Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The awesome, queer, niggardly irony

One day soon, we are going to run out of words.

We so misuse, overuse, abuse and infuse our language. Many great words can’t be used because their real meaning has been lost.

“That is awesome, man. My car is awesome. My team is awesome. My new phone is TOTALLY awesome .”

Really? Awe is an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, fear, etc., produced by that which is grand, sublime, extremely powerful, or the like: in awe of God; in awe of great political figures.

Your crap isn’t awesome. You might well like it, but awesome it ain’t.

For clarification, try this. Churchill is to awesome as Obama is to underwhelming.

Once upon a time, queer meant odd. Unusual. Out of alignment. It was a great word to describe something that seemed out of whack. “That’s a queer little house in the midst of these mansions.”

At some time a century or so ago, the word queer was used to describe homosexual men. In a derogatory way. Eventually, queer became a common slang term used in a negative connotation by heterosexuals. Queer became a way to put down someone who clearly wasn’t homosexual. “Oh, quit being a queer.”

Then, the word queer was adopted by homosexuals of all types as their own moniker. Like the television show Queer as Folk.

And now, maybe queer is bad again. I think it may have been replaced by gay. Which is misappropriating another perfectly good word. Do any of us now sing, “Don we now our gay apparel” and not have visions of Carson Kressley in our head? And thinking of that verse, when’s the last time you donned something?

So can I use queer or gay anywhere without causing a ruckus?

It’s become almost as difficult as the word black.

For example. Several years ago, in a mind numbing governmental meeting of the Dallas County Commissioners, there was a discussion of issues related to collecting unpaid traffic tickets. Commissioner Kenneth Mayfield stated, “It sounds like Central Collections has become a black hole.” Seems like a cynical, sad, true statement of missing money at a government agency.

But, no. Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price and other Dallas County officials said that Commissioner Mayfield had just uttered a racist statement and demanded an apology.

You see. Commissioner Mayfield is, er, white. Or flesh. Or Anglo American. Or Northern European American. Or a honky. I don’t know, but you get the point.

And the offended county officials were, well, black. Or Negroid. Or colored. Or brown. Or African American. Or Caribbean American. Anyway, they were offended.

That event took place about the same time that I and my son Zac got a great English lesson.

Zac was in the sixth grade at an upscale private school in Dallas. And one fine week, his English teacher handed out their spelling words. And on that list was the word niggardly.

Some quick background. Zac’s two best friends from the time he was old enough to walk until they moved away during elementary school years were twin brothers who lived across the street from us. Cody and Cory Hill. And they had a different skin color than Zac. Thankfully, not one of them ever thought anything was different about any of them. They were just kids.

When he transferred from public school to this private school in the sixth grade, Zac made a new best friend. His name was Chris. And Chris had the same color skin as Cody and Cory. Which was a different color than Zac’s. And Chris was one of about three kids in the whole school whose skin color was different than Zac’s.

Chris and Zac made each other laugh constantly. They could make eye contact and crack up.

And so when the teacher of English handed out the words of the week, Chris looked at Zac. And they both started laughing. And tears rolled down their 11 year old cheeks from trying not to wizz in their pants. Because they saw the irony in the situation.

And Zac got hauled to the principal’s office. Because the teacher assumed wrongly that Zac was misappropriating the word niggardly. And I got called to the principal’s office. And despite my protestations, Zac was suspended for a day for being racially insensitive.

From then on, I was niggardly with my donations to that school.

Oh, how ironic. Or was that coincidental? Or paradoxical? Or bad luck? Or, just plain dumb?

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Magic Playhouse

This is so cool.

Can't find it on the internet.

Not at any Black Friday sale.

If you can find one, you are extremely lucky.

It's called The Magic Playhouse.

You can crawl into this thing and you are transported.

One section is called The Dream Lair.

These are the directions on the outside:

"If you enter, make sure you make a wish because your dream will come true."

And then this:

"Star Light,
Star Bright.
First Star I see tonight.
I wish I may,
I wish I might
Have this wish
I wish tonight.

-Read this when you make your wish"

Inside The Dream Lair there is a very tranquil room with lots of tiny lights that poke thru the ceiling. You can lay on your back and imagine they are the stars. It is amazing how free, and warm, and safe, and fun it is. You can imagine almost anything in there, and it comes true.

On the other side of The Magic Playhouse is The Color Dome. Here, there are no rules other than to have fun. And have fun with color. Crayons. Pens. Markers. Chalk. Colored duct tape.

You can color the floor, walls and ceiling. Anything you want! And no grown ups can or will be upset!

There is a skylight and a window to allow enough light in so you can see all the colors.

Boys love it. They imagine forts. And race cars. And spaceships.

But girls really love it. It's where we can talk to our best friend and imagine what the world will be like and then it becomes real.

Grown ups just don't get it. Which is what makes it so awesome.

And best of all, you can't buy it. And each one is totally unique.

The one we just got is starting to wear out. Boys just don't take good care of things. Is there anyplace where they don't like to wrestle?

If I'm lucky, the next one will be even bigger. My daddy says there is a store that sells refrigerators nearby and they have really big boxes.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our Almighty Father

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sentient Beings

I was expecting the letter.

Although we had not anticipated any issue with the fire community about the TV commercial, we had spent considerable time talking about the parakeet. (If this blog makes no sense, please read the entry from a few days ago called, "When the air is on fire")

We expected some nutjob would protest that the man might have saved his pants before he saved the bird. Even though the bird is shown safe and sound at the end of the spot.

So, when an envelope from the good folks at P.E.T.A. showed up on my desk, I was ready.

Love 'em or hate 'em, you have to hand it to the folks in that ugly little building in Norfolk, Virginia. They know how to get noticed. They know how to use the media. They have a strategy and they execute it.

One of their ways of creating a ruckus is their annual bad behavior awards. The mainstream media just love to cover them.

Their modus operandi is to review advertising that depict animals in any way. They then determine whether or not in their estimation it is a positive or a negative depiction. If it is negative, they then send a "threatening" letter to the advertiser stating that said company and agency risks getting a Litterbox award if they don't stop running said ad. So if you don't bow to their threat, they get you. If you do bow to their threat, they also get you by announcing your willingness to negotiate with terrorists.

I already had my response letter written in my head. Not only had we saved the parakeet, we had already pulled the commercial so as to be kind to humans! And we had done it BEFORE we ever heard from P.E.T.A.

Their letter started as expected. Yep, we risked being on P.E.T.A.'s naughty list.

But then I was thrilled when I read what had them upset.

It wasn't about the parakeet at all.

We had offended cats.

In a magazine ad directed at young men, we had written something to the effect of, "The only bad thing about having a girlfriend is having to allow her cat to sit on your khakis."

The folks at P.E.T.A. said that cats were "sentient beings". Our ad had the potential to cause many a cat hurt feelings.

I still remember the note back to them. We explained that we had tried to focus group the ad with cats, but they showed total disinterest.

And we made a commitment. No more cat jokes, on one condition.

P.E.T.A. had to show us at least one cat that could read.

Still waiting on their response.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Jello World

Lemme tell ya, I am dis many years old.

And when I have a nudder birthday, I think I'm going to be ten. Or nineteen.

I got to spend the night with just me with PaPa and Lalea. Bubba didn't get to come. It was my birthday. Bubba is having his birthday night with PaPa and Lalea next year sometime.

PaPa and Lalea took me to the greatest place to eat ever. Jello World.

PaPa and I got there firstest. And we sat outside. And some people walked in. They were old. And had sticks cause they had broke their legs. I'm Superman. So when I broke my leg, I didn't need a stick. Cause I'm tough. Look at my muscles. They are made of steel.

PaPa is made of mushy stuff.

So when we went inside, it was awesome. I got to pick out whatever I wanted for supper. PaPa said they had more Jello than anybody. I got blue.

And chicken fingers. And salad with lots of ranch dressing. And macaroni. And mashed potatoes.

PaPa said we had to wash our hands first. He's so crazy. He has crazy hair. He says to sing Happy Birthday when I wash my hands. That way my hands will be clean.

But I had to go potty. And that made PaPa have to go potty.

Poor PaPa. He doesn't have Transformers underwear.

And then we went to PaPa and Lalea's house. And I got presents. I got a soccer ball. And I got cleats. The bump things on the shoes make me go fast when I run.

And then I got a Harry Potter cupcake.

And I'm a super hero. I'm Juggernaut. I can go fast.

Then Lalea read me a book. I took a bubble bath. I don't like diving. Wonder if I have nudder presents?

I don't like Dolphin Tales. I like Captain America.

Then PaPa read me a book. I like it. Wonder if I can take it home to show Bubba.

And I tried to go to sleep. I had a dream about baseball cause I'm gonna be a baseball man.

Then I got up and crawled in bed with PaPa and Lalea. They were drinking coffee. I don't use coffee.

And I had a biscuit. But I don't really like biscuits. And I don't use any eggs. My muscles are really big.

Then we played soccer. And I got a dragon blood snow cone. I breathed fire on PaPa.

And I got to swing. Why do these shoes have bumps on the bottom?

Monday, November 14, 2011

A thank you note

2LT Peter Haskell Burks was KIA in Baghdad, Iraq on November 14, 2007.

In May of 2008, we sent the following letter to thousands that had so honored Pete and so touched our family. It seems fitting to share it again as the circle of support has continued to grow.

To the thousands of you that have sent your love, support, letters, hugs, time, cards, boxes for the troops, phone calls, donations, flowers, blogs and emails,

Thank you.

You have encouraged us. You have reminded us of the strength of love, friendship and love of country. You have honored Peter’s life and his sacrifice. You have continued Peter’s legacy of service and giving. We have been in the middle of a circle of love that has amazed us. “It is the most beautiful experience we hope no one else has to go through.”

Peter inspired us all because he talked the talk and walked the walk. If you will indulge me, let me expound.

Peter was a solid athlete, but not the greatest athlete ever to walk the earth. He knew that.

But he had as good a heart as any competitor could have. He valued a team win more than anything. And he would work until he puked his guts out to make it happen. That is why he was awarded the “Unsung Hero” award by his high school football coaches.

And that is why we created the “Peter Burks Unsung Hero Fund” in his honor. The fund was created because immediately after learning of his death, we were confronted by the questions of “flowers or donations”. Nothing wrong with flowers, because they are remembered and they do comfort. But with no better idea, we created the “Peter Burks Unsung Hero Fund” with the purpose of carrying on Peter’s legacy.

He told us time and again that his job was to get his men home safe. Peter also felt a bit guilty because he had a strong support network that many of his soldiers did not have. His guys were excited when mail call came because Pete seemed to always be receiving some goodies from home that he would share. Just before he was killed, Peter had sent an email to Missy asking for help in gathering supplies of goodies that his men didn’t get from home or couldn’t get from the PX.

Since then, thru the fund and on your own, you have shown Peter and the other soldiers that we support them unconditionally. We have sent over three tons of love in the form of snacks, videogames, toothbrushes, etc. We have sent so much love that the Chaplain for Peter’s unit has set up a store where the troops can come in and “shop” for free. There stands now in the Green Zone in Baghdad something called the “Burks Country Store”. It opened on Christmas Eve. Hundreds of soldiers have been the beneficiaries of your love and support, and the store will continue to be restocked and expanded as we continue to be able to support it.

Peter joined the Army of his own choice. Peter had felt a calling to serve his country via the military since he was a very young man. Peter had choices amongst the branches of the military, and he chose the Army.

Peter was a student of world history. He understood the current global conflict because he understood its roots from ancient times.

In America today, we have a professional military. In other words, the men and women that serve do so of their own choosing. Their reasons vary: love of country, money for college, a taste for violence, the camaraderie, avoiding the lifeless soul of corporate work or a thousand other reasons. Peter was a professional soldier. He knew going in that one of the truisms was that, “the country will send you where it needs you and you die if necessary”. Peter understood that. He told us that. He wrote us that. Do not feel sorry for Peter Burks. He died doing what he believed in and doing a job that he loved.

And, he is not alone. As of this writing, over 4000 American soldiers have died in Iraq.

Also, do not feel sorry for Peter because he lived a life fulfilled. At 26, he accomplished what he wanted. He loved unconditionally and was loved unconditionally. He met his life mate. He fought for what he believed in. He had fun. He had convictions, he lived them, and he is at peace knowing that he never compromised.

Not surprisingly, Peter died with no debt. Specifically, no financial debt. So far as I can tell, Peter owed no other debts either. He had told the people he loved that he loved them. He told the people he disagreed with that he disagreed with them. He lived his passions. He wasn’t looking over his shoulder when death came to meet him.

Peter’s life was one of selflessness. He lived for others. He died for others. His role model was Jesus of Nazareth. Whether or not you believe that Jesus was the Christ, the life history of Jesus is not disputed. Peter, as Jesus, was a net giver. He gave much more than he took.

Peter was a young man raised on Southern cooking, Christian principles and the love of a good fair fight. Like football. He was not the least bit concerned that the possibility of winning or losing might hurt someone’s feelings. He believed in the concept of “iron sharpening iron”. Competing with and against the best could only make one better.

Upon graduation from Officer Candidate School, Peter was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant and went on to Field Artillery School and Ranger School. He was then assigned to the 2nd Cavalry Regiment. Once, the Cavalry rode horses. Today, the Cavalry rides Strykers. One of the Army’s newest vehicles, it is both an armed personnel carrier and a lethal strike weapon equipped with a number of powerful guns.

Peter was sent first to Taji and then to Baghdad and was the leader of Thunder Platoon, Palehorse Troop, 4th Squadron, 2nd Stryker Brigade. He was put in charge of 17 soldiers including veteran Sergeants and fresh graduates of basic training, 3 Stryker vehicles, and two Iraqi interpreters. Peter told us time and again that his job was to deal with the enemy, complete his missions, but above all, get his men home safe.

Their mission was to patrol and keep safe a sector of Baghdad that had been previously cleared out of insurgents by other Stryker units. They believed their sector to be one of the safest in Baghdad.

On November 14, Peter was leading his platoon back to their base in the Green Zone in Baghdad after a night out on patrol. The three Strykers were within a few yards of entering the gate to the Green Zone. They were literally getting ready to turn into their driveway. They were directly in front of the Iraqi police station there that is intended to ensure safety for military, local Iraqis, and the media in the area.

At about 8am, an EFMP (explosively formed penetrator) was detonated just to the right of Peter’s vehicle. The EFMP was a cluster of 5 bombs hidden in a light pole. The bombs sent white hot liquefied copper into and around the Stryker. Peter was standing in the right rear hatch with his shoulders outside the vehicle looking out for his platoon. There were five soldiers in Peter’s vehicle. Almost all were knocked unconscious by the power of the explosion. The shrapnel hit three soldiers. One was blinded in at least one eye. One has hit in the leg. And Peter took a chunk of the shrapnel into the right side of his head which penetrated his brain, and caused his death.

We know that the soldier blinded is doing ok and is back in the U.S. getting treatment at Walter Reed. The soldier with the leg injury is in Germany. The rest of the soldiers were back on patrol within a few days.

The EFMP was made in Iran. This was no coffee can of nuts and bolts. This was a sophisticated device that the enemy has learned to make that now trumps our technology. The Stryker was built to be impenetrable. It isn’t.

Who placed the EFMP? Well, certainly the police in that station were involved. We will probably never know for sure, but the only group to claim responsibility is JAMI. You can look them up on the internet. They are an Islamic group vowed to kill any occupiers of Iraq by non-Muslims. They are not directly owned by al Qaeda, but they are inspired by al Qaeda. They are Iraqi nationalists that are bound to fight to the death to protect Iraq, the second most holy country in all of Islam, from foreign occupation. There have also been fingers pointed at Shiite militias. We will probably never know and never understand the exact motive.

Peter understood the madness that exists in Iraq and the Middle East. He had read the script provided by the book that he encouraged us all to read, “Imperial Hubris” by Michael Scheuer. He considered Mr. Scheuer and Col. Ralph Peters as heroes because they dared to speak the truth about the world war that “radical Islam” has ordered against the United States and what we must do to survive and win this war.

Peter died a soldier’s death. He was on his mission as directed by his commanders and was doing his best to protect his men.

So, what? What do we all learn from this? What should we do?

I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but here are some thoughts on “what”:

-That we are at war. That there are soldiers that have volunteered to fight the fight. Real men and women with families fighting a strange war in a scary place. Show them you appreciate them in any way you can.

-That the war in Iraq is being mismanaged as it has been since its outset. We went to war over WMDs. Then we were about regime change. Then we were into spreading democracy. Now it is a fight with al Qaeda.

-That our government, our military leaders, and our soldiers on the ground cannot say clearly what the mission in Iraq is.

-That our enemy does not respect the Geneva Convention or any other convention of war. They fight to achieve their objectives, just as the Japanese did in the South Pacific in World War II. They observe no rules. They wear no uniforms. Our military is required to fight as if they did. How does one separate a jihadist from the other populace?

One of the issues that Peter was concerned about are our Rules of Engagement. That is a fancy way of saying how our military must fight. For example, if our military sees an enemy sniper shooting at U.S. soldiers, we can shoot him if he is behind his gun with his finger on the trigger. But, if the sniper gets up and starts running, we cannot shoot him. We have to try to arrest him. Make sense to you?

We are playing into our enemy’s hands. They know our rules, and they take advantage. They kill our soldiers with barbaric ferocity. Yet, our soldiers are restricted in their response. The enemy knows of our political correctness, and takes advantage of it. They know our freedom of speech and freedom of religion, and they are taking advantage of those. They know how to use the internet and the media to spread terror. They show beheadings on their websites. Our media doesn’t show us the burned U.S. soldiers’ bodies hanging from a bridge over the Tigris for concern it will upset us. WE SHOULD BE UPSET. AND WE WOULD BE IF WE SAW WHAT WAS REALLY HAPPENING.

They can behead our soldiers. They can behead an entire group that does not agree with them.

Yet, if one of our soldiers in the heat of battle puts a bullet in the head of an enemy soldier, he can be called out for a criminal act.

We are in a world war called by radical Islam, as directed by Osama bin Laden. We didn’t declare it. Islam, under the call of Osama bin Laden, declared it. If you will read books such as “Imperial Hubris” and “The Looming Tower”, you will understand why bin Laden has declared war on us. Radical Islam has also attacked on every continent with the exception of Antarctica. Apparently the penguins haven’t offended them. Yet.

As Americans, we need to come to grips with this.

Peter disagreed with our strategies in dealing with the Global War on Terror, but he signed up and went nevertheless.

This letter is a call to you to get informed and get involved. Support our troops. Support our politicians, but challenge their policies and strategies. Why do we have such a presence in Iraq if we believe that the real issue is in Afghanistan? Could it be that Iraq has lots of oil and Afghanistan has none?

Those who have studied this conflict with Islam predict that it is going to eventually be fought on U.S. soil unless we change our strategies.

Peter is dead. If he were alive, he would be saying this. Take the battle to the enemy. Kill them. Punish them until they give. Let us as Americans be so smart and brave as to be totally independent of foreign soil for anything. Including, but specifically, oil.

Peter wanted to live the American dream. He wanted to marry his love, Melissa “Missy” Haddad. He wanted a house with a white picket fence, kids and dogs running around the yard.

Well, as much as he deserved it, he didn’t get to live out his dream.

Was it his fault? Was it the fault of a poorly executed mission? Was it the fault of a poorly thought out American strategy? Was it the result of our laziness and dependence on cheap oil?

What we know is that Peter was killed by shrapnel from an Iranian made explosive device detonated by Iraqi police outside the Green Zone in Baghdad.

How and why did he and that bomb get into that place at the same time? That is a question we must ask on behalf of our soldiers and for America in this world conflict. Was it worth it? What did this gain us as a country? Are we safer because of this sacrifice?

Friends, we are at a precipice.

We are at war because radical Islam under the banner of Osama bin Laden has declared it.

Until the United States has a strategy and the willpower to deal with this as a military conflict rather than a police action, we will continue to lose soldiers while the enemy gains strength.

In our attempt to continue Peter’s legacy, we urge you to get educated on the issues that have created this conflict. We encourage you to continue to support the troops in any way you can. We stress that this is not the military’s issue alone, it is your issue as well.

We urge you to get educated, get involved, and take a stand.

For all that you have done and continue to do for Peter and for us, thank you. Your prayers bring peace. Your thoughts bring strength. Your voices bring comfort.

God is with us. Peter is with us. Love is with us.

“No matter the circumstance, we must remember that we are under the control of a good God who loves us very much.”

-email from Pete to Missy in November, 2007

With love and gratitude,

The Burks Family

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

When the air is on fire

Herman Cain.

Penn State University.

Bank of America.

When the leering press descend on you, it is like the air is on fire.

From the breath of life to an all consuming inferno. Danger in every direction. No way out. Feeding on itself with no clear source of fuel except human speculation.

Doesn't matter if you are in the right or in the wrong. The media smells a hot story, and they will do most anything for a scoop.

I've experienced it twice.

It happened when Pete was killed. It's amazing how fast folks with microphones, cameras and deadlines can find your front door.

The other time was a business situation.

In 1996, I was the Chief Marketing Officer at Haggar Clothing Co.

We introduced a new khaki in September of that year. It really was a great pant. The kind of clothing item you just fall in love with because it is soft, fits great, looks great. It was even wrinkle-free.

Haggar was #2 to Dockers in the khaki world. As a strategy, we took every opportunity to let them and the rest of the world know we had better mousetraps.

So, we named it The Ultimate Khaki.

And to prove it was The Ultimate Khaki, we asked our advertising agency to convince America that men really would love this pant.

Goodby, Silverstein & Partners were, and might still be, the best agency going. They invented cultural icons like, Got Milk? Louie the wisecracking chameleon for Budweiser. And more recently, Chevy Runs Deep.

Our agency created one of the best televisions spots ever. It was funny. It was surprising. It sold pants. Too bad it only got to run twice.

The commercial opened with a father rushing his family out of their burning home.

As you see them running thru the flames, the camera would cut to their pet parakeet. Sweet little bird, chirping away, looking a bit anxious on the perch in his cage.

Once the family is safe outside, the father has an "OH NO" moment.

He rushes back into the blazing house. In his pajamas, he runs like a gazelle. More quick cuts of the bird. The man jumps over burning timbers. He is on a desperate rescue mission.

We see him searching frantically thru the flames and the smoke and the panic.

And then . . .

He finds his Ultimate Khaki. Safe and sound.

We all thought it was fabulous. Our retailers thought it was fabulous. The consumers we tested it with thought it was fabulous.

We put it on network TV in the Major League Baseball playoffs. You remember, that year when Jeffrey Maier became a household name when as a 12 year old kid he deflected a ball into the right field stands at Yankee Stadium out of the glove of Tony Tarasco of the Baltimore Orioles?

We aired it that first night of the playoffs. Twice.

And response from the market the next morning was terrific.

But on that morning after, a note appeared in a newspaper in a small town in Wisconsin.

It seems that our commercial had caught the attention of the chief of the local fire department. He was very upset that a commercial would depict what fire departments preach against. That being, returning to a burning house to retrieve anything.

And he was especially torqued off because that very week was National Fire Safety Week.

And so, the reporter for that small paper with a circulation of less than 2,000 called me. He wanted to know if we were going to listen to the concerns of his local fire chief and stop running the commercial.

I told the reporter that we could understand the chief's concern, but this was clearly just a silly commercial. It was a harmless joke.

The reporter shared my thoughts with the chief. And the chief's response was to say that we should do the honorable thing and stop airing the commercial.

And the reporter wrote what the chief said. And then the Associated Press picked up the story. And they called wanting to know what we were going to do.

The story had become small town fire chief vs. $500 million company.

Haggar was a great corporate citizen of Dallas. We knew the fire chief. I called and asked to meet with him.

I showed him the commercial. He laughed. Alot. And then he looked at me and said, "Alan, I get it. It's a joke. But if you don't take it off the air, the fire community will tear you apart in the media. You can put words on the screen to say, 'Dramatization'. You can put words on the screen that say, 'This is a joke. Don't ever do this in real life.' Alan, it won't matter. They'll win and you'll lose. "

By the time I could drive the 10 minutes back to the office, reporters were calling from around the country. ABC News. The New York Times.

"What is your response to the fire chief in Wisconsin?"

Calls to our PR guy in New York. Calls to the agency in San Francisco. Talks with other members of management.

The commerical was scheduled to air again that night. Less than three hours away.

We had spent over a half million dollars to produce the spot. Heck, the fire chief of El Segundo, California was at the shoot to supervise safety, and he didn't object!

The Wall Street Journal calls. The CBS Evening News calls and wants a statement for their broadcast this evening.

We had lots of options.

And what to do can still be debated.

We pulled the commercial. And we sent out a press release saying so.

We decided to listen to the fire chief of a small town in Wisconsin. Because we believed if we didn't, we would be barbecued in the press.

We were stewards of a great company and a great brand. The long term interest of Haggar was more important than short term sales and profits.

There were more than a few who disagreed. And maybe they were right.

I do know our answer satisfied the press, and we became a non-story as fast as we became the center of their universe.

I still have the plaque presented to us by the Dallas Fire Department for making a decision on behalf of public safety.