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Peddling 9/11 

Get Yer Tragedy, Right Here!

I'm just going to come right out and say this -- I am sick to death of hearing about 9/11. ENOUGH! Stop it! Cut it out. Give it a damn rest. What's more, I know a lot of you feel the same way, too, and are just afraid to say so, right?Before you go off and completely misunderstand me, let me explain what I am and am not saying here. I am not saying we should ever forget the horror of the day or the people who were butchered en masse or the families of those people or that we should stop memorializing or paying tribute. I'm not even suggesting we should never mention it again, or that it's bad to be a patriotic American.

But here's the thing: Must the words "In light of the events of September 11" or "In the wake of the events of September 11" be included in nearly everything I see, read or hear from sunup to sundown, every day, for the rest of my life, no matter how inconsequential or stupid the context?

I swear to God I saw a fashion story not long ago that said something like "In light of the events of September 11, ladies are finding comfort in wearing more brightly colored hats." And it went on to tell you where you could buy some of the more expensive ones. Please tell me there aren't really people so shallow that a brightly colored hat can make them feel better about thousands of people being turned to mush by religious fanatics.

On a morning program a couple weeks ago, a man was hawking RVs and the RV salesman says to the TV anchor, "You know Thad, in the wake of the events of September 11, people just feel safer traveling on the ground. So now's really the perfect time to buy that RV you've had your eye on."

Sometimes the shorthand version, "since 9/11" is used. Shortly after those plane-flying scumbags murdered thousands of people for no good reason, some Entertainment Tonight reporter was interviewing Brad Pitt, and asked him "Brad, how has your life changed since 9/11?"

Brad Pitt's life hasn't changed a whit "since 9/11." He's still living a charmed existence with plenty more money, houses, cars, vacations and Jennifer Aniston than any of us will ever see in our lifetimes. So, what, I'm supposed to feel sorry for him? And even if Pitt's life has changed, I don't give a rat's ass about it. I also don't care what Julia Roberts or Courtney Cox or Ben Vereen or Adam Sandler thinks about 9/11, either, for the record.

Those people aren't real. The people who were shredded unrecognizably while they fell through hundreds, maybe 1,000 feet of glass and steel and flaming jet fuel -- they were real. And there's nothing Brad Pitt or an RV or a great big buttload of brightly colored hats can do to unshred, unburn or unkill them. So knock it off.

In less than a month, we'll again be buried in the rubble of maudlin, insincere, profit-making reminders of last September. I can barely stand to type the name of the month anymore, it's been so overused and misused, bastardized and cheapened over the past 10 months by morning news show geeks, vacuous celebrities and the triflings of unscrupulous trinketmongers who peddle patriotic coffee mugs and tote bags and bumperstickers.

A company in Georgia used recycled pieces of steel from the World Trade Center to make medallions, which it sold for $30 each. The Australian fashion chain Quick Brown Fox sells sequined handbags with pictures of planes crashing into the WTC for about $87. Vendors pushing pictures and memorabilia for profit swarm over Ground Zero like maggots.

I know there's an onslaught of pseudo-patriotic cheesery heading our way again this year because already this week I received a CD in the mail. It's called Spirit of America, and it's more awful than I can possibly tell you. The packaging is lousy with symbols of America: flags, the Statue of Liberty, the Marines War Memorial (Iwo Jima flag raising). On the cover is a picture of the pretty singer, Denise Nicole, but she could be any shiny-toothed huckster.

The music is that sort of badly recorded amateur type that sounds overly mechanical and inhuman, with horrible, trite, pep-rally lyrics:

"We are united, we are one, our fight for victory has begun. . .hand in hand we stand, we'll defend our land. . .It doesn't matter what religion, race or creed/ we've come together in our time of need/and with God's help and prayer, we will abolish hate/we will not fail, we won't give in, we will not hesitate. . ."

I've heard a lot of these types of songs since September. The singers seem to honestly believe they're somehow comforting the nation with their cliched lyrics, when what they are in fact doing is turning a profoundly sad and sickening reality into something superficial and sticky sweet, something that still has a chance for a happy ending. Worse yet, something they hope they can build a career on.

I know, I sound maybe a little too angry about all this, but here's a possible explanation: A couple Sundays ago I was loafing around in my bed, not recognizing how spoiled I am in my own life, how pampered, and still how unappreciative, with air conditioning and coffee and a house -- a safe place to sleep. I was reading the New York Times and I saw a story with the headline "At Morgue, Ceaselessly Shifting 9/11 Traces." Underneath was a picture of a morgue's logbook where every found scrap of human being from the World Trade Center was listed:

"Unk. (unknown) Fragment: longbone; Unk. Fragment: right foot; Unk. Fragment: soft tissue; Unk. Fragment: rt. foot, part of lower leg. . ." There were something like 14,000 entries.

A note near the bottom of Denise Nicole's CD tells me a portion of the proceeds of the sale of her CD go to "victims of terrorist attacks and Veterans of War."

A portion.

Don't get mad at me for criticizing a person who cares so much about America, but why don't all the profits go to charities? Why does Denise profit from human misfortune even one percent?

Thank God this awful thing happened so Denise and people like her could bring their gift to the world.

"Unk. Fragment: ring finger; Unk. Fragment: single molar. . ."

The events! Can't anyone think of a better, a different, even a more fitting phrase? Jet fuel incinerated human flesh, bodies were shredded or vaporized. Some people jumped and were shattered on sidewalks -- people eroded into jaws and shreds of muscle and molars, and we've reduced all this down to two words as innocuous as "the events," as if maybe what we're talking about are a couple of craft fairs.

"You can never break the spirit of America," Denise sings. ""Cause our land was founded on blood sweat and tears."

But she forgot these other things: Unk. Fragment: rib muscle; Unk. Fragment: jaws and teeth. . .skull; head and arm. . .ring finger. . .left 1st rib, with muscle. . ."

Craig Williams is a columnist for the Medina Gazette in Ohio. Write him at craigw@ohio.net.

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