Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and shamelessness.
If you watched the World Series, you've been hit with them all, thanks to the ads for Chevrolet's Silverado pickup truck. The spot is a montage of All-American images that pulls out all the emotional stops. You've got your Vietnam War, your houses swamped by Hurricane Katrina, your Ground Zero memorial, the haunting "Tribute in Light."
That's right: When you think tragedy, think Chevrolet!
Of course, that's not the point. The point is to get the juices flowing, the tears welling. Sucker that I am, I got a lump in my throat the size of a Hummer about three seconds in. How can you not choke up when you see those blue lights piercing the night sky?
And how can you not resent those lights - those souls - being used to sell trucks?
The ad doesn't stop there. As John Mellencamp sings, "This is our country," it shows Muhammad Ali and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, too. Rosa! The one human being most famous for taking public transportation.
Oh, but she's an American icon and Chevy's parent company, General Motors, likes to drape itself in the flag. Heck, all the American car companies do. But usually it's the purple mountains majesty kind of patriotism, where you're supposed to feel so proud to live in such a big, beautiful country (with such nice barns!) that you buy a car.
This new sad/happy patriotism is more insidious. It implies the answer to all our huge, horrible problems is: Go buy a car! Buy a big, American gas-guzzler from the company that has done its very best to keep us addicted to foreign oil.
Remember, it was GM that last summer came up with the revolutionary offer that it would subsidize your gas. The deal was that if you bought certain GM cars or SUVs in certain states, the company would guarantee you'd pay no more than $1.99 for a gallon of gas. The effect was to say: Don't be scared into buying a more fuel-efficient car just because gas prices are rising. Energy dependence for all!
And why is it that other countries do have such enviably efficient cars while we let our mileage standards lag even behind China's? Because for years, GM spearheaded the lobbying effort to kill more stringent standards. Even today, it's fighting the global warming agreement passed in New York, California and nine other states that requires a 25% reduction in vehicle emissions by 2009.
You don't see GM's lawyers in the Silverado slide show. You don't see melting icecaps or Saudis laughing at the bank or troops dying in Iraq. Nope, you see the sacred memory of about 3,000 souls being used to get you to your car dealer.
How infinitely more tasteful.