A silly little thing about ribbons

The disclosures come first. I picked up a free t shirt and a tote bag and the tote bag, which was a fire-engine red, contained a tape measure emblazoned with the Great Streets logo and truth be told, I didn't know the tape measure was in the fire-engine red tote bag until after I got home. Along the way, I had a tiny cup of Atlas Brew Works beer. I ate somewhere between 4 and 6 dumplings and 2 shumai, both at a Charlie Chaplin-themed cocktail bar. I received free transportation in a shuttle bus for a number of blocks, but not many blocks that I couldn't have just walked. I did not take any gelato. I regret this. I have not once voted for any politician I saw, with one exception and only once. I did pick up the giant golden scissors, but only for a moment. There was no quid pro quo. I was not offered this benefit in exchange for any word or deed. What I would have done for this honor, I will not disclose. I did buy two Americanos, one at the beginning and one at the end, and while I paid for them, they did come from one of the businesses visited, the first one.

In a different context and if you squint in just the right way, you could mistake grand opening ribbon for finish line tape. They're the same stuff really. One says 'finish' and one says 'grand opening' but those are just words. The ribbon could say anything. As much as ribbon can say, that is. Muriel Bowser is hosting an 5 kilometer race to mark the start of her term. Vincent Gray cut 17 ribbons to end his. Ribbon at the beginning, ribbon at the end. It's a ouroboros of ribbon. You can get wrapped up in ribbon.

Let me tell you about the scissors. I don't think they're real gold. I think you're supposed to know that, but maybe you didn't. Part of me knew it, but another part of me didn't want to know it. They're hefty. Heavier than I thought they'd be. I didn't really give their construction much thought, but had I, I wouldn't have suspected the solidity. They were metal and metal the whole way through. I guess you don't want to mess around with ceremonial ribbon-cutting scissors. To fail to cut the ribbon would be inauspicious. Would you take out a Swiss Army knife with little scissors and make many little cuts where one big one didn't do? Would you bite into it with a canine just to get it going and then tear it the rest of the way? Would you just walk away? I guess this is why the scissors need to be real metal. This isn't a gimmick. This a ceremonial ribbon cutting.

In many parliamentary systems in many civilized countries, the responsibilities of governing and ceremonial functions are divided between a prime minister, who leads the government, and a president, who serves as the formal representative of the State, but without much actual power. There's good sense to this arrangement, but it's not the kind we have here. On the local level, that means you get stuff like this. We ask our elected leaders to govern and also tend to ceremonial functions. Does that make the ceremony more potent? Or does it degrade the leader, who should have other (more important?) things to do? When the President throws out the first pitch of a baseball game, is the pitch more important because he's taken the time out of launching missiles at terrorists to attend a baseball game and aim for a different kind of strike? Or, when the President misses the plate or bounces one or lobs a meatball, did he degrade the office and its dignity? When we ask our politicians to throw baseballs (or cut ribbons), are we elevating the mundane? Or are we reminding our leaders that they are nothing special, that we own them, that they are not potentates, that we set the agenda and the agenda is ho-hum. Or is it the other way around? Do we need our baseball games to be more than baseball games and our insurance agency sign improvements to be more than insurance agency sign improvements and do we, from these ceremonial actions, gain something so much more? Are we seeking a benediction? Are we seeking a photo op? Do we just like pomp?

This was my afternoon. The details are what they are, as is the commentary.

Typewriters have ribbon, but we don't really use typewriters anymore. You cut film, but we don't really use film anymore. One of the apparatus within rhythmic gymnastics is a ribbon. Stevie Wonder sang about a ribbon in a sky. That ribbon was for 'our love' and not to mark the grand opening of a gelateria or a new sign for a liquor store, at least so far as a lyrics tell us. Subtext might suggest otherwise. Open closer reading, I can reveal that subtext does not suggest otherwise. The ribbon in the sky for solely for love and it was not cut by giant golden scissors in the final days of a mayoral term. So far as we know.

Improvements, genuine improvements, should be celebrated. They should be marked by an occasion. It is fitting and proper to do this. Not everything can get a golden spike. Not should everything get spikes, in any metallurgical form precious or not so precious. Spikes, gold or otherwise, are driven into the ground and rivet. A ribbon, unfurled, provides a temporary limes and then when riven, you can cross once more. Closed. Cut. Open.

We should have more ribbon-cuttings, not fewer. More than 17 in one day? That would be a new world record. Probably. I much prefer ribbon cuttings and grand openings to the erection of statues and slapping a name on the side of a building. History will remember the big stuff and what history doesn't cover, nostalgia surely can. Let the novelty of opening be fleeting and celebrate it in a fleeting way. Let civic celebration crest and subside. Let the ribbon fall away. And then put down the scissors. And then pick them up again once more.

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