For several years, during my various postings to European locales, when in my civvies, I routinely wore an American flag patch on the sleeve of my jacket. I wore that or other identifying accoutrement there and in North Africa and the Middle East. I was proudly an American wherever I went. I proclaimed my Americanness BECAUSE I am a patriot, because I was willing to take the blame as well as the credit, because I was sure that in the balance, the positive won out. I was NOT a patriot because I wore the flag, I wore the flag because I was a patriot.
I served and traveled alongside Gawd only knows how many folks that I never saw wearing a flag. I was never of the opinion that they were not a patriot or even less of a patriot than I. As far as I know, they simply did not wear the flag but, they may have had a clear and logical and intent in not doing so. I didn't ask and they did not force it on me.
Now, years later, I hear folks who have never been anywhere less American than Berkley, CA (if that) bitching that a presidential candidate doesn't wear a flag lapel pin when traveling the highways and byways of our nation. These idiots actually claim that it is some sort of indicator of his level of patriotism. It isn't!
The proclaiming of one's Americanness while here in this nation is meaningless. It is shouting Black Power, at a Nation of Islam rally. It is wearing a Dodge Roadrunner tee shirt at a Mopar show. It is claiming to enjoy sex when you are at an orgy. It is claiming to be Christian in a Baptist church. It is safe. No one will challenge you because of what ever you claim in those situations. If you want it to mean something, take it someplace with less of an Amen Chorus
Those of us who took the vow and followed the orders know that patriotism isn't safe or easy. We know that the true measure of a (wo)man has nothing to do with removable externalities. Many of us realize that those who try to obscure this basic truth are not you friends and most likely, do not have your best interests at heart.
Call it fashion. Call it a thousand different things but, do not, DO NOT mistake the wearing of lapel pin for patriotism or the non-wearing for a lack of patriotism. That is exactly what it isn't.