Monday, September 12, 2011

When is a U.S. flag shirt disrespectful? And when is it just downright tacky!

I couldn’t help but think of the late Yippie activist Abbie Hoffman on Sunday. It’s too bad he’s no longer on this planet, because I can’t help but wonder what kind of racket he would have tried to stir up in response to the past few days.

I’m referring, of course, to the national frenzy by which we all try to pay tribute to the memory of what happened a decade ago at the World Trade Center and at the Pentagon.

IT CREATES THE mood in which the conservative ideologues who most thought of Hoffman as a subversive element are in their element – being able to demonize their opposition and wrap themselves in “the flag.”

Literally, it seems.

Because in the course of my work on Sunday, I covered a few events that were tributes to the misery of Sept. 11, 2001, I couldn’t help but notice how many people came dressed up in their “flag” shirts.

I don’t just mean a t-shirt with a U.S. flag logo printed somewhere on it. I’m talking entire shirts meant to make it look like someone was wrapped in a banner.

ONE OF THE several incidents in his lifetime that made Hoffman a controversial character was a time he wore a proper, button-down long-sleeved shirt made in the motif of the U.S. flag.

The far right denounced him for doing that – saying he was desecrating the flag; literally. There were those who tried to see if they could have him prosecuted for violating the federal laws that prohibit flag mutilation.

Now, some four-plus decades later, a shirt with a flag on it seems so routine. I literally saw people who think a flag shirt is appropriate attire to attend a Sunday church service.

I must admit to being caught off-guard. Something about using the symbol of the flag and all it represents seemed a bit inappropriate.

THEN AGAIN, MAYBE what really left me disgusted was the fact that the bulk of the men who persisted in wearing their “flag” shirts had beer bellies – making it look as though the “stars and stripes” was pregnant and about to give birth to a miniature flag that a child would wave during a parade.

Or perhaps those flag pins that so many political people persist in wearing in the lapels of their suit jackets.

Would Hoffman and his once-controversial attire now completely fit in during the 21st Century? Or was all the past rhetoric about Abbie all a bunch of nonsense that should never have been taken seriously?

I am keeping in mind that many of these men who wore those flag shirts on Sunday were of a certain age that they would remember first-hand the racket that arose when Abbie wore his shirt.

SO PERHAPS FLAG shirts have merely come of age.

Then again, I suspect that the people who wore those shirts on Sunday were not among Hoffman’s allies back in the 1960s. They may well have been the types who still go around complaining about “damn hippies” whenever they see anything that isn’t exactly like themselves.

So I don’t really know what to think.

Personally, I would rarely be inclined to wear a flag shirt – mostly because I have a tendency to sweat profusely in anything even close to resembling warm weather.

GOING AROUND IN public in a sweat-soaked shirt would strike me as being disrespectful to the image of the U.S. flag. Then again, we’re casual enough today that a sweat-soaked flag wouldn’t have been the tackiest image in existence.

Scouring around the Internet, I literally found flag shirts designed for women in which the stars and stripes are printed in a pattern meant to accentuate the female bosom. The Jessica Simpson collection, I believe.

And as for men, too many of the shirts on the market these days would make me want play “drill sergeant’ and test their wearers to see if they ever served in the military.

“Suck in that gut! You’re disgracing the flag!!!!!!!”

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