Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

The Demon Drink

Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

The Demon Drink

Article excerpt

I confess that I did a double take. At 65 mph I sidled up to a loaded semi sporting the heavy red and regal gold logo of Budweiser. What surprised me was that the truck was "autowrapped" from headlight to taillight in the three-color desert camouflage pattern of light tan, pale green, and brown. The "King of Beers" was tricked out in battle dress.

It's not unusual to see overt military presence around my home in Washington, D.C. Anymore, I hardly notice the anti-aircraft missiles mounted on Humvees around the Pentagon and Capitol or the invasion of discreet security cameras and recording devices at strategic downtown intersections or the new Army recruiting office that sprouted up in a previously abandoned storefront on Georgia Avenue. When I see, though, the dozens of men and women with new prosthetic limbs walking the grounds of Walter Reed Army hospital, I still run cold with shame, and pity, and anger at myself and all of us for letting this war happen, for letting it go on.

But it was the desert drab Bud truck that snapped me "awake" (as in 1 Thessalonians 5:6). No doubt the design was part of Anheuser-Busch's "Here's to the Heroes" campaign to support the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the "For all you do, this Bud's for you" feel-good attitude is just too much at odds with what we know about Iraq--more than 2,800 American soldiers killed; more than a quarter million Iraqi civilians killed, including as many as 54,000 children; the pornography of torture at Bagram and Abu Ghraib; the rise in soldier divorces and suicides. Will this be accompanied by the pay-per-view execution of Saddam Hussein--hanged by the neck until dead? All I could think was that America has become what, in 17th-century France, was called "a theater of devils" or "a theater of the possessed." I was haunted by the King of Beers.

THE BUDWEISER AD campaign is nothing new. It's not inherently evil. Desert camo is both a fashion statement and code for "I support the U.S. military." However, in the moment I eased alongside that semi with the dun-colored background and eye-catching red and gold logo--would-be emblem of hard work, leisure, pure water, Clydesdales, and the working-class American Dream--the advertisement became a looking glass reflecting what had become grotesque in America, what had twisted in my own soul. …

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