We all associate ourselves with something. Call it a need to belong, a need for recognition, a self assurance, or just because we like the people in that particular arena. Some wear some type of indicator on their clothing or tattoo their body, or adorn their automobiles with emblems, symbols or decals portraying these associations. You see it at every turn; T-Shirts for Vietnam Vets, jackets for Ford Motor Company enthusiasts, baseball and football teams, a specific sports figure, your employer’s company logo or the local volunteer fire department. Many of us in the iron horse community wear a Shield and/or Banner that displays our association. The number of motorcycle clubs, associations, chapters, and groups grow daily. Some are local and never stray far from home whereas others are national and have multiple Chapters.
For the purpose of this narrative we will use the term “club” when a reference is needed. Granted there is a difference between a Motorcycle Club (MC), a Motorcycle Association (MA) and/or Riding Club (RC) but that difference is not pertinent to this discussion. So, when I say “club” I am referring to all three; take no offense.
The focus or objective and the level of dedication within these clubs and individuals within these clubs can be found on both ends of the spectrum. From the “outlaw” biker attitude (aka 1%er) to the individual whose focus is based solely on charitable and selfless accomplishments. (Now, short disclaimer here, do not read into this that 1%ers have no use for charitable efforts. I think 1%ers, or any riding club, have been labeled as undesirables when, in many cases, nothing could be farther from the truth.) Within these clubs you will find riders whose entire existence focuses around the club whereas others are hit and miss; sometimes there, sometimes not. Some join, are on fire for the club, then fade away and are never heard from again; flash in the pan scenario.
For the purpose of simplicity and to narrow the focus of my audience I am going to drill down and talk about riders who wear a Shield and Banner. I do not want to insult anyone’s intelligence here, but a Shield, when used in this context, is the large patch worn on the back of a jacket or vest. The Banner is the scroll below or above the Shield that identifies a specific Chapter or Region within the Club. The Banner and Shield go by many names; Cut, Vest, Chit, Patch or Colors to name a few. For the sake of simplicity we will refer to them as a “Cut.” Some believe the Cut was first displayed by an Outlaw Biker gang. I don’t know who the first one was and to be honest that fact has nothing to do with this topic.
What I want to talk about is the level of dedication and the level of commitment one has to the Cut, whether that Cut be the Hells’ Angels, Harley Owners Group, or a Christian rider’s club or group. In a very real sense the dedication is not really to the Cut, it is to the cause or idea the Cut represents; much like the Flag of the United States. The Flag is not the cause or the force that drives the cause; it represents the force, the people and the attitude that perpetuate the cause. The Cut worn by a rider is the same. The rider wears the Cut so all who see it will know what the rider stands for.
Regardless of your Cut you proclaim allegiance to that organization; why else would you display the Cut if you were not dedicated to the cause. The question is, “What is your level of dedication?”
Let’s take a side road here real quick so you can gain a little insight into where I’m coming from. Years ago an English Teacher told me, “…with everything you write you should strive to leave your personal opinion out of it…” I thought that was a dumb statement and had no qualms about telling him that. My out-spoken nature may have had something to do with the less than desired grade received, but that is a different story. Everything we do, everything we say, our every response is governed by our opinion, our past choices, lessons learned and life experiences. When writing your thoughts down on paper how can you keep your opinion out of it? In my way of thinking, or, if you will allow me the pun, in my opinion, it can’t be done. So, what follows is my opinion, take it for what it’s worth.
In 1972, when I reported to Fort Leonardwood for US Army Basic Combat Training, over half of the “company” was draftees. Their level of dedication is not hard to imagine. They were thrust into a military environment and had no say-so in the matter. Most did their time and got out as quickly as they could while staying under the radar as best they could. To say their level of commitment was less than desired is an understatement. This should not be the case with your affiliation with your club or association; nobody made you join. One can only assume it was your opinion that joining this organization was a good thing to do, something you wanted to be a part of. Now what?
Depending on your organization and the correlating philosophy of that organization the level of accomplishment enjoyed by that club is entirely up to you. Everything you do and say, both good and bad, reflects on you and the association you advertise by wearing your Cut. Some clubs require an annual payment of “dues” that help facilitate the operational needs of the club, but the actual cost is greater. I’m talking about the cost of commitment.
The club or event you willingly associate yourself with is dependent on the commitment you made when you joined. If you joined your club and verbally committed yourself to that club, but do not really commit yourself to the cause then you are disrespecting your club and yourself; you are wasting your time and theirs.
Dedication and commitment are the prices you will pay to be associated with this group. Are you a valuable part of your club or are you a “poser?”
Perception is reality. If you display your Cut then you need to respect your Cut. If you do not respect it, then how can you expect others to? The stereotype of the rider has improved over the years. Think back to the staged photograph in Hollister back in 1947.
The posed picture was taken after bottles were gathered into a single location around a bike. The man on the bike didn’t even own the bike; he was prompted to sit on it by the photographer. Rumor has it he wasn’t even a rider at all; just a local resident walking down the street admiring all the iron. From this and other events that were blown out of proportion, we got “The 1947 Hollister Motorcycle Riot” that never was. Subsequently Hollywood took this false picture and the false tails from it and produced “The Wild Bunch.” The perception from that single picture and a single movie took us years to overcome.
Do you wear your Cut on your jacket, vest or shirt? If you do, then wear it with pride and wear it knowing people are watching you. They will measure your worth and the worth of your club by what you do; or what you do not do.
If you have taken the time to read between the lines you know this attitude does not limit itself to the iron horse community. If you are not willing to commit yourself to your efforts then why bother?
Whatever you do, do it well; find something worth dying for and live for that.