Wednesday, May 20, 2015

All this...over a T-shirt?

     A couple days ago, Under Armour, the next big athletic gear company put out a shirt that showed an image of four basketball players erecting a basketball hoop in a way that mimicked the historic scene of Marines raising the American flag over Mt. Suribachi on Iwo Jima. After a firestorm of criticism by military vets, the company pulled the shirt and issued an apology.
I'm a bit conflicted regarding this issue. I tend to try and see both sides of an issue before spouting off about it. As people who know me know, I am a vet, though not a Marine. And I can definitely see where some, maybe a lot of vets might get bent out of shape about this image supposedly parodying the flag raising on Iwo Jima. If I were a Marine or a relative of one of the Marines who were a part of that historic event, I probably would be a bit ticked off about this.  But I'm neither.
      But that image of the flag raising has been parodied more than once. I seem to remember around the time of the Iranian hostage crisis, a political cartoon surfaced that showed Marines in that same famous pose, sticking the flagpole up Ayatollah Khomeini's ass. I'm sure that at that time, no one, especially military vets would have objected to the scene at Iwo Jima being used for that purpose.
     But I also do think that maybe some of my vet brothers and sisters may, just may, be accused of doing some of the things that we tend to rip others for, namely throwing the PC flag and coming across as a bunch of whiners. It is certainly their right to complain that this shirt design bears a similarity to one of the iconic scenes of World War II, and American history in general, and they some how see this as mocking that moment in history and equating basketball to going to war. And rather than be seen as mocking Iwo Jima, Under Armour has the right to pull the shirt and cut their losses.  It's not like they are going out of business anytime soon because of one shirt.   
     But if there is one thing that us vets love to crow about to anyone who'll stand still long enough to listen, is that we fought for this country's freedoms, including free speech and free expression, and that includes speech and actions that we might find distasteful and offensive.  Personally, instead of getting all bent out of shape about a matter that I deem trivial compared to so many other issues that Vets can lend their voice to resolving, I would have just not bought the shirt. 
     As I've said before,  the flag raising scene at Iwo Jima has been parodied before.  And no doubt, it will probably be parodied again.  Now if a group of basketball players were to go to the Marine Corps Memorial in DC  and attempt to replace the flag with a basketball goal, then I would make a stink, and those fools would have to fight off the entire Marine Corps, who consider that monument sacred space.  Good luck with that! 
     But looking at this shirt,  all the design is doing is mimicking the pose of the flag raisers.  It isn't making a political statement, it isn't desecrating or profaning the flag.  It may be in bad taste and the person or persons who made the decision to approve this design should have given more thought to what they were doing, but to me, a vet who admittedly isn't a Marine or a relative of those brave men who raised that flag, I can't get all that geeked up about this.  
    Now, I think that maybe my veteran brothers and sisters should focus their 'Angry Facebook Veteran' powers, as awesome and nasty as they can be,  on much more important matters. 
     Maybe, like getting the government to properly fund the VA, so that it can better perform the function of taking care of its wounded and broken service members when they come home from the wars and conflicts that our leaders seem so hell bent to get us involved in.  
     Maybe we should vent our spleens at our elected officials to stop sticking their damned noses in every other region's business, so that we don't have to send our already stretched to the limit military into every damned trouble spot on the planet.  
     Maybe we should use our very loud and very salty voices to call our military leaders to task about such thorny issues bedeviling the Armed Forces such as the alarming number of suicides occurring among our deployed personnel and the issues of sexual assault against our female service members.  
     Maybe instead of crowing about how salty and badass we are, or were, we could use some of that saltiness and badassery to address the way more serious issues regarding our military.  But what the f**k do I know? I was just an E-4 Navy cook  who made shit on a shingle and flipped sliders.