“Camouflage clothing is all the rage in fall clothing,” I observed to my sister-in-law, as we shopped in Italy at the end of August.
My sister-in-law is Venezuelan, and she frowned. “I know, and I just don’t get it. I guess it’s just that growing up in Venezuela, with soldiers all around…,” She shook her head. “I would just never wear anything military.”
I grew up northwest Washington State, where there is an important US military base (Fort Lewis). Armed soldiers on the street weren´t part of my childhood, but off-duty soldiers shopping at the mall were a common enough sight – and certainly not a threatening presence. I had to admit to my sister-in-law that I’d purchased my son a pair of camo-print shorts and a camouflage-print Kindle cover in the past year. He’s obsessed with the hunting and camping mega-store Cabela’s, as opposed to say, the Army & Navy Surplus store, but I’m kidding myself if I think that it makes a difference.
Despite my laissez-faire attitude toward camo fashion, this back-to-school billboard in Beirut did give me pause.
Lebanon suffered 15 years of civil war in relatively recent history, was bombarded in 2006 for 30-odd days straight by its southern neighbor, and is on the brink of getting dragged into a regional war by its northern neighbor. To me, that would speak to the need to avoid glorifying the military. But then if you’re a citizen of country on a constant high alert for internal and external threats, maybe it leads you to the opposite conclusion.
This company Lebraz has billboards up in different spots around town. While this is the largest I saw (by far), they have some smaller billboards with other motifs. In addition to the soldier stereotype for boys, there is a line of female-stereotyped school gear with a princess motif. (Feeding into the princess-complex – another dubious parenting practice of which I am again guilty.) But I was cheered when, after a couple of days of looking, I spotted a third motif offered by Lebraz: Superheroes.
We could use a few superheroes these days. Bring them on.