So yesterday I was in the chow hall on my Forward Operating Base here in Afghanistan, (all us soldiers refer to the chow hall as the "DFAC," short for "Dining Facility," but I write in a way to make myself understood by civilians as well as soldiers) and, as usual, I grabbed a diet cola to go with my meal. The Diet Pepsi served in our chow hall is not from the United States. It is manufactured in Dubai by Pepsi Arabia and says so right on the can.
Yesterday, for some odd reason I looked--I mean I really LOOKED--at the subtle "clip art" on the background of the can.
And I did a double take. I couldn't believe what I was seeing...
I examined the can for several minutes while my food grew cold, wondering if my eyes were deceiving me. But there was no getting around it. To either side of the Pepsi logo, there was an image of a jet airliner over tall buildings. Looking at the image, I couldn't help but think it alluded to 9/11.
Three other soldiers were sitting with me at my table. One of the other soldiers asked what I was looking at so hard. Instead of answering, I handed him the can and said, "Look at the artwork on this can. Do you see what I see?"
He looked. His eyes grew wide. He turned the can from side to side. The other soldiers at the table looked, too. None of us said anything. The phrase "9/11" never passed from our lips. We could LOOK at each other and understand we all saw the same thing, a "sneaky allusion to 9/11."
"Why are you even DRINKING that?" one soldier asked, as I finished the can.
"Hey," I said. "Pepsi is still Pepsi."
But that was when I vowed to, well, DO SOMETHING. Or, to put it another way, "See something? Say something."
Now, to argue against my own point, I will say this: not everybody in the world feels the tragedy of 9/11. To some people, an image of a jet against a skyscraper does not, in any way, allude to tragedy. To use another example: if I were from Thailand, an image on a Pepsi can of a big wave with grass huts in the background might remind me of the killer tsunami, but to most Americans it would just be a tropical image. (However, if I were responsible for marketing soft drinks in Thailand, I would make damn sure no artsy image that might be interpreted as alluding to the killer tsunami ended up on a soft drink can)
Here's the kicker: Pepsi is an AMERICAN product. It is only manufactured overseas because it is licensed to be manufactured overseas. So doesn't somebody in America have to approve the artist's can design before it ends up in MY ARMY CHOW HALL IN AFGHANISTAN?
If I didn't know better, I'd think some artist in Dubai is gloating about 9/11 and he managed to incorporate this image, in a sneaky way, into some "can art."
Oh, wait, did I say "if I didn't know better"?
I guess I really mean to say...
I don't know any different.
I'm left scratching my head (just on the side, where I can reach under my helmet) and wondering, WTF?