Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Yellow Ribbons, The Red White and Blue and a Strange Thinking Newspaper Editor

This past week has been interesting. I have served on a committee that is charged finding ways for our town to celebrate the various holidays and commemorative days. This week is Armed Forces Week. Monday was Armed Forces Day.

We decided to celebrate with yellow ribbons, dedicated to our currently serving military personnel. We would ask the citizens to come in and fill out a card to be placed on a yellow ribbon of their choice around the town square. The mother, girlfriend, sister or wife would receive a red, white, and blue, corsage.

When the public service announcement went to the newspaper, the local editor, a rather strange individual with whom I serve on a board, wrote a scathing column against the use of yellow ribbons, saying that yellow represents cowardice and a tradition born from a Tony Orlando and Dawn song about a criminal coming home. Instead, he said, red, white, and blue ribbons should be used. Had he done any research at all, he would have known that he was so far off base it was not funny.

Prior to publishing his column he sent out an email stating his views. I responded to all with a note that yellow ribbons are a tradition and that the use of the editor's idea would simply confuse the issue, because most would connect it with the upcoming memorial day celebration.

Later, I wrote a short history of the use of yellow flags to remember soldiers serving in harm's way, including the WW I song, "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon," which became an Army march. I also recalled the use of yellow kerchiefs and scarves by the US Cavalry, serving the in the West. Yellow eventually became the official color of the Cavalry and later the US Army armor.

At first, the editor acknowledged his failure to properly research the subject, but by the time this week's column was published he had forgotten his moment of weakness and was back to his red, white, and blue self. He admitted that yellow ribbons have become a tradition, but he would not back away from his argument.

The bottom line is that we had a nice ceremony and recognized over 25 serving military personnel. The editor did not show up, but his assistant served on the committee. She wrote a nice article about the celebration, and we all had a good laugh at the editor's expense.

Laughingly, I told some of my friends today, who were part of the email exchange, one a distinguished veteran, that I felt like writing a letter to the editor, remonstrating veterans who give away poppies. After all, opium comes from poppies and giving away paper ones is an endorsement of the use of illegal drugs. Yeah, I know about poppies and Flander's field, but that argument is about as absurd as the editor's and it would get a good laugh from most except those who aren't smart enough to catch the point. Kind of like Republicans who don't realize that The Colbert Report is satire.

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