“What’s next? A 9/11 pastrami sandwich?” asked Councilman Peter Vallone, Jr., (D-Queens).
“I don’t care about the small amount that they donate to charity. If anyone is profiting off of 9/11, then this wine leaves a very bad taste in my mouth.”
People have profited from 9/11, of course, almost from the first day. Everyone from t-shirt vendors to cynical politicians has leveraged grief and horror to advance their own interests. If you are so disposed, you could buy a 9/11 commemorative muscle car model, a variety of 9/11 commemorative coins, a commemorative 9/11 Marine K-Bar knife, or a 9/11 commemorative cribbage board. You can buy keychains or coffee mugs or counterfeit money – because nothing says “remember” like the almighty dollar. To feel a little more a part of history, you can even buy a commemorative 9/11 fireman’s badge. Grief, in a materialistic consumer society like ours, is a peculiar and in many ways unattractive thing.
By all accounts, Lieb’s issuance of 9/11 Merlot and 9/11 Chardonnay is entirely sincere. Mayor Bloomberg’s spokesman notes that the Lieb family was looking for a way to contribute, that the family lost friends that day. Ten percent comes off the top to be donated to the 9/11 Memorial, which approved Lieb’s petition to make the wine. Councilman Vallone’s objection is based on the fact that people along the value chain will make money. That’s how our society works. We don’t expect people to work for free; we are not all Albert Schweitzer.
I can’t help but think that at least some of the complaining has to do with the fact that this particular commemorative consumer good is wine, a product associated with joy and, in the minds of some, depravity. But each of us contributes to society in our own idiom, building houses or cleaning the streets or making wine. The urge to put some of that effort to use in memory of something passed is entirely natural.
But then there are those, like the 9/11 widow who said:
I don’t like it. It’s commercializing 9/11, and this isn’t an event that should be commercialized. I don’t care if it’s T-shirts or coins, I don’t like any of it.
But that’s the society we live in.