By Andrew Frame
Part 1: Personal
The World Trade Center destruction was more than an “American” event. So was the Pentagon. And, the Pennsylvania flight.
I have a colleague in Melbourne, Australia, whose secretary had three family members in the area that morning. I haven’t heard back of their safety as of this writing. One of my oldest friends was a captain in the New York City Police Department. He is safe. He can see the smoke from his home. In his Staten Island community, entire families are gone. Police families, fire and rescue families. One neighbor took three days to get home, on foot, from the strike zone.
As a researcher, I talk to people all over the world. I was on the phone with an editor in Washington, DC. He passes the Pentagon every day. He can see the smoke from his office window. Both my friend in New York and the editor in DC say the same thing: unless you’re there, you have no idea of the scope of the wreckage. The flight that crashed in Pennsylvania was near the corporate offices and homes of the radio group I work for.
I was recently asked to wear an American flag for a station function, and I politely refused. The person who asked has known me for a long time and knows I have “less than mainstream” views about a lot of things, but this was such a huge issue, she inquired.
I responded that the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the Pennsylvania flight, although vastly different, shared common threads, specifically the number of non-US citizen victims. If she would provide a banner with the flags of all nations that were victimized by the tragedy, I would participate.
I said, brothers murdered their brothers and sisters. We are all one people, one species, one family on one small planet in a remote section of one galaxy in a universe full of galaxies. I look at our world the way angels and astronauts do. From space, there are no borders, no colored blocks to denote political or religious boundaries. This act may have occurred on “American” soil, but it is not an “American” event.
With the first few days, the cry for revenge was loud, so the Stars and Stripes were in unprecedented demand, flying half- or full-staff from everywhere. The cry for patriotism was fouled with the poison of nationalism, and the hate began to spill towards individuals of Middle Eastern heritage that were in the wrong place when “Americans” decided they were somehow responsible because of their physical appearance. National leaders, celebrities, and newsreaders issued pleas for restraint and tolerance and promised retribution against the actual factions that carried out the attacks.
A prayer group said to pray for the victims, their families, and emergency teams. I agreed, and made an addendum: pray that our governments act without the racial hatred that consumes the general public. The very redneck mentality that I heard, “…we oughta just go nuke them f***ing ragheads…” is what I pray that our world leaders do their best not to emulate.
Part 2: Professional
What actually fueled this climb atop the soapbox was a spot—two of them actually—that came in less than two weeks after September 11th. Two bloody car dealers—a used car lot that I don’t like for their screaming hyped commercials, and a new car lot that’s usually non-offensive.
Both of them repeatedly made the point that to buy from them is to “buy American.” They sell “American cars made in America by Americans.” To drive their cars was to “exercise the freedom of the open road,” and more. I hadn’t heard so many political catch phrases since the elections.
I was not a happy Production Director, but we ran them of course, especially since they came in on Thursday at 1730 for a 0600 Friday start. I fussed over the content issue in the department head meeting the following week. I asked the Sales Managers to back me up and not allow our locally produced material to be like this. They agreed.
The Supreme Court ruled that obscenity is partially measured by community standards. Community standards certainly got riled up when some petrol dealers in New York jacked prices up to more than triple their pre-attack prices. It was called “obscene” to do that. “Gouging” was the other most used word.
Well, these spots may have not been gouging, but in my book, they were obscene. They whored out the sorrow and patriotism of a nation and a world rocked by terrorism for the sales of their vehicles.
How dare they use the pain felt to sell a car! How dare they cheapen and capitalize on the patriotism that has pumped millions of dollars, tons of material, and countless hours of volunteer and professional efforts into rescue, recovery, and aid funding…so you can “buy American.”
I will not ever buy a vehicle from either of these dealers. I will tell everyone I know about this. Other dealers in town waited a period, then resumed with their normal advertising, without the disgusting verbiage that marked the other two. I have cautioned clients about the content of their commercials.
If this were a Church, the behavior of these two dealers could only be described as sacrilege. I will simply call it dishonorable.
The only people I despise more than the dealerships that approved these campaigns? The advertising agencies that came up with them.