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Attention must be paid...sometimes

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
June 18, 2007


While having breakfast at Oceanside's Long Boarder Cafe, a friend visiting from Minnesota asked why there were white ribbons tied around the palm trees at the Civic Center. Ms. Minnesota found them to be rather sad. The locals at the table smiled: "They were yellow, once." was our response.

Yellow ribbons, long a symbol of waiting for the return of a loved one or of military troops who are temporarily unable to come home, made their cultural debut in 19th century. In 1979, yellow ribbons were used to show solidarity for American hostages in Iran.

In the early '90's the yellow ribbon became synonymous with support our troops as part of Operation Desert Storm and again in the 21st century for Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Iron hammer, Operation Phantom Linebacker, Operation Lightning, Operation Squeeze Play, Operation Steel Curtain, Operation Together Forward, Operation Ivy Blizzard, and Operation Red Dawn.

Sun-bleached, the faded yellow ribbons serve as metaphor on many levels. Neglect and time, robbing them of their intended relevance, these "white" ribbons could easily symbolize the federal government's commitment to bringing U.S. Troops home and ending the occupation of Iraq. Like U.S. involvement in the Persian Gulf, the ribbons were oil based.

Looming like ghosts, I can't help wonder how long those ribbons had been there. A year? Two? Four? How many thresholds had passed since a well meaning individual tied the ribbons to the non-native palm trees along Pier View Way? A lot of blood has been shed since Operation Shock and Awe began bringing freedom to the Iraqi people.

Haunting me for days, the faded yellow ribbons made me question the value of the ribbons. Why did they fade? Are non fading ribbons even possible? Why haven't they been replaced or removed? Who put them there? Had they been forgotten and overlooked? Did they occur to anyone else as litter?

Perhaps it was just the morning June gloom tripping me out, but the "white" ribbons also occurred to me as an insult to the men and women serving in Iraq. Left to linger, these ribbons, exposed as propaganda party favors, are a metaphor for the superficial reasoning that led to the Bush Iraq debacle.

Perhaps a better, more apt interpretation of the faded yellow ribbons, is the Tony Orlando and Dawn hit of 1972, where the Yellow Ribbon was tied around "the ol' Oak Tree." Their song takes the yellow ribbon and applies it to federal prisoner's request to a loved one upon his release. A yellow ribbon was the sign of welcomed return he was looking for.

Of course I'm not implying U.S. Soldiers and marines are criminals nor convicts. What I am saying is that the men and women deployed as freedom fodder in Iraq are prisoners of a U.S. Foreign policy from which they should be released.

It's not only time for someone to remove the faded yellow ribbons from the Civic Center palms, it is also time to demand that we the people demand more than the simplistic thinking that put them there in the first place.


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