?"

Let me tell you something: When I'm on the golf course and I slip my wedding ring into my golf bag, the Rev. Jacquie Hood Martin is still my wife. When we shoot hoops and I remove my Texas A&M University ring from my right hand, I still love my school. The fact that I can no longer wear my 1987 class ring from Houston's Jack Yates High School doesn't mean I don't cherish the crimson and gold. And I may not be able to fit into the shirt I pledged in, but I will be a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. until the day I die.

I am an unapologetic Christian, but you won't see a cross dangling from my neck or a James Avery charm bracelet on my wrist. Why? Because my love of Jesus Christ is in my heart.

This debate is useless, tiresome and distracting. Why? Because if there are members of Congress who wear a flag lapel pin but refuse to shore up our borders, don't do enough to stop the flow of drugs into our neighborhoods, or don't help to eradicate the gaps between the haves and have nots, then are they truly fighting for the concerns of Americans, or playing on the emotions of people by what's on their lapel?

We're better than that. We're smarter than that. It's time that we make decisions based on substance, which is what we say we actually care about. But maybe we're just lying to ourselves about that, too.

Roland S. Martin is a nationally award-winning journalist and CNN contributor. Martin is studying to receive his master's degree in Christian communications at Louisiana Baptist University. You can read more of his columns at

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.

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