Sliding into the Abyss
by Matt Solomon, Staff Writer
"Nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public"- H.L. Mencken.
A decline in taste is evident everywhere. In modern American society it is common for people to waste money on trivial, unnecessary things. While not ideal, this kind of spending does no harm if the person wasting money can afford it. The waste that does cause harm is that which supports poor taste. Unfortunately this type of waste has become extremely prolific and the harm it is doing has been grossly overlooked by most of us.
One horrible part of this desensitization is the mocking of past tragedies. Both the Normandy invasion and the attack at Pearl Harbor have become subjects of violent video games. A player can be an allied soldier storming Omaha Beach, a ship gunner at Pearl Harbor, or a Japanese pilot on the bombing mission. It is not the fact that these games take place during World War that is so inappropriate; it is the fact that they are based on actual events and battles, where real people suffered and died. These scenarios do not give due respect to the heroes who endured these tragedies.
Perhaps the greatest example of the total loss of respect in this country is what is now the most popular rentable amusement attraction. You may have seen it towering at 33 ft high and 50 ft long, drawing large crowds, and viciously mocking one of the great tragedies of the early twentieth century. What I'm referring to is the large, inflatable amusement slide depicting the H.M.S Titanic, tipped at a 45-degree angle in the last moments before it sank that has been recently appearing at fairs in the Cleveland area. This slide has a cabin-like area upon which children can climb 35 feet to the top, then a slope designed to look like the deck of a ship where the riders slide down into simulated, frigid Atlantic waters.
The mere existence of this slide is a sad commentary on our times. The fact that 530 slides have been sold all across the world since 1998 adds insult to injury. The manufacturer of the slide, Cutting Edge Creations, Inc., based out of Eagan, MN, charges $15,000 per slide. The slogan used to sell the slide is, "Relive all the excitement of the night the Titanic sunk, see if you can survive." When asked whether he felt that the slide is appropriate, Cutting Edge Creations Owner, Bob Field said, "I must because I designed it, and hundreds of thousands of people have [ridden] it, so they can't all be wrong." The fact that hundreds of of thousands of people have ridden this slide simply demonstrates the proliferation of disrespect and proves nothing but the degradation of American taste. This slide, rarely seen locally, has now appeared in Chesterland. At a recent harvest festival, Bremec Greenhouse and Nursery hired the Titanic slide from Great Lakes Amusement, a local company that leases carnival attractions. Bremec charged $2 per ride down the slide, yet there were still lines of people waiting to ride. In a recent interview, an employee of Bremec stated that they hired the attraction to draw attention from the street, and that it seemed extremely popular. Upon being asked whether she thought the attraction was in good taste, she responded, "When I first saw the slide years ago, I didn't think it was appropriate because the movie just came out, but then I realized it was just something fun for the kids." She stated that she was not aware of the slogan and does not feel that it is appropriate. According to thisisSouthamptonShipping.com, Melvina Dean, who escaped in a lifeboat from the Titanic when she was nine weeks old, asks the question: "The people who thought this up - what can they be like?" I pose a similar question: "What can the people who ride this slide be thinking?" I'm not suggesting that all of the people who have ridden this slide at some point are evil; I am rather suggesting that these people need to take a good look at whether or not the small thrill they get out of "sliding down the Titanic," is more important than giving due respect to those who suffered in this tragedy. This problem is not merely contained to current acts of disrespect. As this is a continuing trend, one must look toward the future to see where it is going. If we can mock the Titanic eighty-six years after it sunk (the ride was first produced in 1998), and Pearl Harbor only sixty-one years after the attack, how long will it be until the tragedy of September 11th is being mocked? What form will it take - a video game where one tries to fly planes into a building or a fun house where one tries to get out of the collapsing towers? As tasteless and truly nauseating as these ideas may be, they are logical extrapolations of what currently exists.