Following a Magnetic Ribbon

I took a road trip this weekend to drink in the new year in New York. Whenever traversing the New England freeways, I can’t help but notice the increasing number of “Support Our Troops” magnetic ribbons affixed to the back of cars. Rob Walker offered some background on the magnets in a NYT Magazine Column back in November (thanks to Shelley for helping me find the link). The column explained that the magnets were originally manufactured as a fundraising device: an organization can buy the magnets for a couple bucks and sell them for a fiver, thus fiscally supporting the organization and socially supporting… our troops.
The only problem with supporting the troops in this way is that, in most cases, the magnet flasher is not actually providing anything for the troops. This isn’t way to show support of a war or a policy but merely a method of showing support for the people with a risky job to do. The magnet offers the near-anonymous statement that “the owner of this vehicle hopes that no one will get hurt.”
I’d venture to argue that, in most cases, to dawn a Support Our Troops vehicle magnet is to do nothing more than give in to a fad. To support my argument, consider this: which way does a ribbon go? The single-fold support ribbon has always been a vertical affair (think of Aids and Breast Cancer ribbons), yet “Support Our Troops” ribbons are almost always affixed at an unusual 45 degree angle. How else to explain this phenomenon if not that freeway drivers are perpetually bound to follow the car in front of them, accepting not just speed and direction advice but also magnetic ribbon positioning technique.
support our troops ribbon