Support Our Troops

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 The first historical reference to yellow ribbons that I can think of was in the pop song from the 70s, “Tie a Yellow Ribbon” by Tony Orlando and Dawn.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.

7 thoughts on “Support Our Troops

  1. First of all shame on you for being such an ignorant person. Second of all I am the proud girlfriend of a US Marine who is currently serving in Iraq for his fourth deployment in his military carreer fighting for the rights of idiot’s such as yourself so you may have the right to remain as foolish as you seem to be!

    You are a disgrace to our country!

  2. Ignorant? I think that’s a label that could easily apply to you. Stop reading the Republican propaganda and look at the newspapers and magazines covering the Iraq story. That’ll help clear up YOUR ignorance.

    Yes, Marines do fight for our freedom. They fight hard in terrible conditions. Many lose their lives or limbs. American citizens are in debt to them. That’s why I “celebrate” Memorial Day by looking at all those flags flying around town and thinking of the lives sacrified for our freedom. Is that what you do? Or do you take the day off and hit the sales at the malls like most Americans?

    The Iraq War is a FARCE, pushed upon the American people by a war-monging, lying, power-hungry president.

    I’m sorry your boyfriend is in the Marines in Iraq. I wish he was home with you. Or fighting a more “popular” war (if any war could be popular), one that had the support of all the American people.

    But the sad truth is, going to Iraq without a solid plan has cost 3,000 American lives, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives, and the respect of most of the world.

    Your boyfriend is not fighting for my freedom — or yours. He’s fighting for the freedom of the Iraqi people. And here’s some info from a poll taken back in November (

    “Past surveys have hinted at this result, but a new poll in Iraq makes it more stark than ever: the Iraqi people want the U.S. to exit their country. And most Iraqis now approve of attacks on U.S. forces, even though 94% express disapproval of al-Qaeda.

    “At one time, this was primarily a call by the Sunni minority, but now the Shiites have also come around to this view. The survey by much-respected World Public Opinion (WPO), taken in September, found that 74% of Shiites and 91% of Sunnis in Iraq want us to leave within a year. The number of Shiites making this call in Baghdad, where the U.S. may send more troops to bring order, is even higher (80%). In contrast, earlier this year, 57% of this same group backed an “open-ended” U.S. stay.”

    Hello? Are you reading this? Your boyfriend is fighting for the “freedom” of people in a country where “most people now approve of attacks on U.S. Forces.” Is that truly where you want him to be? Is that something he needs to be proud of?

    I’m not a disgrace to my country. I know how to THINK. It’s the close-minded people who blindly follow an idiot who should be ashamed of themselves. Those are the people following the pied piper of Washington further and further into a situation we’ll never get out of.

    Please do continue surfing the net, searching for the people like me who are against the War. You’ll certainly find many of them! Maybe if you READ some of the blog posts you comment about, you’ll see the situation more clearly. Or maybe you’ll just keep posting comments like the one you posted here, so more people can see what a fool YOU are.

    And, for the record, I DO support the U.S. Military. I just don’t support what they’ve been sent to do in the Middle East. I want them home, protecting OUR borders, keeping US safe, and living long enough to see their children grow up.

  3. Actually you CAN buy stickers with all sorts of other sentiments from places like Northern Sun and Syracuse Cultural Workers. My friend naively assumed the troops somehow got money from there stupid yellow ribbon things. And that they were somehow meaningful. So I sent off for bumper stickers to those places that say “Support Our Troops, Bring them Home” and Peacemonger” and “I am already against the next war” and there are even a number of specifically anti-Bush ones. You can get a magnetic back for each of your bumper stickers so you can change the sentiments expressed on your car as whim dictates.

  4. Well, when I originally wrote the post back in January 2005, my thoughts on the war — Bring them Home — were not very popular. The first comment above gives an example of the popular U.S. mindset at the time. (Why think when you can have a president think for you?) The stickers were tough to find, although I did find a yellow ribbon magnet that said to bring them home.

    Northern Sun is an EXCELLENT source of stickers to make a statement, whether it’s about politics, religion, feminism, or any other issue. My airport golf cart is almost covered with stickers from Northern Sun that clearly state my views.

    Looks like I need to browse through their catalog again. Might have some new slogans to share. Thanks for writing!

  5. FYI – Re Yellow Ribbons (from Wikpedia)

    “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon”

    Yellow is the official color of the Cavalry branch of the U.S. Army, used in insignia, etc., and originally exemplified in the yellow neckerchiefs worn in the 19th Century by cavalry soldiers.

    In the United States military, the symbol of the yellow ribbon is used in a popular marching song. The first version copyrighted was the 1917 version by George A. Norton, which he titled ‘Round Her Neck She Wears a Yeller Ribbon (For Her Lover Who Is Fur, Fur Away). While he tells in the song about the love between Susie Simpkins and her soldier lover Silas Hubbard, his chorus goes:

    ‘Round her neck she wears a yeller ribbon,

    She wears it in winter and the summer so they say,

    If you ask her “Why the decoration?”

    She’ll say “It’s fur my lover who is fur, fur away.

    The lyrics were altered and the song was titled She Wore a Yellow Ribbon by Russ Morgan for the 1949 movie of the same name. This was performed by several popular musicians of the 1940s, including Mitch Miller and The Andrews Sisters

  6. LOL….Tie a yeller ribbon round that ol’ jail cell. This is just another case of manipulating something to change its meaning. Some dumb skank has a fetish for criminals and it somehow turns into an accepted symbol of support for an Iraqi holocaust.

  7. Hi Folks ~ Just to clarify the whole “Yellow Ribbon” confusion. The earliest that the yellow ribbon came into play was with the Buffalo Soldiers of the U.S. Cavalry. The Soldiers wore the yellow kerchiefs around their necks while the Officers wore them in their hats. These occasionally were left with the female left behind who would wear or display it until her soldier returned home safely. Even prior to this, the “Around her neck she wore a yellow ribbon” song which has been floating around for 400 years in different variations, was about a man who was going away and tied a yellow ribbon around his lady’s neck so other men would know she was taken and should stay away from her”. Moving fast forward, but still not yet to Tony Orlando, during WWII there is an Army cadence “She wore a yellow ribbon” who wore a yellow ribbon till her soldier came home. Then…as the war was winding down in 1973, Tony Orlando used it in his song about coming home, from the war, and wondering if he was still wanted. Tony Orlando, may have borrowed his idea for the song from a true story of a prisoner being released. The prisoner’s family has no funds to come and see him or contact him as he was incarcerated. As he was being released, he wrote home and asked that a WHITE ribbon be put on the tree if he was wanted. Upon his arrival, the tree was covered in WHITE ribbons. Hope this help out with all the confusion. God Bless America!