Friday, July 09, 2004

Terroristphobia

Charles Green, a freelance writer in Dallas, experienced Terroristphobia first-hand, when his flight from New Orleans landed at Dallas' Love Field.

"How are you?" asked the airport security person who popped up beside me on my way to baggage claim.

"Uh, fine — thanks," I replied, wondering, why are you asking?

As if she'd read my thoughts, she told me there had been complaints about me on the airplane. Then she asked to see the crossword puzzle I'd been working on during the flight. Huh? I thought. Talk about being puzzled! Still, my grin was smug as I handed it over. I'd just completed the Friday New York Times puzzle, for the first time ever.

But the agent ignored the crossword, turning the paper sideways to read a line I'd scribbled in the margin: "I know this is kind of a bomb."

She pointed to the sentence, her finger resting on the word "bomb." "What does this mean?" she demanded.

Suddenly a light went on in my head. I remembered the passenger on my left leaning forward in his seat as I scribbled while we waited for takeoff. Seconds later, he'd clambered hastily over me without apology to make his way to the front of the plane. I'd assumed intestinal complications, but now that I thought about it, he hadn't used the bathroom. He'd spoken briefly with the flight attendants and returned to his seat. As the security woman looked at me, I now realized the passenger had been about as interested in my puzzling prowess as she was.

"I know this is kind of a bomb" is what I imagine Bucky, my main character, would say to Julie, his love interest, in the critical scene of my novel. I explained to the security woman that this is what happens when a 42-year-old man who is to literature what a karaoke singer is to opera tries to put words in the mouth of a fictional 19-year-old.

I opened my laptop and showed her shining example after shining example of similarly awful dialogue. She understood that that word, b-o-m-b, was no reference to ordnance or terrorist weapons of any kind.

But my explanation wasn't good enough for the three Dallas police officers who meanwhile had surrounded me — summoned, I supposed, for backup in case the dangerous character tried to write something even worse.

One took my driver's license to run a fruitless background check (the closest I ever came to being in trouble with the law was accepting a beer at age 17 from the teen-age daughter of the Nantucket Island police chief). A particularly hostile cop asked me a strangely menacing question: "So, how many books have you gotten made?" I started my usual backpedaling answer to that query, honed to perfection in the Dallas bar scene, but he cut me off: "That's not what I asked." I told him I must have misunderstood. He responded, "You're a writer and you don't understand my words?"

Mr. Green was then escorted to the airport police station and questioned by TSA.
He wanted a summary of my novel's plot to get the context for why I'd written what I had.

I panicked. If five years of working on this narrative couldn't liberate me from software sales, how was a five-minute pitch going to keep me out of jail? I barely got three sentences out when the guy's lids started to droop. Convinced I was headed for the gulag, I prattled faster. Despite my stuttering, the inquisitor must have liked my story, because he let me off the hook. Or at least that's how he made sure I felt: that he was letting me skip ... this time.

This is what Bush has brought us to: Terroristphobia. Kevin at Lean Left sez it best:
We have allowed an admittedly terrible crime to send us spiraling down into a well of dark and unrelenting panic. The Bush Administration -- instead of acting to inject some needed perspective and calm -- has aided and abetted the fear's spread. Form useless threat levels, to the constant drumbeat about non-existent WMDs and operational ties between Iraq and al-Qaeda, to the legal fiction that some people are so dangerous that they should be now and forever denied a day in court, to the creation of memos asking just how much torture the government could get away with, to vague warnings about unsubstantiated intelligence indicating that somewhere, at sometime, use some method, a terrorist plans to kill you and your family, the Bush Administration has exacerbated, even catered, to the terroristphobia. There is a line between vigilance and panic. The Bush Administration has carried the nation over that line at a dead run without pausing to glance down as it crossed the line. And now we find ourselves a nation afraid, and more, so afraid that we have literally allowed the government to place innocent people on watch lists because, well, someone panicked and reported them to panicky government officials.

"We have nothing to fear but fear itself", a great man once said. That is as true today as it was then.

5 Comments:

At 8:31 PM, Blogger Drunken Proletariat said...

It was not so long ago that Bush boasted that he had "darn good intel" at a press conference. Now he's getting it from all sides- yet another investigation has very gently, in my opinion, rebuked the President's claims for the legitimacy of his war in Iraq. It was said that Intelligence assessments were "mis-characterized." Members of Congress were "misled" by the Intelligence Community. Can't Americans see who is being set up for the fall? Who is being groomed for exoneration? Are Americans actually gonna let that fucker get away with this?? Is this issue just going to dissipate, escaping the public's awareness and memory in time for the election??? It's drivin' me to drink! By the way, Tony Blair doesn't look too happy these days, but who can blame him? Like Ronald Reagan, he's played straight man to a chimp, and now has to face the Whole World looking like a total fuckhead. And knowing it.

 
At 10:37 AM, Blogger Capitola said...

Hi, DP--

Will Americans keep Bush in office another 4 years? Good God I hope not, but you're right, 1/2 our population are uninformed dumbasses and will vote party line no matter what havoc Bush creates.

I'm so pissed off right now I can hardly type -- you've seen in today's news that Bush & Co are attempting to have the election postponed! in case of a terrorist attack!!!!! Never in our country's history has a federal election been 'postponed' -- not even during the American Civil War!

I'm telling you, this is the scariest, sickest, most unbelievable powers our country has ever seen ... and we've had some doozies sitting on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Honestly, Bush and Co know no depths to depravity. Pray for us Americans, DP :-)

 
At 12:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's actually all over. The entire rotten pretense that this country stands for the little guy has been completely blown apart--yet again. Yet everyone is just going to keep supporting the same old two-party system, and fooling themselves into thinking they're accomplishing something.

You are going to have to admit that Bush & Co. stole the 2000 election with the open cooperation of the Democrats. Bush & Co. then got their military-industrial complex into Iraq with the support of the very same Democrats who sold us out the first time--including Senators Kerry and Edwards with their pathetic gutless "yes-on-war" votes.

Look at history. Samuel J. Tilden signed off on the election of 1876 being stolen from him. Richard M. Nixon signed off on the election of 1960 being stolen from him. Al Gore signed off on the election of 2000 being stolen from him. These were nothing more or less than political deals--something you want, for something I want. Quid pro quo. Gee, aren't you glad that Hayes pulled troops out of the south in 1877? One hundred and twenty-seven years later, who cares about southern blacks having to suffer for another hundred years, right? It should make anyone sick. And yeah, there were people who blamed the "spoiler" third parties in the 1870s, too.

If the elections this year are postponed it'll be the same thing--Kerry/Edwards will go on TV and mouth the corporate line, that it is the best thing for the country (!) for the elections to be postponed. Next thing you know, there's a big Heinz Ketchup plant going up in downtown Baghdad, guarded by Halliburton KuKlux truck drivers from Mississippi.

All of this shit is happening all around you, and yet somehow it's the Arab-American gentleman Ralph Nader who is the "problem"!

In-effen-credible!

--RCY

 
At 2:49 PM, Blogger Capitola said...

Hey RCY--

Kerry/Edwards and their "pathetic gutless 'yes-on-war' votes were precisely why I was a Deaniac before I morphed into an ABB voter. John John's war vote has been a jagged pill to swallow for all anti-war folks, but we've taken the medicine and will vote their ticket come November -- assuming a November election is held -- simply to ensure that Bush is removed from office.

I see that Cheney is playing the "they voted for the war, too" card today. Hard to defend, to be sure, but not indefensible. The buck stops at the WH. Period.

 
At 3:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even Howard Dean isn't a Deaniac anymore. He's looking forward to being Ambassador to Costa Rica the day somebody flies a jetliner into Congress. Too bad his wife won't go to the corner diner with him either. They've become more like the Klintons every day.

Welp. Not all of us have the opportunity to sell out our anti-war convictions for a cabinet seat or a palace in Central America. So I'd better go wash the rest of the dishes now with the one arm that wasn't tore off my body and wrapped around some blogger's head while I twarnt lookin.

--Arm Blowed Off, Baghmom, Eye-Wreck

 

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