Intro: Is there a more American icon than the slogan-emblazoned T-shirt?
I thought of this
when I heard how well T-shirt vendors did with election-themed apparel outside Florida courtrooms. Why is there always such a cottage industry
of slogan shirts at, well, everything, to the point where the term "cottage industry" should be retired and replaced with "T-shirt industry"? Iím glad
America doesnít have rioting in the streets, but just what sort of substitute is the talking T-shirt? Is this the best form of discourse we can come up with?
Thomas Paine wrote pamphlets, we write on polyester? Itís a heck of a statement, really: I feel so strongly about the slogan slapped across my chest
that I will forego holding a sign that says it or toting a megaphone and shouting it - Iíll wear my opinion. We were the first culture in world history, really,
to verbally communicate with clothes. Coming Soon
this series: "America, America, This is you."
Like the TV program that had this jingle, I'm interested in a variety show of sorts that presents snapshots of America. But Iím also looking
to plumb the depths of Americaís foundational ideals, describe them, and evaluate them, jumping from place to place, leaving impressions
if not a thesis. Continued...
at the Mall: In 1939 the President
of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt, may have
had more important things to worry about. But he made time to deal with an economic mini-crisis: a calendar that listed Thanksgiving on the last
day of November, leaving a short shopping season in its wake. Roosevelt declared Thanksgiving be moved up a week, and ever since, weíve
been similarly hurrying our gratitude and indulging ourselves in our shopping. A walk around the mall on a more recent day after Thanksgiving,
as gratitude gives way to gratification. Continued...
Published in the Eagle Eye, December 1997
Photo Essay: Mall of America
of the New West: Gone are the
days of the cowboy roaming the range, an American icon on
horseback. Is there still such a thing as the Wild West? The Frontier? What is the distinct character of the West today, if there is one? How will the
West adjust to globalization? It is dangerous to offer broad-ranging matter-of-fact answers to a topic as vast as the West itself? These essays present
snapshots of the West then and now, with the hope of not just making guesses, but gaining meaningful glimpses into the reality of the New West.
Calvin College, 1998
The heroes of our democracy
are carved into our national memory - literally so
in the case of Mount Rushmore. We have monuments and holidays for George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln. But
America is also built on the heroism of people whom history has rendered nameless, people who arenít in the highest of offices but end up
shaping the country anyway, people who do heroic things even when history isnít watching. Edmund Ross, in one of the most quietly and
reluctantly courageous acts in our political history, shaped the nature of the modern presidency. Continued...
a fast food kind of nation. Ever notice how fast food has become a sort
of living metaphor for American life - even a newspaper with vendor-style bite-sized articles is called "McPaper." In fact, USA Today
is sold at most McDonald's. In a nation that pretends to believe in "family values," nothing has done more to rend the Victorian nobility of the
family meal than burgers in a box. The Extra Value Meal has influenced the whole of American life - from its informercials and sit-coms to its
religion and elections. Continued...
Birthday Cards: What can you infer about a nation from how it greets
its people's birthdays?
Plenty, it turns out. The equation of aging with physical and spiritual agony, the sexual dissatisfaction of a generation, and the vision of money as the salve to soothe the wounds of both are on full display in the nearest Hallmark. Coming Soon
Hoover Dam Construction: Only in America could a building project so
bizarre and impossible,
a stunning stiff-arm of nature, so blithely and patriotically proceed in the dark years of the Great Depression. And only in the land of dreams
and myths, the West.
© 2001 NBierma.com