Thursday, October 21, 2010

Geez, America!

Well, by God, we showed'em, didn't we? We proved that Americans are tough and when we mean business, we get the job done! It seems The Gap, a collection of innocuous stores selling mostly boring and probably Chinese-produced apparel, had the nerve to change its logo, going from a bland square with GAP in center to an even blander GAP with a small blue box above it, never expecting in a million years that all hell would break loose.  A Facebook site protesting the change sprung up almost immediately. Customers complained vociferously that they'd never buy another GAP item unless they got their beloved logo back. And, sure enough, the Gap cracked in the end and returned to the old format.

When I first read about this, I thought it was a joke. A satire perpetrated by MAD Magazine or, maybe,  The Onion. I've had my doubts about America's collective sanity for a while now. We go blithely through life unconcerned about torture, unprovoked wars, unreconstructed hurricane-stricken cities, and unauthorized electronic surveillance while we obsess instead about the pathetic lives of no-talent celebrities and watch with fascination as sad people humiliate themselves in front of millions on t.v.

But spending our passion on a freakin' logo has to take the prize in the "Americans Have Lost It" sweepstakes.

Is it because life in general just seems so out of control now? The economy is in a pit and, though it shows some signs of life, for many of us jobs are still hard to find and mortgages are still being foreclosed and medical care is still impossible to afford. We gave Barack Obama almost two whole years to fix it and he hasn't. In spite of the change mantra he pushed during his campaign, nothing much has.

And look at the candidates in which we have to put our faith in future improvement. Ex-witches and prevaricators about their Vietnam service and Governor Moonbeam.... Actually, Jerry Brown proves I'm not above being shallow myself. I rather liked him when he was young and handsome and sometimes goofy but now that he's old and bald and sometimes goofy, I don't. So, obviously, the new American disease is contagious although I'm, thankfully, not yet so advanced that I can get exercised about a logo!

I might be willing to jump on a Facebook page that was protesting un-inspected imported food products - products which are sprayed with poisons or infested with rat feces. I could get upset about foreign cloth goods hiding huge populations of bed bugs in their folds so that when you hang them in your closet or put them on your bed (or the hotel where you're staying does), they instantly settle in and make themselves at home. I might sign on to complain about banks foreclosing on mortgages they don't even own. Or our soldiers continuing to die in places where it seems we don't have a clue what the end game is. Or our change president who doesn't have the nerve to come down loud and clear on the need to end Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Maybe he wouldn't prevail but Clinton had guts enough to try it even though the old bulls in the Senate, even in his own party, beat him to a pulp which is how we ended up with DADT in the first place.

I'm a child of the Sixties. The protests then were about civil rights and women's rights and reproductive choice (both pro and anti) and peace and eventually, gay rights. Whatever side you were on, these were at least big, powerful issues, worth of energy and high emotion.

Is it because we've come close to accomplishing most of those things that it doesn't seem as if there is anything of much importance left to man the battlements about? We have a Black president, multiple female Supreme Court justices, legal gay marriage advancing, legal but restricted abortion (allowing both sides to think they won a partial victory) and if not peace, at least, two wars that may be winding down.  Is that why we can now turn our attention to matters of total insignificance?

Or is it that the problems that are left seem so insoluble that we take our tiny victories where we can, like forcing the Gap to return to its old, familiar logo?

Or have we just become spoiled and weak? Our grandfathers and fathers fought, and even died, to join unions to bargain for better pay and working conditions but this generation gave them up without a struggle. Handed them over happily, in fact. Now, our wages are down, our pensions are disappearing, the health benefits we were promised are shrinking but, hey, just so you leave us our beloved logos, we'll be happy little campers.

A fight over a logo is a small thing but it says something about this country and what it says does not bode well.