Last week you no doubt read, saw and heard a great deal about September 11th and its being the tenth anniversary of the horrible terrorist attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.
You no doubt saw lots of images of death, destruction, horror, sorrow and tragedy. And myriad stories of terror, loss, heroism, bravery and sacrifice.
Along with all that, you probably heard and/or read a plethora of speeches, recollections and remembrances of the impact of the September 11th attacks on the cities and the nation as a whole.
What you likely didn’t hear is that September 11th was also site master Craig’s birthday. It’s also the birthday of Marvel/DC/Archie artist Rod Whigham, directors Brian DePalma and Farnaz Samii, singers Moby and Harry Connick, Jr., musicians Tommy Shaw and Ludacris, and writer O. Henry.
You probably didn’t hear that around the world, thousands of couples were married that same day. And that hundreds of thousands of babies were born.
The point? With every tragedy there’s something to celebrate. With every loss there’s a gain. and with every sorrow there’s happiness. Most important of all, there’s nothing wrong with participating in either or both and experiencing both positive and negative emotions.
History is both complex and balanced; we should be no different.
You also probably heard many different solicitations and auctions for charities, commemoratives and benefits related to the event.
I vividly recall TV Guide having an exploitive cover of the smoking towers the week *after* the tragedy in a shameful attempt to sell more copies (and advertising). They never mentioned donating any proceeds from it to any charities. (In a bit of poetic justice, their stock plummetted not long afterwards and the company declared bankruptcy. It’s now a pathetic shell of its former glory. Nice to know the “karmic boomerang” sometimes indeed works.)
Unfortunately, I also remember vultures like The Franklin Mint, Danbury Mint and The Bradford Exchange all issuing their own exploitive “commemorative” products to capitalize on the emotion of the times. While one or two claimed that “a portion of profits” would be donated to charities, neither the amounts nor the non-profit organizations were ever specifically named in the advertisements. I’ve refused to purchase anything from those companies since.
How people behind such ghoulish profiteering live with themselves is beyond me.
In what seemed an egregious display of exploitation, just five years after the attacks, Hollywood decided to cash in on the tragedy. Universal Pictures (with a British production–ostensibly to avoid blatant impropriety) made the film United 93, directed by Paul Greengrass; Paramount released World Trade Center, starring Nic Cage and directed by Oliver Stone just months later. (I wonder: How many commercial movies about Pearl Harbor were released in 1946? For-profit Japanese reenactments of Hiroshima in 1950? Jewish-made Holocaust dramas in 1938?)
Of course, their PR departments spun the intent by announcing the companies would “generously” donate a whopping ten percent of the gross of the first five days’ receipts only, to a memorial and charities dedicated to the victims. (There was also at least one made-for-TV film released even earlier–not to mention all the “special edition” programs that hid under the pusillanimously disingenuous “news” label–that cashed in to sell prime advertising time.)
To compare the scale of such “generosity”, imagine those behind projects like “Live Aid”, “Farm Aid”, DC’s “Heroes Against Hunger” or Marvel’s “Heroes For Hope” offering to donate a lousy ten percent of the retail price from the first five days of sale! How many people do you think would’ve bought them in that case?
Each film made millions as American moviegoers munched popcorn and sipped soda while watching “dramatic” reenactments of the deaths of their fellow citizens. Unlike the rescue efforts performed by real heroes the year before, this was not one of our proudest moments.
I certainly remember quite a few “tribute” comics, “special issues” and “commemorative editions” of various titles released soon after the fact. Some were sincere and some were exploitive trash
I recently found a copy of Marvel’s A Moment of Silence tribute comic in a bargain box and read it yesterday in observation of the anniversary. I’m pleased to say that all proceeds at the time were in fact donated to charities that benefitted victims’ families. All the stories save one were told without dialog, by top talents like Kevin Smith, Brian Bendis, John Romita Jr., and others. (Plus a poignant introduction written by none other than Rudy Guiliani.) While the art ranged from average to excellent, all the tales were told well enough to choke me up, ten years later. This time, at least, Marvel got it right. And did the right thing.
The point? Be wary and skeptical of any kind of “anniversary”, “commemorative” or “tribute” products and events that ask for your money or carry any advertising. Think about the overall intent and who directly benefits the most. Then think about what you’d rather do with that money.
Is every penny going where you think it should? Or only a small part? Or none at all?
Is it better to buy the product knowing a small percentage will be donated to a good cause, or forgo the consumer instinct we all have and just donate the money directly to the cause?
Unlike what happened on 9-11, the choice is ours.
Thanks for reading. And thank you to all those, living or not, who helped save thousands of lives that fateful day. My heart and prayers go out to all those directly impacted by that day.
P.S.: I’ll also donate 100 (not 10) percent of all proceeds (not profits) from any commissions ordered in the next five days (to September 17th) to the 9-11 charity of your choice. Just ask Craig about it here.