Urban Outfitters, a 58-store chain that has made millions from marketing fashion for young people who want to look like they still live in their parents' basement, sold a T-shirt so vile - so Just Plain Wrong! - it's thrown big swaths of the media, the do-gooders at Harvard University and that wall of sound usually called "youth-outreach groups" into paroxysms of rage.
The shirt wasn't racist, sexist or any of the other outrages that usually send sensitive America into regular bouts of St. Vitus' Dance. No, this bonfire of outrage has been lit by a most unpredictable torch: a T-shirt that reads: "Voting Is for Old People," which has subsequently been pulled from stores.
Now, before I go on, let me provide a bit of politico-sartorial context.
As I write this, I am wearing a T-shirt that says on the back, in various rasta-marijuana hues of green, yellow and red: "Celebrate Diversity." Accompanying these secular holy words are pictures of dozens of different handguns (you can get one yourself from thoseshirts.com).
I know a guy who teaches at a prestigious private school. His school had to adopt a strict dress code when 12-year-old girls started coming to class wearing T-shirts with the words "Porn Star" emblazoned on them. Just the other day, I saw a girl at the airport who couldn't have been much older than 14 wearing sweatpants with the word "juicy" emblazoned across her butt. And, two of my best friends are still remorseful, years after the incident, because they didn't rip off a kid's T-shirt - and perhaps his head - because across the cretin's chest read the words: "Stalin was right."
As far as I can tell, none of these examples - nor thousands like them - have garnered one one-thousandth of the hand-wringing that this preshrunk cotton hate crime- "Voting Is for Old People" - has caused.
Dan Glickman, director of Harvard's Institute of Politics and a former congressman, D-Kan., has his dress completely over his head about it in a letter to the CEO of Urban Outfitters. "The shirt's message could not be further from the truth," he wrote.
Sounding like a parent insisting that it's actually really, really cool to bring your sister to the prom, Glickman promised, "We would be eager to work with you to suggest alternative products that send the right message to America's young people, and better reflect the considerable social conscience and political participation of today's youth." For instance, he said, "You might consider 'Voting Rocks!'"