Tie a Yellow Ribbon Around the SUV

Is your “These Colors Don’t Run” bumper sticker fading to powder blue? Need a more jingoistic message than “God Bless America”? Well, fear no more. Gas stations and 7-Elevens around the nation are on the forefront of mindless patriotic propaganda selling yellow and flag-themed ribbons that you can stick on your car with “Support Our Troops” bravely printed upon them. And since they’re so cheap, many folks have taken to purchase two or more to put them on the same automobile. Because, you know, you wouldn’t want the car behind you to the right OR left to not be able to tell that you’re a red-blooded, kickin’ ass, taking no prisoners unless we can torture them by making them wear underwear on their heads, God-fearing American.

“Support Our Troops.” Brilliant. It is as inspiring and as important a message as “Breath Oxygen,” or “Live Until You Die.” As good consumers and, some of us, income tax payers, we all, indeed, are supporting our troops. Possibly, though, the message is conveying a deeper meaning. Something along the line, perhaps, of “Shut the fuck up, you stupid hippies, and stop making the rest of us think.”

Surely, I could talk about how blindingly obvious it is that Bush administration does not support our troops, past or present. I could talk about the cutting of veteran’s benefits and the reduction of their medical services. I could point out how sending the wrong amount of troops into Iraq, at the wrong time, for the wrong reasons is precisely how a president shows he has little regard for our troops and their wellbeing. I might even talk about how we’re on the verge of having a crippled military that will be unable to respond to real threats in the coming years, which cannot possibly be a way to support our troops. But no, I will not talk about these things, which are well-documented elsewhere. I, instead, am going to talk about how most people buying the ribbon bumper stickers have never actually seen a ribbon and so are incorrectly applying these ribbons to their automobiles.

One of the first things I noticed about the critical mass achieved within days of these ribbons being brought to market was that no one was actually applying these things to their bumpers. They were always on the trunks or even the side panels. Why? I wondered. Ah, of course, they’re magnetic, and most bumpers are plastic or plastic-coated. But that wasn’t the only odd thing, there was something else about them, and this one took me longer to figure out.

For this demonstration, I am borrowing a ribbon I found at Kingsport City Schools in Tennessee. Here is the ribbon:

Notice that the ribbon hangs like a real ribbon would? That’s what is wrong with the ribbons on most people’s cars and SUVs. They instead affix them like so:

I can only assume the logic here is that the text is horizontal, because the ribbon isn’t set at 90°, which looks more like this:

But if you’ve ever worked with ribbon, or even, I don’t know, ever seen a ribbon, you’d know that the fabric would sag if you hung it on its side. So these magnets represent a great new technology that allows us to boldly denounce the Theory of Gravity. Or something. I think many folks are just too intimidated to hang the ribbon as it should, because then someone might have a problem reading the text, and then sheer anarchy would be the next step.

A few people do get it right, and the really ambitious hang it at a jaunty angle:

Now, I’ve been in the design field for some time, so you can take my word—a jaunty angle is 7° to 13° clockwise from the vertical axis. Anything less is just crooked, and anything more is too much angle. Trust me.

But I digress.

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