Wednesday, February 09, 2005

This Bud's For You

From James Taranto's Best Of The Web:
Not everyone liked Anheuser-Busch's Super Bowl ad (viewable here and here) featuring U.S. servicemen getting a round of applause in an airport terminal. Humbug, says Stefano Hatfield, a columnist for London's left-wing Guardian:

It was described as "moving" and "powerful" by the obsequious Fox critics, and "obscene" by my furious upstairs neighbour who called me straight after because he regarded the spot as incitement to war with Iran, and knows I write about such things and so it was of course my fault.

Pass the sick bag, Alice. I was too stunned by the spot to really take in the full import of a beer company waving off "our boys" (and girls) to battle. But battle? Where? The war in Iraq's over, isn't it or so they keep telling us? With Rice's thinly veiled threats towards Iran everywhere, it is hard not to see the spot as anything other than hailing the troops off to war. Pure propaganda, and it picked up on one of the themes of the night: patriotism.

There's actually something mildly refreshing about a commentator openly scoffing at patriotism rather than feebly asserting that he isn't unpatriotic, as American left-wingers are wont to do. Then again, such defensiveness is better than spitting on veterans, which seven of our readers, responding to yesterday's item on the subject, said happened to them or to a loved one during the Vietnam era. Reader Jack Else, a retired U.S. Air Force major, reflects on how things have changed:

Soldiers were spit on. I was. It was September 1972 at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. I had just gotten off duty, was still in uniform, and was on campus to pick up my wife.

Flash forward nearly 20 years, to May 3, 1991. I had just returned from the first Gulf War (or as I called it the Great Unfinished Gulf War). For personal reasons I returned alone without my unit, which arrived about 10 days later. I arrived at Plattsburg Air Force Base, in upstate New York, and was put on a military bus for JFK and a civilian flight. I was tired and dirty, hadn't bathed for about three days, slept in my uniform; pack on my back, duffle bag and M-92. I did not look like a recruiting poster.

As I got off the bus at the American Airlines terminal at JFK I was very apprehensive. Why? We didn't have cell phones, we didn't have the Internet. We didn't have blogs. Mail was spotty. All we had were CNN, Peter Arnett, et al. I took a deep breath, entered the terminal and people stopped and stared--and then they applauded.

That Budweiser commercial took me back 14 years and made me cry.

It's still happening, says reader Greg Gilbert:

Last Thursday I was on a flight from Dallas-Fort Worth to Portland, Ore. There were four servicemen returning home for a two-week leave from Iraq. As the plane arrived at the gate in Portland, the pilot mentioned and thanked the servicemen for their service and asked that they be allowed to disembark first. As each of them walked toward the front of the plane, the rest of the passengers erupted in spontaneous applause. It's tough to do a standing ovation in an MD-80, but that's exactly what they got.

The feeling of appreciation of the passengers on the plane was palpable as they patted the servicemen on the back as they walked by and said "thank you." Best of all, it was real people expressing appreciation for the service of these men. A commercial could not have done the moment justice.

So on second thought, the Brits can have their Stefano Hatfields. We're happy to be living in a country where patriotism is applauded and no one admits to lacking it.

Update: Taranto published some letters about this item here (starts 2/3 down page).

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