Since sometime in the 1950s, when wearing T-shirts as something other than underclothes became socially acceptable, we’ve been paying to turn our bodies into walking billboards, broadcasting our favorite brands, bands, vacation spots and political opinions. I remember a high school classmate being told to turn his T-shirt inside out because its message offended a teacher.
I’m not a fan of censorship, by any means, but I think we need to remember that what we emblazon across our chests may be saying more about us than we want. Take, for example, the shirt Walmart was selling that read, “Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some Assembly Required.” Wearing a shirt like that says something not very complimentary about the kind of human being you are.
This weekend I was taken aback by a picture of two aging baby boomers at a political rally wearing matching T-shirts stating, “I’d rather be a Russian than a Democrat.”
Seriously? Wasn’t anyone else paying attention during “Red Dawn” and the James Bond movies? Doesn’t anyone remember the Cold War? Last time I checked Russia still wasn’t our pal, to say nothing of the thousands of American lives lost in the fight against Communism.
These two gentlemen have expressed their desire to give up their citizenship rather than cooperate with an opposing political party in our own nation. Is this where we’re going?
I bet those guys are grandpas. They probably worked hard for decades to provide for their families. And they probably just think their matching shirts are funny, just like my teenage sons think their crude heavy metal T-shirts are “cool.”
Thanks to our Constitution, we are (still) free to have dissenting opinions. We’re (still) free to speak out against the government. We’re (still) free to grumble and spout rhetoric to our heart’s content. It’s an integral part of our national heritage and it must be protected.
However, choosing to be red or blue is not supposed to be our identifying factor. Our unity as Americans is supposed to bind us together for the greater good, regardless of partisanship, race, creed, religion, gender or any other identifying characteristic.
Have we forgotten we’re all standing on common ground? Have we forgotten the “one nation, indivisible” part of the pledge?
We can argue, we can debate, we can agree to disagree. We can even act like toddlers and screech “snowflake” at each other on social media. What we can’t do is allow ourselves to be divided. One of history’s most controversial figures of all time said, “a house divided against itself shall not stand.”
This year’s wildfire season should serve as a reminder that we’re all on common ground. No one is immune to the dangers of wildfire, but when everyone works together, lives and property can be saved. If my neighbor’s house catches fire, I want to do everything in my power to help put that fire out. I genuinely like my neighbors, but even if I didn’t I would feel the same way. Why? Because we’re literally on common ground.
I think we’ve forgotten that concept of common ground and allowed this “sports team” concept of political identity to override who we are as Americans, even as human beings.
It’s still a free country. Wear your belligerent T-shirt. Fortunately we’re NOT in Russia, where wearing a T-shirt like that might land a person in the modern equivalent of the gulag system.
Are we so desperate to make a statement and be part of a group that we’re willing to be rude, cruel and ugly to one another in person, or passive-aggressively on a T-shirt? When teenagers do it, we write it off as “peer pressure” and immaturity. How do we excuse it when adults are doing it?