Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Generous Spirit of a Car Dealer

Normally we treat car dealers with suspicion. Aren't they the people who will resort to lying and exaggerating to extract the last dime from our wallet when we go shopping for a car? Most of us are no match for the fast-talking car salesman, which is why we dread running into one when buying a car becomes an imperative.

But now comes the news of a car dealer from New Jersey named Brad Benson who promised a new automobile to Florida Pastor Terry Jones if he would not burn a copy of the Quran. You may recall that Jones threatened to burn the Muslim holy book on the ninth-anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks in New York if the construction of the proposed Islamic Community Center near the World Trade Center was not scuttled.

Jones did not burn the Quran on 9/11 and we breathed a sigh of relief. It is true that winning a new car was not the reason why the pastor chose the more peaceful path. Facing criticism from President Obama, General David Petraeus, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and hundreds and thousands of ordinary Americans had undoubtedly something to do with it. But now that this story is out, we should salute Brad Benson, probably the only American in this spectacle who put his money ($14, 200 for a 2011 Huyndai Accent) where his mouth was.

Why did Benson make his offer? "I just didn't think that was (burning the Quran) a good thing for our country." There you have it, as simple and straightforward a reason on a volatile issue as you can get. The pastor is holding Benson to his word and has said that he will donate the car to an organization that helps abused Muslim women. Could anyone have predicted this magnificent turn of events?

Besides smashing stereotypes about car dealers, Benson has shown that the strength and generosity of America is to be found among its ordinary citizens, something we tend to forget in our celebrity-soaked culture. The former New York Giants offensive lineman turned car dealer is known for his radio ads that focus more on current events than on cars. This fact alone should tell us that money is not the only goal of every American businessman, that contrary to popular perception, many of them are driven by higher ideals, such as peace between peoples and nations.

If you find yourself in South Brunswick, New Jersey, stop by to say hello to Brad Benson. I know I will. Heck, if I have the money, I will also buy a car from him. A dream of mine when I came to America over three decades ago was to take a cross-country car trip. It's beginning to look like a distinct possibility now.

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