Freedom Fetish / pre-9/11 strike

As usual, I’m up late websurfing and watching cable news. Tucked neatly between the This vs. That-isms of the presidential political campaign are (of course) commercials. This one caught my eye:

For the first time ever, a legally authorized government issue silver dollar has been struck to commemorate the World Trade Center and the new Freedom Tower being erected in its place. It’s the U.S. territorial minting of the 2004 “Freedom Tower” Silver Dollar from CNMI. Most importantly, each coin has been created using .999 Pure Silver recovered from Ground Zero!

No, this is not a misprint. The silver used in each gleaming dollar coin is from Ground Zero! You see, when the Twin Towers fell on September 11, 2001, a bank vault full of .999 Pure Silver bars was buried under hundreds of tons of debris. After months of salvage work, many of the bars were found. Now, the same silver that was reclaimed from the destruction has been used to create the magnificent 2004 “Freedom Tower” Silver Dollar.

I understand our impulses to build the Freedom Tower in lower Manhattan; in many ways, it’s the same sort of nervous creative energy that has fueled many a project borne from pain and suffering. However, to commission a coin forged from debris found at the wreckage site strikes me as an obtuse cross-pollination between ancient fetishism and the most crass capitalist enterprise. Collection by nature is compulsive behavior, and no doubt we humans collect all sorts of strange and wonderful things in our consumerist roles.

This is certainly a strange object, but it doesn’t seem particularly wonderful. I understand why people collect comic books, dolls, farm toys, stamps, first editions, blue bottles and six packs of Billy Beer; I can’t say I understand this, though, unless I try to put it in the context of “In Defense of of Talk Shows,” an essay by Barbara Ehrenreich I remember reading a few years ago.

Ehrenreich, one of this country’s most astute, best known and openly brazen socialists, argues in her 1995 Time essay that what we see playing out on Ricki Lake, Jerry Springer, et al is a daily affirmation of class warfare, where the poor, afflicted and undereducated in our society are routinely trotted out and used as negative reinforcements to middle class moralisms of reason, responsibility and self-control. In closing her essay she postulates the logical extremes of this kind of exploitation, in writing (and I’m paraphrasing here): what’s next? People picking and eating their scabs on live television?

Upon seeing the “Freedom Tower Dollar” rotating and flickering on my screen a few moments ago, I couldn’t help but think of the metaphorical scabs associated with Nine-Eleven(tm), and how our immediate (and, clearly, sustained) response to this tragedy is almost exclusively a consumptive one. In a few days we’ll again be awash in the images and sounds already seared into our minds. And once again, we’ll be reminded that the proper response is to purchase a symbol of some kind to keep those images and sounds well-implanted. Is 9/11 truly something that happened to the United States three years ago? Or is it now something relegated to simulation, replication, and constant refreshment/redeployment? If we can coin and mint horror into .999 grade pure silver, well, what does that say then about horror?


7 responses to “Freedom Fetish / pre-9/11 strike

  • Anonymous

    What really rankled my shackles is that this coin is advertised as a “National” issue coin when it is in fact from out in the Mariannas. The American public hopefully will see the light and demand the ads be pulled. There isn’t even the hint of a patronizing stab at donating to a “freedom fund”. Just blatant misrepresentation. Why would anyone think that we would tolerate profiteering on an American tragedy, especially by our own government?

  • Trevor Dodge

    You’re right, of course.

  • Ellen

    I know the morbid ness of this is obviously the greatest issue here, (as well it should be), but please someone correct me if I am wrong, but are there not also criminal issues here as well? Being that they claim that the silver used in these coins are that that were found in a bank’s vault underneath the ruins, would not the bank want their silver back??? Being that most banks are government affiliated I would assume that it would be a federal offense not to return it. That would be just as if I were to walk down a street and happen to come across a bag of money that a robber dropped just after robbing a bank, if I chose not to return it and the authorities got wind of me being in possession of it I know I would be facing some major criminal charges for not returning it. Since this company obviously has no morale standards I do not see why someone does not try to pursue them with criminal charges.

  • Anonymous

    It is obvious that the bank that had the vault in the towers did not just give it to the people and i doubt they could have stole it but they most likly could have bought it….and ther is only a little bit of silver in each coin they are just plated with the silver 100mils……but who could prove where their silver came from.

  • Anonymous

    Ellen….do you really think that they would put an ad on TV and sale the coin if they had really stole the silver….here is the ad i stole from the towers please put me in jail….Please!!!……it may not be the silver from the towers but if it is i am sure that they didn’t just steal it….not many people are that stupid.

  • Anonymous

    I think that they should make all of the peoples profit from this go to the 9/11 fund…..and if they don’t like stick their A$$ in jail….and maybe even fine them on top of that….

  • Anonymous

    i think that i would buy the coin if all profits went to the 9/11 fund….even though it only has a very very little bit of silver in it.

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