• The Orange Alert Follies

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    hilarious inanity of our present delightfully wacky regime (I realize
    it is also in some ways not so funny, as in Iraq) was highlighted
    in the last couple of days by the terrorist alert business.

    local daily ran the Orange Alert declared by Gauleiter Ridge as
    a six-column head on top of page one on Monday. During the day I
    got an email heads-up from some news outfit saying that G. Ridge
    had advised us to leave the worrying to him (evidently he's bucking
    for ad writer for Greyhound) and not to let the Orange Alert faze
    any of us. We should not concern ourselves with spying and other
    preventive measures but leave all terrorism-rooting-out activities
    to the "proper authorities."

    on NPR in the evening (I listen to it when I'm driving around town
    doing errands) I heard President Bush – crème de la crème – urge
    us all to go about our ordinary business and not be concerned; government
    experts would be working all through Christmas and New Year's – I
    believe the reference was to "the holidays," whatever
    they are collectively speaking – to keep us safe.

    of what I am calling the delightfulness of this stuff is the sheer
    comedic charm of, as it were, vaudeville entertainers rushing on
    stage one after the other, more or less contradicting each other.
    But the greater part of the fun is contrasting the apparent intention
    of all this with the impression that must inevitably be left with
    the "simple citizen." I know about that impression because
    I am that simple citizen.

    the impression left with me is this. There is a terrible and real
    danger of a terrorist attack somewhere in this giant land, or perhaps
    in several places. Nothing new there. But now that we have this
    Alert is it fair to ask, What places? Don't know. So what to do.
    Nada. What is anybody going to do? Nada. Change travel plans, if
    any, to Portland Oregon, Portland Maine, Sioux Falls South Dakota,
    Houston Texas, New York City? By no means, says the President. Go
    about your business as if nothing were up. All this is precisely
    where we were before the Alert went out.

    then why the Orange Alert? Think. So we've got Orange Alert, and
    I go to Portland, Oregon, and blooey, Madame Muhammadine or somebody
    blows up the city by some new and highly creative means. As I speed
    to the afterlife, will I have been better off in any eensy teensy
    tiny way for having known of Orange Alert? No.

    what was the point of the whole thing? Announcement: Be scared to
    death. Next Announcement: Don't mind us. Next announcement: For
    heaven's sake, go right ahead to Portland, Oregon, or wherever;
    that's your duty as a true-blue, red-blooded Amurrican. And of course
    I go to Portland and nothing happens, and Akron, Ohio, is leveled
    in a blast of some kind. All the people in Akron should have cleared
    out and gone to Portland, but how could they have known?

    Alert, Smorange Alert, it's still not chopped liver. It's what's
    called a divertimento in music. Something light for "the holidays."
    And it occupies headlines and air time that might otherwise be given
    over to something that made some sense, like trenchant criticism
    of what we are bringing to pass in Afghanistan, Iraq and an astonishing
    number of other exotic places around the globe.

    may in fact be a fine and wicked rationale behind this and other
    recurring demonstrations of wackiness, but at a certain point, despite
    one's love for conspiracy theories, the old brain totters, the neurons
    or whatever they are, tire, the synapses fail to synap to new messages,
    and one is up on the junk heap with last year's computer.

    that point the simple citizen (I've already told you I am he) settles
    for some of that good old vintage common sense that hasn't been
    much use since we left the farm: we see the truth at last and, just
    as old Jacob Boehme, I think it was, saw the whole world like a
    gooseberry in the palm of his hand, we see that these people don't
    have a clue, or if they do they sure aren't saying what it is. Maybe
    they are making it all up as they go along just to get headlines.

    what should we do? Ignore them as so many wizards behind the curtain,
    say our prayers, enjoy Christmas dinner, and hoist wassail.

    23, 2003

    White [send him mail]
    writes from Odessa, Texas.

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