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Cut to Ribbons 

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Nothing lets an American get in the face of another American quite like the back of a car in commuter traffic. Once there was the bumper sticker. Now we’ve got magnetic faux ribbons that showcase those political messages without the risk of scratch or damage to a vehicle’s immaculate paint job.


I know this isn’t breaking news. But it’s something Slowpoke comic artist Jen Sorensen (no relation to our own D.P., trust me) mocks to remarkable effect in a panel titled “The Field Guide to Magnetic Ribbons.” You can find this strip, along with more of the Virginia-based Sorensen’s work, on her website at I had the great pleasure of meeting Sorensen at the recent Association of Alternative Newsweeklies convention in San Diego. Along with not winning the Pulitzer Prize in investigative reporting, as Willamette Week did this year, my other regret as editor is that associate editor Bill Frost never saw Slowpoke before reworking our own comics menu. Such is life.


Everyone’s seen the quick slogan “Support Our Troops, Bring Them Home.” Sorensen, however, creates yellow-ribbon slogan as earnest as they are hilarious. She twists the magnetic ribbon into a twist-tied balloon to signify a “clown on board,” remakes it into the form of a snack food to say, “I like cheese puffs,” or places a skull and crossbones over the ribbon’s center to boast, “My ribbon can kick your ribbon’s ass.” She dips the ribbon into the image of the Chinese flag to say what most drivers of ribbon-adorned cars aren’t aware of: “I support magnetic ribbon manufacturers in China.” In the best instance of all, Sorensen simply replaces the words inside the yellow ribbon. Support our troops? “As if anyone doesn’t,” Sorensen’s ribbon says.


Any thinking person knows the unfortunate assumptions these yellow magnetic ribbons throw out for public consumption. As our own president said, “If you’re not with us, you’re against us.” No doubt there are motorists naïve enough to believe that anyone against the war revels in every news report announcing, again, that more people have died. And that exposes only part of the hubris behind the belief that quaint, three-word slogans have meaning enough to see us through the current mess in Iraq. “Support our troops. Send them some brownies, why don’t you?”


Never mind the fact that these ribbons say nothing of the Iraqi people. You remember them, the people on the receiving end of our “liberation.” The people dying at the hands of insurgents in numbers far greater than that of our own troops. What support do we owe them as they spiral toward civil war?


It’s bad enough that our nation’s divided. That we divide ourselves with nebulous statements makes matters worse.


Where are the yellow ribbons stating, “Armored Humvees Now!” Where are the yellow ribbons calling for a draft making military service mandatory across the divide of race and class? We could really use a slogan along the lines of, “Support the Sunnis and Shias toward a working national constitution and, hopefully, democracy!” That, of course, would never fit inside a ribbon. But it could easily fill out a bumper sticker.


To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, “You go to war with the slogan you’ve got!” Problem is, we need articulate, meaningful slogans before we got to war. Not after.

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