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Wed Sep 4,10:02 PM ET

By Ted Rall

The Cheesification of 9-11-02

NEW YORK--Are you the kind of person who believes that attaching a plastic American flag to your SUV makes a major patriotic statement? If so, you're no doubt anticipating the looming anniversary of the September 11 attacks with the enthusiasm of a nine-year-old on Christmas morning.

Then there's the rest of us.

Don't get the rest of us wrong. We love America too. But we are understandably tense as we approach what is likely to be the greatest orgy of cheesy sentimentality, naked political opportunism and rank corporate necrophilia in this country's history. Well before the millennium, we Americans had already created a consumer and political culture so simultaneously compelling and appalling that other people wanted to kill us. To that tawdry tradition add the self-pity, sanctimoniousness and self-congratulations that have characterized the last year, filter them through the cynical minds of a fiendish array of politicians and corporate marketers looking to capitalize on the television event of the century, and we're set for a world class schmaltzfest.

By the end of 9-11-02, you may wish Osama had killed you.

Boston's Logan International Airport, for example, has scheduled an unintentionally ironic memorial gesture at 8:46 a.m.--the time when the first jet struck the World Trade Center. For one minute planes will not be permitted to take off or land. Given that Logan's crappy security allowed two of the four planes to be hijacked in the first place, one might expect the Massachusetts Port Authority to come up with a more appropriate sign of respect for the victims--say, hiring people smarter than stones to scan baggage correctly. But no. A runway of briefly stalled planes will have to do.

Here in New York, corporations are planning to celebrate the second Wednesday in September with an array of gleefully gauche gestures. According to managing consultant Andrea Eisenberg, many companies plan to allow employees to come to work late(perhaps since only employees who arrived before 9 a.m. died in the attacks) and will display the American flag (never mind that many corporations have moved their HQ to Caribbean tax havens). Also look for "a personal statement by the CEO or office head, delivered in person" (hey--they can announce the latest round of layoffs at the same time!). One business "is naming conference rooms after employees who were lost on 9-11."

Don't laugh--they could have been storage closets. Or fire exits.

Naturally, most Americans will experience "this day unlike any other" the same way they experience all the others--while watching television. The more mystifying programming offerings include a repeatedly-broadcast three-minute Blue Man Group video about "scraps of paper found in Brooklyn that blew over Ground Zero," an ESPN special about the FDNY football team and post-Taliban sports (!) and ABC Family's griefsploitation piece "Love Legacy: The Babies of 9-11," which takes a "look at the pregnant wives left widowed on that day." Check your local listings.

Fortunately, those who stare at books instead of screens will not be left out of Cheezathon 2002. The most anticipated September 11 book is the latest installment in that kitsch masterwork, "Chicken Soup for the Soul of America." Start with ten thousand Afghan civilians, bomb into mulch, stir with processed plutonium from spent daisy-cutters, and voilą--the dead are avenged!

Of course, mondo memorial madness would not be complete without the biggest cheese of all. George W. Bush will spend the day in quiet contemplation as he streaks from one disaster site to another, beginning at the White at 8:46 a.m. with--you guessed it--a minute of silence. He only has a minute, because then he's off to the Pentagon ( news - web sites), the crash site near Shanksville, Pennsylvania and Ground Zero in New York City, where he'll appear at 4:30 p.m. (Memo to Osama: That's disinformation. Neither Bush nor the entire U.S. Congress will be in NYC that day.)

Generalissimo El Busho caps off his madcap day of high-speed mourning with a televised speech at 9:01 p.m. (I assume a lucky advertiser paid big bucks for the 9 p.m. slot). "I think it will be a reminder of the importance of liberty," promised Ari Fleischer ( news - web sites), assuming a dignified tone, promised, "and how our United States stands strong throughout the world in promoting liberty." I, for one, am anxious to hear how Bush's post-9-11 policies, which involve sucking up to brutal dictators in Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia while plotting a coup against the democratically-elected president of Venezuela, promote liberty throughout the world.

For my money, the most gloriously over-the-top moment of this gloriously garish spectacle will occur in a city that had nothing to do with 9-11 but is anxious to get in on the grieving. In Los Angeles, residents of West Hollywood will "come out of their homes, restaurants, hotels and nightclubs and join together at sunset. Participants will simultaneously and silently light candles, hold American flags and pay special and personal tribute to the victims." Call them poseurs, call them New Yorker wannabes, but don't call them lazy. A press release assures that "many residents are expected to walk from their homes to the candlelight vigil."

Walk? In L.A.? Maybe it's true. Maybe 9-11 did change everything.

-- (here comes @ the. sobfest), September 08, 2002


Ted Rall is a communist. He speaks truth, forbidden in Dumbya's fascist regime. We must hook him up to the brainwashing machine, and make sure it takes this time.

-- (repug@standard.reply), September 08, 2002.

Klintoon and Dumbya are the bad guys. Go Osama, Sadam, and Momar!

-- dumbya (should@cnovet.to_Islam), September 08, 2002.

What we need is another "Hands Across America". That will send a powerful message of love and reconciliation. And don't forget those lovely candles and those sandals.

Save the whales!

-- (Ted Rall's mom @ gooo.goo), September 08, 2002.

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