Monday, May 28, 2012

Wave the Flag


I hope there were enough food, fun and family for you this Memorial Day.

It and all of the other treats we take so lightly was provided by some soldier who went in harm’s way so that you could kick back and burn hot dogs.

Now I am not suggesting you aren’t grateful or that you disdain the sacrifices our armed service members so gallantly supply, but have you tried to celebrate their hard work in the one way you alone are capable of doing?

You’re an artist. You have great power and as someone recently said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” You have the skill and the gift to take a simple image and make it into a completely story.

Let’s look back a hundred or so years, that’s right just about the time the Ole Trawler was growing permanent teeth, and think about what artists contributed to our fighting men. (Women weren’t yet allowed to fight which was a terrible oversight cause anyone who has come home a tiny bit late or watched the game instead of doing the trash or mowing the lawn can tell you women scare the hell out of most guys and the very thought of a coupla hundred women with guns and bombs coming at men they don’t have to live with or bully around later in the day would make any sane man run for the hills.)

Back in those bygone days the only thing women could contribute was their images and they did.

Yes, it is a bit sexist and dated but at the time it was red hot with a bullet stuff. You don’t get guys off the sofa with the recruiting poster showing a dozen sweaty men cowering in front of a drill sergeant in the rain while doing calisthenics. No, quite rightly men do not find cowering men all that attractive. You want to motivate a guy you need goils. That’s why they have ladies night and don’t think for a minute bar owners believe that girls are stupid enough to believe that if they get cheap drinks one night they will get them again the next night even if it isn’t ladies night and they also know that the real reason why they should come to ladies night is not cheap hooch which is probably well booze anyway but because cheap drinks for women will bring men out faster than a sale at L.L. Bean.

So putting a cute goil in a sailor’s suit makes perfect sense. And fashion designers caught on even if the rest of the world didn’t because they have been putting women in sailor suits ever since.

Then there was Rosie. When the next war came along we got caught flat-footed, with our pants down, head in the sand, unprepared and holding the bag, so who had to get busy and get the war machine going full blast? Not the guys, they were all lined up at the Draft Board getting poked and prodded and stamped ready for service, no it was women who had to shoulder the tool belt and make those B29s so that we could drop the bomb on ole Hitler.

And who epitomized the working woman? Rosie the Riveter. Now most people believe that it was Norman Rockwell who created Rosie and in that they would be right. Norman’s Rosie was a real American working girl with a sandwich in one hand and a rivet gun in the other, blue coveralls, welding goggles and red hair and a don’t mess with me attitude, Mr. Hitler.

But while Rockwell had the right idea the Rosie who fired our collective rockets and sent warplanes over Berlin and Tokyo, was J. Howard Miller’s little girl with the red bandana and bulging muscles, clear eyed and tight lipped and ready for trouble. “We Can Do It” shouted Rosie and by heaven we could.

But then came the troubled years of the Cold war, there was Korea, nobody knew exactly why we were fighting or what for and if they did they weren’t sharing and shortly after that came Viet Nam where most of us knew what we were fighting for and didn’t much like it and it became fashionable for artsy folks to stick up their noses at the military and the fighting guys and avoid any connection with the war-mongering, capitalist dogs.

So nearly three generations of fighting men came home to a place they tried to keep safe and found that it didn’t much want them and couldn’t they just go back where they came from?

Kids and boys and girls of all ages I am here to tell you it is time we got over that. The men and now women who do so much and ask for so little deserve all of the support and affection we can muster even if the guys sending them out to do what ever the guys think they should be doing don’t know their ass from third base, the troops deserve respect, support and anything else we can give them.

And art is the one thing we are uniquely able to do. For the better part of two thousand years celebrating warriors was half of the stock and trade of any working artist. The Church supplied the other half and sometimes the whole banana.

We have folks who have spent several lifetimes in a sandy hell and what do they get when they come home? Unemployment. It just ain’t right.

On this day, when we are asked to remember the men and women who have fallen in the service of OUR country, what have you done to celebrate the fighting folks of this land? If the answer is nothing, I know where you should start come Tuesday.

Make Memorial Day a day when artists bang the drum the loudest, splash the colors the widest, do the mostest, cause the guys you welcome and support are the ones who gave you the chance to be so nuts and get paid for it.

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