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When my brother was younger, he and my parents used to fight quite a bit about t-shirts and back patches.  My brother had been into heavy metal, thrash, and punk rock.  So was I, eventually too, but I never had the shirt collection like his.  However, one particular back patch sticks out in my memory at present, and I still recall the reasoning.

When it came to SOD, which was basically Anthrax with a different singer,  my parents found a number of things objectionable.  First, “Speak English or Die” would be insulting to the host nationals — especially since we lived, at the time, in the French speaking part of Belgium (Wallonia).   Belgium has a history of hypersensitivity when it comes to language, but that was mostly between French and Flemish speakers.  For the most part, “Speak English or Die” suggested “Ugly American,” which is even more inconsiderate when you’re living in Europe and your connected with American military in some fashion.  Nevermind, however, that the SOD backpatch and t-shirt, with the offending slogan, could be bought rather easily in Brussels, from Belgian shop keepers.

For my parents, however, there was something even more offensive, and that was the whole “SOD: Stormtroopers of Death.” For my brother and I, “Stormtrooper” meant “Star Wars” and the evil infantry men in white body armor.  For my parents, however, “Stormtroopers” mean Nazi soldiers.  Belgium, in two world wars, suffered at the hands of the German military.  My parents were afraid of inflaming old wounds, on the part of the locals.

In the end, my brother hardly gave in.  The neighbors hardly seemed to care, really.  We were invited over a few times, and their kids, while watching me ride my skateboard, eventually bought their own in an attempt to make friends.  Still, all these years later, I still understand my parent’s consternation, even though I didn’t back then.

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