Any moment now we'll see what could be the final pitch of this game. There's the wind up and STRIKE! The players are walking to their limousines and the fans are turning their backs on them and the owners too.
Well, it could have been that way, but then they had to go and settle things on us.
One thing's for sure, the prospect of a major league walkout got Dubya's full attention. He was on his ranch supposedly vacationing from all the world's problems, but he wasted no time voicing an opinion when the players set a strike date. It was only like an hour after their announcement that CNN reported him saying that these guys MUST return to the negotiating table. Such stern leadership! You'd think he was giving an ultimatum to Sharon and Arafat! With emotional involvement like that it sounds like he used to be a baseball team owner or something.
That was the perfect job for him--working in an industry with monopoly status guaranteed by Congress and plagued by shady bookkeeping. Oh yeah, probably enough to make Arthur Anderson blanche! What is it when two thirds of the teams claim they are losing money and yet rich tycoons will still plunk down hundreds of millions of dollars for a franchise whenever one's for sale? They don't do things like that unless there is something VALUABLE there. Sure I believe they're losing money! *Wink-Wink* Don't you? *Nudge-nudge* Talk about irony! On the eve of Labor Day some of the most obscenely overpaid people in the country were threatening a walkout for more. But no, they finally compromised in the name of saving the game. Oh well. It would have been as easy as an intentional walk, er, walkout to write a column on that! What am I going to do now? You have to laugh, we are so back to normal. It almost makes you forget what happened a year ago this month.
The Ghosts of 911 are returning to haunt us. We're going to be picking at the scab of a nasty wound all September; we'll see the two World Trade Center Towers fall again and again, have tearful interviews with survivors, fulminate against Osama Bin Laden and wonder where he's gotten to--what fun! I guess the only thing worse than a disaster is the need to revisit it, dissect it and make Byzantine security regulations designed to prevent it from happening ever again.
These security apparatuses never seem to work as intended, especially the longer they are in place. They say that if you put a frog in a pot of boiling water and slowly, slowly bring it to a boil, the frog will not jump out when the water gets too hot. He will allow himself to be boiled to death. The National Security Act of 1947 which created the CIA and the NSA seemed like a good idea too, back when we were worried about Stalin's Iron Curtain, but all those black-budget billions we give our spook bureaus didn't save us from attack last year, did they? Hell, some of that black money TRAINED Osama and others like him twenty years ago. Likewise our new security measures--creating an office of Homeland Security with broad powers that cuts away at our civil liberties--may seem like a good idea now, but their unintended consequences will be with us long after Al Qaeda has ceased to be. They will be busy checking up on us without cause, doing favors for their political buddies and I will bet money we'll still have terrorist attacks whenever the next Wahabbi-prophet-wannabe decides to rear his ugly head. Are we going to feel it when the water gets too hot?
Meanwhile Resident Bush is still basking in the glow of his masterful handling of last year's tragedy. Yeah right, real masterful. What did he do exactly that any other President wouldn't have done? Even Warren G. Harding, the weakest President of the last 100 years could have done as well. Actually the most masterful part of what he did is the way he clamped down on the media. We still don't know how many houses we destroyed or even how much damage we really did to Al Qaeda. Ordering bombers around is easy, but like the security agencies, beware the unintended consequences. Dubya probably killed more innocents in Afghanistan than Osama did in New York.
And for dessert Bush wants to return to the Iraqi desert. He's trying to keep the War Against Terror alive by going after Saddam Hussein now. All by himself. Well, not exactly himself of course, I can't picture Dubya marching anywhere with an M-16, but certainly he's without any allies like his dad had. And no provocation either. Hey George, we're the good guys; we don't attack without a damn good reason! It sounds strange but you have to let Saddam throw the first punch. You can't take out the head of a sovereign nation, even one as despicable as Saddam Hussein, just because you think it's a neat idea to polish your dad's Gulf War trophies. People will die and a lot of them will be ours, plus it might finally galvanize Islamic radicals in a way Osama never could. It ain't worth it. Nobody's buying your "Axis of Evil" rhetoric.
"The Axis" of course was the term used for Hitler and his buddies; the Resident's speechwriters obviously chose that word just to conjure up thoughts of the righteous crusade of 60 years ago, but the actual members of that list--North Korea, Iraq, Iran--are like spitball bullies in a schoolyard compared to the original Axis. Earlier this year Bush included Cuba on the Axis list because, as Colin Powell later explained, they have the "potential" for biological weapons. Well so does Sri Freaking Lanka! In fact Sri Lanka has more terrorist bombings than any other country in the world. Moreover why isn't the country with one of the biggest bio-weapon stockpiles on the list? You know, the one that had some aerosolized anthrax get smuggled out and kill a few people last year? Oh, THAT'S US! Big revelation.
Oops, I've just committed a terrible sin, I've blamed America. Since 911 when people have raised valid criticisms of how the US conducts itself in the world, too often they've been shouted down as unpatriotic. Some like Bill Maher, have had their soapboxes removed already. Everyone must wave their flags furiously, or else! Well, I agree we critics are putting some blame on America, but 911 Responsibility Avenue isn't exactly a one-way street. Nobody's talking about forgiving Osama and his fanatics for attacking innocents, but you have to see what America looks like from the rest of the world, especially from the Third World. We are a huge glutton, bent on eating up as much as we possibly can. Maybe the gluttony needs to be scaled back just a bit, hmm? And what about the company we keep as a nation? We're friends with all kinds of rogues, like the country that commonly fires helicopter missiles into residential areas to fight a civil war. That's right, Israel. And as long as we're still down traveling Responsibility Avenue we might as point out that Palestine maintains an address here also, for folks who insist on blowing up their own chances for peace along with Israeli civilians. Maybe it wouldn't reduce the size of our cowboy boots to finally sign international treaties banning land mines and ... Don't get me started on how many common sense agreements we haven't had the guts to even symbolically sign, let alone enforce.
A friend sent me an email purporting to be the words of a retired Marine sergeant who claimed that "too many Americans naively reject the reality that some nations are dedicated to the dominance of others." So Al Qaeda is big enough to be a nation now? That was my first thought, a minor gripe to be sure, but he uses the word "dominance" like these guys were old style conquerors, fascists from a particular nation like in World War II. Wrong! These guys want a holy war to cleanse the world of Western decadence; that's a lot different. I think that's really what he meant, though, and I agree, we're facing a serious kind of threat. But can these guys ever really bring down the whole system, even if they blow up an atomic bomb? In a very cold analysis, even if they did that I still don't think they'll ever succeed in their goal. They will never win the masses over to their side. America's rich life is too seductive. Too many people want to ENTER our earthly paradise and enjoy themselves. The Marine went on to trash various targets--the "liberal media" for various sins in the way they reported 911, antiwar protesters daring to make their views known during the Afghan Campaign and others. He even spoke out against anyone who dares to try to understand what motivated our attackers and strangely, anyone at the airport who asks "have your bags always been under your control?" Wow, this poor guy will never feel secure again! Actually, he sounds like the kind of guy who was never very secure in the first place and keeps a loaded 45 close by his pillow.
We humans always have feelings of insecurity. We are always trying to round off the sharp edges of life, trying to make life safe for ourselves. It shows in the way we buy extended warranties on toasters all the way up to earthquake insurance. On a national scale we fund national defense all because we are pathologically preoccupied with protecting ourselves from attack. Heck, call it what it is -- FEAR. Can we ever achieve perfect security? No, but it sure is a big business TRYING to be that secure. Bush always wanted a stronger military; Osama gave him the perfect excuse to build it up. But he goes overboard, trying to shut the door for all possible routes of attack, like anti-missile defense and the Navy's new monstrously powerful sonar system. That's right, there are people in the military still asking for billions to defend us in a submarine war. When are we going to admit that we'll never be perfectly safe? It just can't be achieved so we might as well stop some of the more ridiculous programs. Nobody's saying go to sleep, just admit that some fanatics will always find a way to worm through the gaps in our defenses if they are dedicated enough.
We are actually safer day-to-day than we have ever been. For the last hundred years or so we have been remarkably effective at having a nice stable existence in this country. Life expectancy is at an all-time high. But the human condition always has one truth for everyone. Life will end at some point. We can't avoid that; eventually we will always lose the battle. We can only attempt to control the circumstances in which we pass away and our attitudes about it.
Why is it that a headline about thousands dying in a natural disaster or a bombing can be held at arm's length, but the death of single person, someone you knew well, can hit you so hard? Tonight I was listening to David Bowie's "Slip Away" and thinking about a friend who died suddenly just a couple weeks ago. She had a massive heart attack and she was only 55. She was a good friend to both me and my wife; in the old days she was a fellow DJ at the college radio station where we both honed our craft and music knowledge in a haze of bud fumes. Her death brought real pain. The deaths in New York last year still seem a far away abstraction, in spite of all the images I've seen and the stories I've read. I will try to understand but there's a strange algorithm at work that controls how much I can care. One close death hurts more than thousands far away.
In the Judeo-Christian tradition Death is feared. It's seen as a punishment, a condition brought about by the original sin of Adam and Eve. But actually that story's just a symbolic way of getting a handle on something more basic to all living things, that fact that we must struggle in life and will pass out of existence at some point. Death is always to be avoided, it's in the genes, because any species that doesn't have a drive for self preservation would die out pretty quickly. Correction: died out billions of years ago, even the most basic microbes have this trait. But now, when we can push our demise away for a few extra years, we seem so obsessed with safety that we spend all that extra time worrying and devising new strategies against the inevitable.
Do we really want to be that secure anyway? A completely secure world is boring! We secretly love having conflict, it gives us a reason for striving. Maybe that's what drove rich-boy Osama Bin Laden. The easy life had no purpose and now he thinks he's doing God's work; it makes him feel important to have something to do with all his free time. In a similar way, maybe that's Bush's sense of purpose too.
I long for a time when someone talking about the Two Towers would have only conjured up the next installment of The Lord Of The Rings. Who gained the most in all this? The women of Afghanistan. Their new-found freedom is the best by-product of our vengeful bombing campaign. Maybe it's the only good thing that happened. And by the way, it's not enough to bomb the stuffing out of the Taliban, we still have to rebuild Afghanistan. I know it's not glamorous and exciting, but it's important if you really want security. And if by some Persian-Gulf-Of-Tonkin subterfuge you take on Hussein, afterwards we'll have to settle down and do the hard work of rebuilding Iraq too which is an even bigger task. C'mon we did it for much larger countries, Japan and Germany after World War II, why are we shying away from bringing Afghanistan into the 21st Century? It will be far less likely for them to become fanatic airplane hijackers if we do. I don't think they'd ever start a submarine war either, so we'll save on that sonar system too.
At least Dubya's made sure we're free from a baseball strike. That reminds me, it's time to go back in to the Closet and find the tickets I bought for tonight's game. It's free car flag night! Our old flag's in tatters after going 55 MPH all year and I don't want to run afoul of any new Homeland Security regulations by not having a flag constantly waving. They might yank my soapbox. What a country, what a life! Thanks for reading and until next month the Closet is closed.
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