Rob's Soapbox Archives

March 1st, 2010


The behavior of the American people and their government vis-à-vis Toyota has been unsurprising yet nonetheless sickening. It continues a long pattern of American demonization, overreaction and cowardice as it relates to all things from toys filled with lead to the swine flu; we are a scared, angry, ignorant people desperately in need of a boogeyman to blame for our problems and distract from our culpability.

I have owned a Toyota almost continuously since 1989 when I bought my very first; a brand new Toyota 4x4 pickup truck, later to be renamed the “Tacoma.” In the last 20 years I have bought or leased more than ten Toyota vehicles including the Corolla my mother drives today and the Tundra I am about to trade in for…a brand new Tundra. Yes, that’s me; living life on the edge. I am willing to risk it all to get behind the wheel of one of these death traps known as a Toyota. Guess what? I am such a rebel that I haven’t even taken in my current Tundra to have its’ recall part fixed. Oh the humanity! I am certain that I will be racing into a brick wall at speeds eclipsing 100 MPH any moment now…someone save me from myself!

The spectacle of stupidity and fear surrounding Toyota’s admittedly serious mistakes has been just the latest example of our silly society to behold. The idea that we’re all calling for executives’ heads, making repair shop appointments, and in some cases refusing to drive our “unsafe” vehicles is a lesson in human, nay, American  hysteria at its finest. It doesn’t pass the laugh test; we are kvetching over the alleged safety problems of  .00001% of all vehicles on the road and .001% of all Toyotas on the road. To wit, I remind you that driving a totally safe, malfunction free car is the single most likely way any of us will die today; yet we’re worried about and holding congressional hearings on the one in 1,000,000 of us who might fall prey to a sticky accelerator or less than effective brake pedal. Very good, America, yet again you have your eye on the ball.

As with all manufactured dilemmas, the anti-Toyota crowd has done a masterful job of rolling out tearful family members of dead relatives whose family died in a Toyota; in most cases it can’t be proven that the death was caused by a malfunction of the car but why would we let such a thing as fact-checking get in the way of a great story? The mournful relatives cry and blubber as they recount their horror filled tales and the knee jerk reaction of an emotional American public is to call for the head of a Japanese man on a stick; never mind that more than 37,000 Americans died in car accidents not related to sticky gas pedals in 2007; that’s more than 100 per day. Where were all of those crying relatives to report on their trauma and demand the shutting down of our interstates? If we are truly concerned about saving human lives we should immediately enact legislation outlawing driving at all. But we are, of course, not interested in life saving, we are interested in demonizing. Our culture today lives for one thing; making each other afraid of things and telling you who to blame for the fear.

Two years ago we overreacted in droves to lead in children’s toys. Not one child died or even became violently ill, but we were scared and knew who to blame; those damn Chinese toy makers. So under the guise of “better safe than sorry,” we held hearings, tightened regulations and passed laws. Today, kids are safe (which they already were) and toys have risen in price as a direct result of those laws and regulations by almost 30%. Bravo.

Just last year, we ran around as though the second coming of the black plaque was inevitable as a result of something called “swine flu,” a virus that has nothing to do with pigs or pork. As a result of our idiotic hysteria, we spent billions of dollars on a worthless, unnecessary vaccine that turned out to be very dangerous and we decimated the pork industry to ward off a virus that never had any potential of doing harm to a great number of people. Bravo. Encore.

We will now spend the remainder of 2010 lynching Toyota for legitimate mistakes they made that have affected a minuscule number of people. We may, in the end, very well destroy the single greatest auto manufacturing company in the world’s history over what is essentially a blip on their otherwise immaculate record. No doubt we will increase automobile costs across the board for not just Toyota but all manufacturers as a result of some sort of over-reactionary regulation and legislation.

It is not lost on me, nor should it be on you, that your federal government owns most of Toyota’s primary competition, General Motors (a company; I remind you, as a man who owns two GM cars, has been long riddled with questionable quality control) making all of this an embarrassingly corrupt conflict of interest. Like usual, though, facts and logic are unimportant to a scared, cowardly populace.

So we will continue to shake our fists in the air and demand that Toyota pay a price for putting us all at risk, which they never truly did in the first place. We will refuse to acknowledge the far greater risk we take every day when we get behind the wheel of the number one greatest human killing machine on the planet, the automobile. And this will all occur in a country that voluntarily, knowingly and willingly injects itself with botulinum poisoning to stave off the physical effects of aging and takes pills to cause erections despite the possible common side effect of bloody diarrhea and the small possibility of sudden death. It all makes total sense to me.