Why the Kaine lapel pin kerfuffle matters


Rep. Robert Pittenger, R-N.C., says the flap over his party’s wrongly identifying a lapel pin worn at the Democratic National Convention by Vice-Presidential nominee Tim Kaine as the Honduran flag was blown out of proportion. “It’s a non-issue,” he pronounced.

I disagree. It is a big issue; and for two reasons.

First, as someone who spent five years of my own young adult life working with the rural poor in Honduras’ southwestern Congolon Mountains, I would have no quarrel had Gov. Kaine actually worn a Honduran flag pin to commemorate his volunteer service there. American humanitarian service around the world is as noble and praiseworthy as is American military service. In the eyes of many of the world’s nations, perhaps more.

Secondly, the incident highlights a more troubling issue. Why is the patriotism of citizens questioned if they don’t constantly display the American flag on their chests, or if they don’t have a dozen or more large American flags displayed or flapping behind them when they stand at a podium? Political parties seemed obsessed with trying to outdo the other in this regard.

The skepticism, questioning and mistrust that arises when the flag is absent at political events is reminiscent of the suspicion flamed during the “hearings” that were conducted by Joe McCarthy and members of the House Committee on Un-American Activities six decades ago, a farce that defamed and stigmatized many innocent Americans.

At a CICOP hemispheric conference in Washington, D.C., back in the 1960s, I met an elderly, quiet-spoken former Foreign Service employee who confided to me that he lost his job at the State Department during those days for the simple reason that he spoke Mandarin Chinese fluently.

I feel pride when I see our country’s flag flying alongside of other countries’ flags at the UN and at the Olympic games. But when it comes to domestic politics, our country can do without chauvinistic and small-minded litmus tests for patriotism.

Joe Moran, 73, is Retired Southeast USA Regional Director of Church World Service. He lives in Durham with his wife, Betsy, who also worked in Honduras as a Peace Corps volunteer.


A column on Thursday’s editorial page misstated the year UNC won the national championship with Rashad McCants. It was 2005.