Boomer Voices: Will we stop at nothing to sell things?

As Glendale, California writer William Cushing watching another September 11th anniversary come and go, he saw a trend he abhors. In this Boomer Opinion piece, he calls it “The new alchemy: Turning tragedy into profit.”

More than twenty years now after September 11th, let’s take stock of one outcome from the day that marks the lives of any American older than about 28… and certainly baby boomers.

Bill Cushing’s new book questions the news media and other sources of myths.

Like most governmental reactions to catastrophes, 9/11 produced its fair share of poorly-reasoned overreactions. Among those bad ideas, the Patriot Act and its love child, the Department of Homeland Security, stand tall. The less said about the TSA, the better. Those bureaucracies have proven wasteful, ineffectual if not incompetent, and prone to corruption.

However, what bothers me is the name attached to the 9/11 anniversary: Patriot Day. I had hoped that the day would never acquire some government-sanctioned name.

Good luck on that.

President George W. Bush started the ball rolling—in bipartisan fashion— proclaiming on September 14th a “National Day of Prayer and Remembrance for the Victims of the Terrorist Attacks on September 11, 2001.” That set things in inexorable motion. A month later, the House called for a national day of mourning.

The seeds for commercialization were packaged but not yet delivered. That happened when President Obama changed the official name to “Patriot Day and National Day of Service and Remembrance.” That’s when the day started shedding its impact, and it’s since winnowed down to the now-standing Patriot Day, a handy catchphrase planting the seeds for exploitation.

I neither get nor expect much agreement. After all, for many reasons, it’s good to mark relevant events by giving them a distinct moniker. Like Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Labor Day. Many believe, an appellation lends importance to our national psyche along with expected corresponding emotions.

Bill Cushing

I offer a contrary viewpoint. The name ends up trivializing the actual incident to the point of cheapening it rather than affirming its importance. No matter how noble or high-minded the intent might have been, eventually the “memory” marking a day meant for reverence morphs into a marketing tool. The September 11 attacks are still too fresh in our minds for completely crass commercials, but we’re going down that road.

Already, automotive businesses have employed Patriot Day as a marketing tool. Other products have used the event to move inventory under the guise of patriotism. I doubt this will be the last we see of ads emblazoned with flags and the phrase, “Never forget.” I anticipate seeing some business announce, “Never forget that we offer the best deals”— or something to that effect.

Fourth of July, Labor Day, President’s Day: all represent big sale days for stores, dealers, and various merchants. In fact, note Memorial Day as an obvious example. Intended to honor those who died— usually in while engaged in wars, it has become a day for hawking appliances, cars, electronics, what-have-you.

On the other end of the spectrum, consider December 7th, the bombing of Pearl Harbor. There is nothing flashy or fashionable in the name. It’s simple and direct, not easily fabricated or remolded into some marketing gimmick. That, I believe, is the main reason it remains a day of reflection, not retail.

In the meantime, perhaps we should call 9/11 National Pay-triot-day.


Bill’s new book is, “. . .this just in. . .

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