I was born in New York City in 1971. I have lived my whole life in America. I am American as they come.
Around ten years ago, I noticed that one of the sides in America’s brewing Culture Wars was starting to adopt a uniform.
Had this happened before? Sort of.
The word uniform is made up of two roots: uni, meaning “one,” and form, meaning “way” or “mode.” During the 1960s, the Liberals had a uniform. It consisted of long hair or afro, tie-dyed shirts or black leather, anything loud and free and not staid. The Conservative Uniform was most easily distinguished by the image portrayed by 1950s American television: crew cuts, short shags, bouffants, hair straightened and pressed or slicked back with product, button-down shirts with collars, knee-length dresses and sweaters; everything clean and neat and nonconfrontational.
The sartorial split this time around is a little different, though. In the 21st Century Culture Wars, the Liberal Uniform is not so much a “uniform” as it is a strict avoidance of the Conservative Uniform. The Conservative Uniform consists of:
-- hunting apparel
-- the American flag, anywhere
-- glasses with rainbow lenses
Somehow now, in my America, each one of these clothing items represents a subtle and nuanced political message. The camouflage evokes respect for the military; the hunter gear represents the eschewing of liberal vegetarian lifestyles; the American flag represents a More Patriotic Than Thou patina that has always been at the root of the Culture Wars.
I have no idea what’s up with the rainbow lenses.
Keep in mind: There is nothing intrinsically Liberal or Conservative about any of these items -- they could have been anything -- but they have now become Clothes that Conservatives Buy In Order to Indicate to Other Conservatives that They Are On the Same Side. And they have become so identified with the Conservative ideology that Liberals now shy away from wearing these items, even if before they were a part of their wardrobe.
Except for black girls, whose only loyalty is to what looks cute with what.
The Conservative Uniform came straight outta the rural bloc of conservative America, and has now been culturally appropriated by Urban Conservatives when they are interested in being conspicuous. Like Liberals, however, Urban Conservatives are a little more circumspect about indicating which side they’re on in uncontrolled environments. And Liberals also usually only slip on their BLM T-Shirts and daishikis when going out to rallies. Seldom do they wear them to work, although I think more should.
And so we as Americans are all sort of sneaking around and being nice to each other in civil society by day, and yet slipping on our superhero costumes before going online to fight for what we call justice at night. It is like we all have alter egos, like Clark Kent. But we must remember that if we are not acting like heroes, then we are just supervillains.
That’s why it’s important remember which side you’re on.