Friday, April 10, 2009

What's Happening to the Fabric of America?

When I took our daughter to the Jo Ann fabric store to pick up some material for a school project, I (as one entirely ignorant of such matters) naturally had some time to kill while she set about applying her more expert knowledge to the quest.

Wandering amidst the bolts and remnants of fabric, I happened, near the bold pictorial prints suitable for a boy's pajamas or bedclothes, upon a group classified as "patriotic." My curiosity piqued, I wondered what would be included.

Not surprisingly, there were plenty of items with flag motifs--although the store, perhaps following popular usage, but certainly no discernible logic, calls them "Stars N' Stripes." Apparently, the people who make these things understand the need for the greatest possible accuracy in sewing, knitting, crocheting, and needlepoint, but never bothered to make the proper acquaintance of our friend, the apostrophe. It here represents a missing letter; thus 'n' is a folksy shortening of "and." But what could "n'" possibly stand for: Stars No Stripes?!

What was surprising was the print depicted here: not because of its presence, but because of the absence of one devoted to its pendant, the Democratic Party. I didn't expect to find the Green Party or some other more radical choice, but I was somewhat taken aback by the lack of any alternative.

As a supposed social scientist, I of course began to generate hypotheses for the presence of only Republican fabric:
  1. Big businesses are conservative.
  2. People who tend to practice traditional domestic crafts tend to be more conservative--so businesses cater to their tastes.
  3. Democrats--despite the overwhelming Obama victory and new good feeling in the country--still aren't considered patriotic.
  4. The population of the Pioneer Valley is overwhelmingly left-liberal, so there was Democratic fabric, but it sold out right away, perhaps in a fit of exuberance between November and February (the pendant to the pessimistic flood of purchases of guns and ammo).
  5. Hadley (where the mall is located) is more conservative than Amherst.
Unable to seek information on-site (for the store was busy), I checked the online offerings of the chain, where I indeed came across a section of "Patriotic Fabric"--which included the egregious and offending "N'" but neither a Republican nor a Democratic cotton print.

The mystery remains--and deepens. Such is the lot of the cultural historian.

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