September 10, 2008

Commemorate This!

I have a plate.

It's a small plate. It's green and white and it has a friendly little painting on it and it says

"Alive Again!"

It celebrates the 1980 activity of Mount St. Helens. You know, the one where more than 50 people died, 200 homes were destroyed, and over one cubic mile of matter was thrown into the air, killing off hundreds of acres of crops and miles of forest.

It is an astoundingly gaudy expression of cashing in on disaster. We own it because it is so... crass. Blatantly, boldly, crass. Whoever made that plate had no compunction against using that bloody fame to make their fortune. It's one of the clearest examples of taking cash for your humanity I've ever seen.

Then, a couple years back, I saw this:

The commemorative features a breath-taking standing sculpture of the Twin Towers, entirely clad in 15 mg. of .999 pure silver actually recovered from vaults beneath the ashes of Ground Zero[...]Don’t be left out…and don’t abandon our Forgotten Heroes. They need your help. Order today!

To paraphrase: if you don't buy a coin that lets you knock over the Twin Towers over and over again, you hate Our Heroes!!! Even the name of the printing ("Forgotten Heroes". No, really.) shames you into handing over your actual cash in exchange for their home-made rot.

It always made me vaguely embarrassed to see images of mourners in the Middle East: tossing ashes on their heads,, rending their clothes, wailing mightily, bellowing grief into the air for all to see and demanding that all look. I thought it was a shameful way to behave - and I still do, but at least now I understand it is simply a cultural difference, and so be it. As an Israeli friend of mine mentioned to his wife when they were going home from a party in Toronto: "Lovely people, but how do they reproduce?" We seemed so passionless to him, and I can see how that is a valid perspective.

Wrong, of course (Hi, Uri!), but still valid. In its own way. I guess.

And I wonder if this is simply the American version of that very public grief. Am I simply embarrassed for a people who have their own way of mourning? Perhaps this is something other than a crass, money-grabbing scheme that plays upon the weakest of emotions and the insecurity of implied peer-pressure (Where's your ribbon?) to make money for themselves, and I judge too harshly.

Then, just a few months ago, came the bill:

Most important, it is the first time ever that two separate denominations have been used to add up to its full $20 face value: it displays 9 and 11 on its front along with the Twin Towers to commemorate the World Trade Center tragedy.

Yup. It's an over sized silver-plated certificate with numbers that add up to $20! Can you guess what those numbers might possibly be? Brilliantly enough, this certificate has been authentically authorized - by the government of Liberia. And don't that make you feel proud to be an American?

The only thing that could possibly be worse would be some utter schmuck going for some kind of self-aggrandizing "art" pose against a New York skyline (with Towers, of course) and "Remember" or some bloody thing printed on it. Talk about using tragedy for your own glory! What kind of asshole would do that, I don't know.

Even better: what if he signed it?


posted by Thursday at 9:08 pm


Post a Comment

<< Home