The American Flag Lapel pin has a richer history than most people probably realize. Many who do know of its history think that it dates back to the Revolutionary War but it actually showed up during the Civil War. The pin’s exact origin is very fuzzy but what is known is that before the Civil War, flags were limited to the military, federal facilities, and a few wealthy citizens. During the Civil War, northerners began to fly flags s a sign of pride when the Confederates won the initial battles. Since then, the U.S. has displayed the flags during times of crisis. However, the pins didn’t start to really take off until World War II and the culture conflicts of the 1960’s and ‘70’s.
President Nixon also made a national popularity of it when his advisers recommended that he follow Robert Redford’s lead in The Candidate. That was when Nixon’s supposedly silent supporters showed themselves. During the Gulf War, they were as popular as the yellow ribbons and flag patches.
They surged again in the aftermath of 9/11. President George Bush Jr. and his personal aides all donned the pins so did the Fox News staff. However, ABC News didn’t allow it on the grounds of maintaining an unbiased journalistic credibility. Spin Zone host Bill O’Reilly didn’t on the grounds that his show showed his beliefs enough.
Most recently, President Barack Obama created even more controversy around the pin during a 2008 debate with Hilary Clinton. He was asked why he wasn’t donning the pin and remarked that it was because he had seen people donning it without acting patriotic during the 9/11 aftermath. He made that statement in a second debate as well. Yet afterward, he was seen wearing one almost every day.
Today, politicians seem to be laying off of them almost entirely. Instead, patriotism seems to be regarded more as a state of mind than something to be displayed outwardly. Why the pins were held so dear during a century and a half ago is understandable. Back then, what people wore really was considered to be a sign of a certain status. But now that pretty much everything materially tangible has become so commercialized, the flag pin has lost its original appeal. Outward displays of patriotism are becoming increasingly distrusted because they seem to be mostly superficial displays anymore.