Mere days after the attacks on 9-11 there was an eruption of
T-shirts that spoke to the anger felt towards the terrorists and more
specifically Osama Bin Laden. It seemed
every where you turned some Patriotic entrepreneur had conceived of a concise
and violent message that could be trumpeted loud and clear from it’s cotton
Though I was as shocked and incensed by the attacks I will
admit that the graphic nature of some shirts did make me feel a little
uneasy. Images of Bin laden with a
Machine gun rammed up his ass and bullets flying out of his mouth in a bloody
spray didn’t make me say “Hells Ya” as much as “ OK I understand your ire but
Soon, however, those heady days of wearable ultra violence
waned and gave way to the more subdued but still direct message of Osama in
crosshairs with the words WANTED…DEAD.
Not exactly subtle but still workable within the social context. This
steady grinding message would be the workhorse of wearable American feelings
until Osama was killed.
I had all but forgot about Americas graphically violent silk screen war on Osama until 3 weeks ago when I stopped at a yard sale in Alhambra.
Amongst the usual Bric-a-Brac and power tools there was a cardboard
box that caught my attention.
It was filled with T-shirts and when I saw the design I knew
they had to be mine. Austin Powers chastising Osama Bin Laden with the catch
phrase “Oh-sama Behave”. It was certainly a message that I agreed with and one
that you would be hard pressed to be offended by; you could wear it to a church
picnic for Christ’s sake, but it stupendously failed to transmit any real
anger. I was intrigued.
The older gentleman who was running the sale explained to me
the genesis of the shirts. “After 9-11 I was mad as heck and I wanted to say
so. I mean, who the heck does something
like that? A crazy person that’s who. So
I figured I’d send this Bin laden character a sharp message. That’s when I come up with the idea to make
As he spoke I could see that dormant anger rise again. He was really fired up but it was clear that
he had boundaries that he would not cross.
Through gritted teeth he talked about how Osama had “fudged everything
up for America” and that the terrorists were a bunch of “Darned hooligans”. The blazing fury matched any that I had ever
encountered post 9-11 but it passed through his strange milquetoast filter that
took any of the sting out of his message. “ I thought they would sell like hot
cakes down at the VFW but I had a bunch left over. I mostly use ‘em as shop rags but if you like
‘em I’ll make you a deal on the whole box.”
I tried to act nonchalant but inside I was seething with bargain
fever. “ so what are you asking for ‘em?” I queried coolly as I picked up a
crystal turtle that I pretended to be interested in. “ Two bucks each?” he said not sure if he was
out of line.
I should have dickered. I could have dickered. But I did not. And after counting I handed him $52 for the entire box of 28 shirts. It was the purchase of a lifetime and worth