Some rants regarding yellow ribbons.
They started appearing about a year ago on cars, vans, and trucks all over the U.S., just about the same time the flags finally disappeared. Those “yellow ribbon” stickers or, in some cases, magnets. You know the kind. They look like a looped yellow ribbon and most of them say “Support Our Troops.” Some variations include the red, white, and blue models, some of which include stars and stripes. They’re all over the place and frankly, it bugs me.
Why does it bug me? Well, let’s take a moment to think about yellow ribbons and what they represent. The first historical reference to yellow ribbons that I can think of was in the pop song from the 70s, “Tie a Yellow Ribbon” by Tony Orlando and Dawn. The song was the tale of an inmate who was soon to be released. He was writing to his girlfriend, wanting to know if she still loved him. He instructed her to:
“Tie a yellow ribbon
’round the old oak tree
It’s been three long years,
do you still want me?”
(You can get all the lyrics here.)
In this instance, the yellow ribbon was used as a signal to tell him whether he was still wanted at home, whether he should bother getting off the bus. The song has a happy ending. Not only is there one yellow ribbon there, but there’s a hundred yellow ribbons. She evidently really wanted him back.
Move forward a few years. In November 1979, Iranian militants storm the U.S. Embassy in Terhan and take about 70 Americans hostage. The “Iranian Hostage Crisis,” as it came to be known, lasts 444 days. During that time, Penelope Laingen, the wife of one of the hostages, tied a yellow ribbon around a tree at her home. Like ribbon in the song, Mrs. Laingen’s ribbon expressed her desire to have her husband come home. Soon there were yellow ribbons on trees all over the country. The ribbons stayed up until the hostages were released.
Now here’s my beef. In both of these instances, the yellow ribbon signifies a desire to bring someone who is away back home where he/she is loved and wanted. Support our troops was not the message.
I get angry when I see those ribbons. To me, they’re just another sign of the American public’s “follow the leader” mentality. Some marketing genius decided that yellow ribbon stickers that say “Support Our Troops” could sell. Some people bought them. Other people said, “Hey, I want to support the troops, too. I’ll buy a yellow ribbon and put it on my minivan.” Thus, a movement based on some money-making scheme is born. And the American public is too ignorant to realize that the symbol of the yellow ribbon has nothing to do with supporting troops.
The Chinese manufacturers of these ribbons are laughing all the way to the bank.
I’m not the only one who feels this way. In researching this entry, I stumbled across this article with comments. Could it be that I’m actually part of a group of people who think the same way? Wow.
What does a yellow ribbon mean to me? Bring our troops home. Those people are risking (and losing) their lives to fight an illegitimate war, one that we have no business fighting. Bring them home. If I had a yellow ribbon on my car, that’s what it would say. Unfortunately, you can’t buy a ribbon with that message. It isn’t a popular message and it just won’t sell.
The president’s efforts to impose a democratic government on the people of Iraq isn’t any more right than the old Soviet Union forcing communism among neighboring countries. Yes, we Americans believe in democracy and it seems to work for us, but is it right for all countries? Is it right for us to force it on a country that might not be ready for it? And while we’re discussing what’s right and wrong, is it right for us to promote women’s rights in a country where women have a traditional role that is often reinforced by religion?
Why are we trying to turn Iraqis into Americans? This absolutely reeks of what the “missionaries” did in Africa and South America, converting indigenous people into Christians when they were perfectly happy with their own religious beliefs. But rather than religion, we’re pushing politics. Oddly enough, the biggest supporters of this war are the conservative “Christians” that backed George W. Bush in last year’s election. Is there another agenda? One that goes beyond politics? What will be we pushing next?
I’m American and I’m patriotic. If an invading force came into this country and tried to make us change, I’d be one of the people with a stockpile of weapons, fighting to drive out or kill the invaders. But I can’t support a war that I feel was waged as a poorly planned publicity stunt. And I won’t be putting a “Support Our Troops” yellow ribbon on any of my cars.
But do you want to know what bothers me most about the yellow ribbons? It’s that some of them are magnetic. That means they can be easily removed when this war is over, stored in a safe place, and reapplied when the next war starts. Now that’s thinking ahead.
September 27, 2011 Update: Unfortunately, this blog post — which is SIX YEARS OLD, for Pete’s sake! — was linked to on a conspiracy theory Web site. Inappropriate comments have begun to be submitted. Rather than waste my day moderating this kind of silliness, I’ve shut down comments. Move along folks, there’s nothing new to see here.