A popular song in the 70s was called Tie a Yellow Ribbon (Round the Ole Oak Tree) (YouTube, opens in a new window).
The song, in turn, was based on a traditional story about a fellow who, when he was to be released from prison, wrote a letter to his sweetie asking her to let him know if he would be welcome by tying a yellow ribbon around the oak tree in the yard.
The connection between the story (made popular by the song) and the current yellow ribbon craze is a bit strange. But don’t worry; the history lesson will be brief.
In October of 1979, the deposed leader of Iran, the Shah, was admitted to the U.S. for medical treatment, angering many Iranians. In November the American Embasy was attacked, and 66 Americans were taken hostage. Some were released, but most were kept for the next 14 months.
It was a very difficult time in America. Anger against Iranian-Americans was strong, prices were high, and people were afraid. Yellow ribbons sprouted on trees and cars and houses saying “We haven’t forgotten you, we are working to get you home, and we will welcome you.”
It’s a lovely message, and it’s a darn shame that it’s been lost in the current hysteria. I’d be proud to wear a yellow ribbon that means “We’re sorry you’re trapped in a horrible place. We haven’t forgotten you, we are working to get you home, and we will welcome you.”