January 9, 2003

By Michael Strickland

What Would Jesus Drive?

You've probably seen the provocative TV commercials that came out after 9/11 connecting the purchase of drugs to financial support for terrorists. It was a powerful message, and a controversial one. Now, a grass roots group led by commentator Arianna Huffington is twisting the logic in those public service announcements into a campaign against sport utility vehicles. Here's a transcript of one of their commercials (which may soon appear on a TV network near you):

"This is George. This is the gas that George bought for his SUV. This is the oil company executive that sold the gas that George bought for his SUV. These are the countries where the executive bought the oil that made the gas that George bought for his SUV. And these are the terrorists who get money from those countries every time George fills up his SUV."


Huffington claims the connection between driving [legal] SUVs and supporting terrorism is a "much more credible link" than that between buying [illegal] drugs and financing terrorists. The absurdity of this argument astounds. One can connect virtually any activity to terrorism with enough creativity.

For instance: by going to work tomorrow, you will earn income, which will be taxed; a portion of your taxes will finance the ongoing U.S. military buildup in the Persian Gulf region; this buildup (whether or not it leads to outright war with Iraq) will likely add to the resentment that many in the Middle East already feel toward the U.S.; terrorists will feed on this resentment and use it to gain further support. So don't go to work tomorrow, or you'll be supporting terrorists!

I don't deny Huffington's basic point, that by consuming gas/oil, we are giving money to some countries that directly or indirectly support terrorists. My point of contention arises, however, with her flawed logic that leads to the conclusion that SUVs are to blame. Using Huffington's reasoning, aren't ALL Americans who drive automobiles guilty of supporting terrorists? Isn't the SUV question merely a matter of degree? Perhaps I, as an SUV owner, provide a slightly greater amount of support to terrorists than Huffington (assuming, arguendo, that she drives a Prius). So what? The difference is negligible in the big picture. As consumers of gasoline, we both (apparently) fund terrorists.

In principle, I agree wholeheartedly with Huffington's motives. SUVs do indeed serve as symbols of our society's gross commercialism. We absolutely need to become less dependent on oil. But this ad campaign is ludicrous, and will only garner attention for that reason. And the suggestion that legally owning and driving an SUV is a greater threat to our national security than buying illicit drugs is simply irresponsible.

Perhaps Huffington's crusade would be more effective with a less inflammatory tone. Maybe she should ask herself, "What would Jesus drive?" Oh, wait, someone else has already posed that question.


©2003 Michael Strickland ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

What is "The Daily Strick"?

I have long called myself a writer, but too often I don't do what a writer must do daily: write. So you, dear reader, are the beneficiary of my resolution to make a positive change in at least one area of my life. Every single day of this new year, I will write something, anything, and post it here. It is my intention to use this daily exercise to jump-start my too-long-dormant creative energies, and perhaps generate some worthwhile material this year. Hopefully you will find at least an occasional amusement or insight in my daily musings.

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1/8: Southwestern Sojourn
Wheel of Fortune
Class Warfare
1/5: Very Large Dream
The New Nuclear Age
Going Solo
New Year, Old Cave
1/1: All Things End

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