At the very end of 2003, Tom Ridge, the Minister of Homeland Security raised the national alert level from yellow to orange.
“Should we stop watering the lawn?” she asked, “or not call the plumber when the toilet is leaking? Maybe, we should stay indoors, except when absolutely necessary – like going to the liposuction clinic. And don’t forget to keep our guns cocked and alarm system on full battery charge 24 hours a day.”
“And for goodness sake, don’t buy an almanac.”
“There’s an AP story in the December 30 LA Times that says the FBI sent a Christmas eve bulletin to 18,000 police organizations warning them to watch out for people carrying almanacs, because terrorists may use them ‘to assist with target selection and pre-operational planning.’”
It’s bad enough that I feel totally inadequate after each day’s message barrage from radio, TV, newspapers, magazines, internet pop ups, email spam and billboard signs, but now I feel apprehensive about going anywhere. What does that add up to? High orange alert on the day my daughter is due to fly in from New York.
What happened to brown? I ask myself. Does chocolate signify contentment? Is that why Ridge de-selected it from his otherwise perfect M&M choices? Indeed, arch right wing southern California Republican Congressman Christopher Cox supposedly compared the utility of Ridge’s color code system to that of a toboggan in Baghdad.
How does one handle all of this? The descriptions don’t give enough details.
Just before the end of the year, the “security” bosses forced the cancellation of several flights from Paris to Los Angeles and demanded armed guards on overseas flights.
A friend and former sailor asked one of the cost guard officials what he and his crew were looking for as they cruised between Santa Barbara and Oxnard on the California coast.
I found it hard to focus: The cacophony of jingle bells blaring from the speakers of mall stores, demands that I buy now – whatever it is — before prices go up and the ever present warnings of impending terrorist violence. So, I turned on the TV, the best way to enjoy distraction. I watched the well conditioned and steroid laden men break each other’s bones and tear ligaments, listened to the intricate analysis of the strategy behind these “real macho” games – by those who used to play and survived in more or less one piece.
Ironically, this was nine million less than had watched last February’s ABC special, Living With Michael Jackson. That program, of course, was aired before the family of Michael’s former child friend turned on him. Apparently, and this is a truly important rumor on which to focus, Michael has turned over the management of his assets and media appearances to the Nation of Islam. That alone, which was quickly denied and then reasserted, and endless shopping of course, should spur enough mindless conversation to help us distract ourselves from the omnipresent dread of: when will the next terrorist attack that Ridge assures us is inevitable occur?
Yes, I think. Have faith in Jesus and forget all your doubts and worries, all the unanswered questions. Stop thinking altogether and let mellow voiced AM radio preacher John MacArthur program your mind and your behavior. Just try his “how-to plan to help relieve anxiety and depression and guide you to a more trusting God honoring life. Find deep seated satisfaction, no matter what you’re facing.”
“There’s something better than Moses, better than Freud, better than Prozac. That’s Jesus.”
Don’t laugh. Faith has delivered President Bush from his alcoholism, or at least that’s what he claims. People who had violent pasts, like the late Eldridge Cleaver, found faith in Jesus. Indeed, Nixon trickster Chuck Colson even started a born-again group of A-types when he got out of prison after serving time for his hanky panky against the Democrats while serving in the White House.
In the dream, the President addressed skeptical members of his campaign staff: “I’m a forgiving man. Saddam has confessed his sins – and they were truly terrible. But now he has earned God’s forgiveness. I turned to Jesus and I was forgiven. We must now allow this sinner – even if he is an A-rab — to receive God’s blessings.”
The dream moved toward total nightmare. To provide non-financial help for his re-election – God’s wish – Bush formalized the Department of Faith Base Homeland Anxiety led by Minister Pat Robertson Jr. He hired Saddam Hussein as a “consultant” to appear on TV to tell Americans of what horrors they will face if “a weak Man (any Democrat) wins the presidency.”
“Wake up,” my wife screamed. “You’re having a bad dream.”
Landau’s new book is THE PRE-EMPTIVE EMPIRE: A GUIDE TO BUSH’S KINGDOM. His new film is SYRIA: BETWEEN IRAQ AND A HARD PLACE. He teaches at Cal Poly Pomona University and is a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies.