I can’t believe I’m even writing this, but that’s the level political discourse has sunk to in this country, I guess.

Barack Obama is taking heat–and I honestly can’t believe this–for saying he won’t wear an American flag pin in his lapel. There are stories on Fox News, Time, and probably everywhere else.

This bugs me in so many ways it’s hard to unravel, but the first thing is, isn’t it bad enough that the press spends ‘way more time talking about poll numbers and fund raising figures rather than what the candidates actually, you know, say they’re going to do on healthcare or the environment or taxes. Now they’re talking about a friggin’ lapel pin. What next, what the candidates eat for breakfast? “Obama eats yogurt for breakfast! What an effete wimp!”

It also reminds me, disgustingly, of how much politics and the inside-the-beltway media are like High School. Doesn’t matter how smart a guy is, doesn’t matter what he stands for; it just matters what he looks like. Does he look “Presidential?” Oh my God, he wore a red tie today; what does that mean? And the pressure to conform to what the clique thinks. Don’t do something out of principle; conform. Everyone must wear a lapel pin! Everyone must eat with Real Folks in a diner in New Hampshire in the dead of winter. Everyone must put on a flannel shirt and stride across a corn field in Iowa, post-harvest. Conform conform conform!

And the final thing is, ask yourself this: how many people out here in the “real world” wear lapel pins at all? Hell, in my industry damn few people wear suits, and those that do–salespeople and marketing people–are not exactly held in high regard by the technical folks. And I have never seen any of them wear lapel pins. (Here in Austin in the summer, most folks don’t wear socks, let alone suits.)

I know it’s different in the NorthEast to some degree, but even so most of the people I see all the time, in two states, wouldn’t go near the $800+ suits the candidates all wear. They’d look kind of silly in a cornfield, or a tire repair shop, or laying pipe at the shipyard, or on a hacker writing code. And lapel pins? Feh.

So we have a manufactured flap over a piece of accoutrement that probably no one would have noticed if the press hadn’t picked it up. And now the bloviators are trying to get Obama to regret it and conform.

Man. And people wonder why my generation is so darn cynical.