Slap a yellow magnet on the old bumper

So, I’m driving this morning and notice that the SUV in front of me sports 2 texts (beyond, you know, the messages sent by things like car make). One is a “My husband is serving: US Army” sticker and the other is a yellow ribbon ribbon magnet inscribed with “Keep Daddy Safe.”

Holy pathos, batman! But oh, the irony — because my emotions were immediately touched as I consider with sadness and sympathy the idea that what would  their daddy safe (and make them feel safe) is not, logically speaking, supporting or maintaining the war that puts him in danger. I assumed, of course, that the ribbon was meant to elicit protective patriotism.

But THEN, I started to think that it’s possible, after all, that for those kids (and perhaps their parents), the yellow ribbon symbolizes their wish to have daddy come home, not to have people equate support of the troops with support of the war and therefore to unquestioningly accept the government’s actions. In this light, then, the ribbon could be read as pleading for the adequate health care (from armor to counseling) the government has not seen fit to provide their daddy. Or even the simpler implication: “bring him home.”

Unfortunately, I couldn’t catch up with her to ask about intentions.  But I love it when these kinds of moments make us realize the messy way that messages are designed, sent, received, rejected, reconsidered…

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2 thoughts on “Slap a yellow magnet on the old bumper

  1. Interesting post! I agree. But sometimes I wonder whether certain texts are *intentionally* ambiguous. (Which, the idea that a piece of military propaganda could “go both ways” is, in and of itself, ironic.)

  2. I’m not sure where I read this, but my best recollection leads me to attribute it to the science fiction author Orson Scott Card, who once (allegedly) wrote something to the effect that language helps us to get along together not because it allows us to communicate meaning accurately, but because it blurs the sharp distinctions between individual perceptions of events enough so that we don’t realize how much we really disagree.

    Perhaps it’s that quality of language that makes “big idea” rhetoric (like that sported by Obama) more appealing to the electorate than the specifics more often (allegedly) employed by candidates like Senator Clinton. Thoughts?

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