Saturday, September 11, 2004


There are people who insist on decorating their cars with miscellaneous artifacts, stickers, and gewgaws. Plenty of vehicles cruise around town plastered with bumper stickers saying everything from the sublime (Visualize Whirled Peas) to the extremely ridiculous (Bush-Cheney 2004). Easy Does It. Excrement Takes Place. If You Can Read This, You’re Too Damn Close.

I’m sure there’s at least a coffee-table book’s worth of material on bumper stickers alone, but then you have the Ever-Proliferating Assortment of Jesus Fish. You have the basic Jesus Fish. You have the Darwin Fish eating the Jesus Fish. You have the Truth Fish eating the Darwin Fish (which presumably is still munching away on the first Jesus Fish). And you have people like our rabbi, who has a Gefilte Fish.

And let’s not forget the flags. Plenty of flags these past three years, although Flag Madness seems to have settled down somewhat.

But there’s one decoration that bugs me. Some time ago, I began noticing these “Yellow Ribbon” decals on cars. On closer examination, I noticed that the ribbons bear the legend, “Support Our Troops.” OK, fine – a very worthy sentiment, but wazzup wit’ da yellow ribbon?

If I remember my pop culture etymology correctly, the yellow ribbon first showed up in an early ’70’s Tony Orlando song, “Tie a Yellow Ribbon (Round the Old Oak Tree).” The song was about someone who had been sent Up The River (i.e., in prison) for “three long years” and who wanted a signal from his Significant Other as to whether he was Persona Grata or Non Grata once he got out. [What you have to do to get sent up for three years, I have no idea. Second-degree murder? Pederasty? Harelipping the Governor? One of the Great Mysteries of the 1970’s, I guess.]

During the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979-80, the yellow ribbon became a popular symbol of our eagerness for the release of the hostages. It had been too damn long, and we still wanted them (to paraphrase the song). OK, fair enough.

But it’s a quarter-century later now, and how the yellow ribbon mutated into a symbol of support for our troops, I have no freakin’ clue. Do we want them back home safely? Yes. Are they being held hostage? No. Are they currently imprisoned for a crime? No. So the song doesn’t explain it.

Even worse, the color yellow is still the color that many people associate with cowardice. Whatever our troops are, they’re not cowards.

These soldiers are out there (wherever “there” is) to do a job. A difficult, unpleasant job. An unfortunately necessary job. And I support them – regardless of my opinions on how necessary, unnecessary, correctly or poorly prosecuted our current military operations may be. But putting a yellow ribbon decal on my car ain’t gonna help too much.

Cowardice. Tony Orlando. Two things that the yellow ribbon means to me. And you want me to put one on my car?

Ya want a ribbon? Fine. Make mine red, white, and blue.

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