I was in Boston last week visiting with my grandson (who is now 15 moths old and great fun to be with) and when driving I noticed a car in front of me that had one of those ribbon decals stuck on the back with the message too faded to read. The reason it struck me was that nowadays one rarely sees them. There was a time when these decals were all the rage and some cars had several of them, each a different color promoting a different cause.
The wars that the US constantly gets involved in tend to result in a sudden proliferation of ‘Support Our Troops’ ribbon decals, as people rush to show their patriotism at minimal cost to themselves, with the killing and dying being done by others far away. The more patriotic would one-up the ribbon decal people by flying a little American flag in addition to the decal. During one such period of ribbon explosion, I toyed with the idea of getting a ribbon custom-made that said ‘Support Your Local Ribbon Manufacturer’ that would satirize the cheap symbolism.
According to Wikipedia, the origins of the ribbon idea can be traced back a long time ago to a yellow version that a woman would wear to symbolize that she was waiting faithfully for her lover to return, the latter usually being a soldier away at war.
Older readers may recall a hit pop song made famous in 1973 by Tony Orlando and Dawn based on this idea, where a prisoner returning home after serving his sentence writes his girl friend a letter asking her, if she still wanted him back, to tie a yellow ribbon around the old oak tree that they used to meet under. If he did not see a ribbon, he would know that she wanted to end the relationship and would leave immediately and not seek her out. It was quite a sweet, upbeat song that you can listen to here.
Maybe the next war will see a resurgence of the ribbon mania.
It seems to me that “we” no longer acknowledge “our” wars, or make any conceptual distinction between one war and another. There is merely the constant state of war, in some nebulous location(s) that we no longer even bother to recognise. Are we at war in Syria? Yemen? Somalia? Have the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ended?
There will not be a “next” war, because war is no longer a discrete state that begins and ends. It just is.