Maher on what it means to wear a little American flag on your lapel

October 14, 2007 | By | 1 Reply More

“Show me a man wearing an American flag pin in his lapel, and I’ll show you an asshole,” said Bill Maher during a recent “New Rules” segment.

What does it show that one puts a little flag on one’s lapel or that one sanctimoniously goes around saying “God bless America?”   Nothing.  These are cheap substitutes for being a well-informed, good-hearted and active citizen.  In my expereience, not all flag wearers are fake patriots, but many are.  I wouldn’t therefore go as far as Maher, though his conclusion is substantiated all too often. 

To be reliable, a signal needs to be expensive. This is true of all animals and it was was well established by Amotz Zahave, author of The Handicap Principle.  And humans, of course, are animals.

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Category: Politics, Psychology Cognition, War

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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  1. Lynet says:

    What I'm about to say is prime Godwin's law material, but nevertheless I can't help but be reminded of a little poem by Brecht that we looked at in German class. The only place I can find it on the internet is here (hooray for German kids wanting help with homework). Excuse my rough translation:

    I am the neighbour. I called him in.

    In our house, we didn't want to have

    Any agitators.

    When we hung up the swastika flag

    He didn't hang up anything.

    When we requested him to

    He asked us if we, in our room,

    In which we live with four children,

    Still had enough room for a flagpole.

    When we said that we believed in the future again

    He laughed.

    That they hit him down the stairs

    Didn't please us. They ripped his overalls.

    That wouldn't have been necessary. None of us

    Have many pairs of overalls.

    But at least he is gone now, and quiet reigns in the house.

    We have enough to worry about, so

    We have to have quiet, at least.

    We now see that a few people

    Look away when they pass us. But

    Those who took him away say

    We did the right thing.

    So, now that I've officially lost the argument, let me rise zombie-like to say enough with the flag-worship. My impression of Barack Obama is that he's genuinely patriotic — in a good way. And outside of America, we think that's rare, for an American.

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