A lot has been said about President Bush's use of 9-11 imagery in his recently-launched TV ads. Everybody seems to be concentrating on what 9-11 families think about the use of the imagery. I appreciate that these images take some of those families back to the most painful day of their lives, but the real sin is not simply showing this footage, but trying to gain favor from it.
If G.W. wanted to paint a picture of himself as a leader during trying times, he should have concentrated on his record of accomplishments rather than on leveraging something that conjures up images of senseless and unjustified loss of human life.
One of the most offensive things about 9-11 for me was walking the streets in the days following the attacks. Sidewalk vendors hawking American flags, racist bumper stickers and bandannas, NYPD and FDNY hats, anti-Muslim t-shirts and the like seemed to spring up faster than I had expected. Merchants and sidewalk vendors were appealing to everybody's emotions in order to make a profit - and I thought that was wrong. It was offensive to me that someone would be trying to sell this stuff while people were still missing and families were still in shock.
It's similarly offensive when someone seeks to make a gain from someone else's misfortune, which is what Bush has done here. There are so many other ways he could have attempted to convey the message that he believes he's a strong leader during times of national tragedy. The fact that he even references 9-11 in these ads makes my brain want to dismiss the whole thing. Instead of thinking "Gee, the President showed some amazing leadership in the wake of the terrorist attacks" I instead think, "Hey, he's showing images of the attacks because he has nothing else to say." In other words, the images are there because the accomplishments aren't.
When I think of Bush and 9-11, I think the following:
- Bush and his administration have been using the terrorist attacks to promote a culture of fear in this country, prompting citizens to give up individual freedoms in exchange for safety (or perceived safety).
- Bush was in an airplane. Cheney was in an "undisclosed location." If any politician could be thought of as a hero due to his actions on the ground, it would be Rudy Giuliani, not Bush.
- Bush used 9-11 to lure us into an unjustified war.
- Despite all the sabre-rattling and claims that "the people who knocked these towers down are going to hear from all of us" we still haven't been able to track down a 6-foot-5 middle eastern billionaire who's tethered to a kidney dialysis machine. (Or maybe we have and the Bush administration has yet to announce it.)
I think about all of this stuff and more when I think of 9-11. So maybe it would be best if George W. Bush never brought it up again.