Tragedy is often lost on us the more we move away from an event in time.
But by forgetting the solemnity of events, we dishonor those who suffered.
We also allow serious things to become jokes or campy, losing their cultural and historical value until they become so irrelevant that we are more likely than not going to repeat the event until the lesson finally sticks with us.
Which brings me to ?Urban Outfitters.
By now everyone and their grandmother has heard about Urban Outfitters’ unfortunate clothing mishap.
The company had for sale a $130 “vintage” Kent State sweatshirt covered in what looked like bloodstains.
Four people were killed and nine were injured when state troopers opened fire on peaceful protesters May 4, 1970, at Kent State University in Ohio.
Clearly, selling a “blood-stained” sweatshirt with the university’s logo and telling people it’s supposed to be vintage was not the smartest idea a clothing company has had.
However, the commercialization of tragedy is not uncommon.
A quick Google search will show you inflatable slides that look like a sinking Titanic ship. ? Funbounce.co.uk has special offers on them.
At Halloween parties you can always find one big guy dressed up as Henry VIII, holding a plastic ?mutton chop.
We haven’t really reached the point where Hitler is a socially acceptable costume, but clearly if you give it about 200 years, a merciless, tyrannical dictator becomes a lovable gag.
In short, it seems that with time and distance, we forget we need to respect tragic events and instead opt for entertainment.
There’s a moment when history becomes iconic.
Not in the Beyoncé sense.
In the sense that images and events reach a point where they only become images and symbols. They no longer feel real to us.
The image of the Titanic sinking becomes an idea for a bounce house, not a symbol of the horrific, icy deaths of thousands locked in the bowels of the ship for myriad safety failures and class discrimination.
When history becomes iconic, the death and destruction that accompanies events in history are ?forgotten.
And this is bad.
Urban Outfitters simply jumped the gun on what seems will inevitably happen with Kent State, Tianenmen Square or any event where we want to quickly forget how badly it affected us.
If we live through the next 150 years, we will probably find our great-great-great-grandchildren playing in a World Trade Center bouncy castle.
We need to remember there are some things we simply cannot commercialize, use as shock value or sell for profit.
There is danger in commercialization because in some sense it means ?forgetting.
And those who forget history are doomed to ?repeat it.