Saturday, October 29

Strangled by Ribbons

Once upon a time, there were yellow ribbons. (Remember the song?) They stood for supporting the troops. That's good, right? Nice, simple idea.

Until we blinked and they started breeding like tribbles.

Now it seems that every time I turn around, there's yet another ribbon for one more cause. Solid colors were run through quickly, most carrying as many as three meanings even after being split into gradients (like violet). The newest ones were forced to become ever more complex - stripes, patterns, puzzle pieces. Some have gone to the extreme measures of being worn upside down to differentiate themselves! (Don't believe me? Check out one of the many charts explaining them all.

At the risk of sounding judgmental, the whole thing has really gotten rather ludicrous. For example, there is discussion about using purple ribbons with white polka dots to represent anti-bullying awareness...

Really? Does anyone actually believe that bullying is an independent problem that can somehow be solved without addressing the root issues? (Which, by the way, are often the same or highly correlated root causes for half a dozen other problems, each with its own ribbon: suicide, domestic violence, child abuse, self-injury, hunger, diversity, religious tolerance and terrorism to name a few.)

I'm not against ribbons, per se. When used to open conversation opportunities about a topic close to one's heart, they can serve a purpose. But I think that collectively they tell us something important about ourselves and our nation: We're getting tangled in our underwear.

Isn't that a great phrase? I encountered it in Howard Behar's book It's Not About The Coffee. It refers to getting lost in the details and trivial minutiae of a task and losing sight of what really matters - the people involved and the big goal. Understandably, sometimes this happens by accident and we just need a friend to give us a little kick and help us refocus.

Other times we do it on purpose; it is the ultimate avoidance mechanism. How can you work on something without actually having to do the hard, painful or scary stuff it would take to be successful? Dig in to the unessential detail work! You'll look impressively busy and go absolutely nowhere.

What if we just bit the bullet and got to the point? Our favorite causes don't need us to sport their ribbons or toss a few dollars into the pot during the annual appeal. They need us to use our backbones and common sense in every day life.

Live with character and by a solid moral code. Train up your children (or any children you have the privilege of influencing to do the same. Reach out and help your neighbors. Listen to others more, and talk less. When you do talk, say positive, constructive things.

(Need more ideas? Go read Patrice Lewis's book.)

Okay... now that I've ranted, what do you think? Would common sense and a return to good values solve most of America's problems?

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