What's so scary? -- 10/23/01

A few observations... not quite random... one thought leads to another which leads to yet another...and then I have a journal entry...

In the aftermath of 9.11, in the first week or two, as we waited for a possible follow-up attack, as President Bush announced a war on terrorism (and, yes, I did admire his speech before that joint session of Congress, although I also believe he should have called for an actual declaration of war), I was annoyed by the off-key whining from various talking heads and commentators and people who habitually feel others' pain. Yes, many of them are the same nattering nitwits who brought us the kind of "zero tolerance" nonsense that suspends children from school for drawing a picture of a gun or equates the possession of an aspirin tablet as the equivalent of a kilo of crack cocaine (no, actually, as being worse, because they demand that we feel sympathy and compassion for actual drug dealers). However, I attempted to ignore their wails of despair because I could look around me at real people and I saw resolute determination to face this crisis together. I knew of the everyday courage of the people of England during World War II, when night after night brought bombing raids over London... people would work, shop, visit, go to theatres and pubs... when the sirens wailed they took shelter, many spending hours in Underground stations, even sleeping there, and then returning to carry on, day after day.

There have been no more hijacked airplanes, no truck bombs, no Stinger missiles. There have been these outbreaks of anthrax, perhaps being spread by another cell in this conspiracy of desert cockroaches, perhaps spread by some bit of domestic scum. I suppose I should drive to work with my radio off, perhaps listen to audio tapes during my commute and skip straight to the comics in the daily newspaper, ignoring the news sections, avoid CNN and stick with HBO and HGTV.

Why are these sob sisters (of every age and gender) polluting the airwaves with their cowardly snivelling. Oh, no, they are never speaking of themselves, no, they are concerned experts who worry about all of the rest of us, who project their terror onto us and so we hear endless nonsense about how terrifying and horrifying and scary and dangerous everything is. Airplanes are frightening things. Travel is frightening. Mail is dangerous. Give me a break!

There are people who whine about the dangers posed by terrorists -- and then they light a cigarette or eat a BigMac (supersize it please) or drive off in their car without fastening their seatbelts -- and then these experts use these losers as examples and tell us how scary the world has become. Nonsense! Hey, remember, not that many years ago... the USSR with hundreds of ICBMs and bombers loaded with thousands of nuclear warheads... targeted on you and me. Doesn't anyone remember that? Now that was scary!

I do have worries when I fly -- I worry that the airline executives, in an attempt to boost their million dollar bonuses have cut the maintenance budget to the point where something is going to break while I'm on the plane -- I worry about being on the taxiways and runways prior to takeoff and after landing because of the dangers of two planes colliding on the runway because the airtraffic controllers do not really know if planes really are where they have been told to be (the technology exists to fix this, but the FAA is running a couple of technology generations behind what you probably have on your desk in front of you reading this) -- I worry about being trapped in a plane on a taxiway for hours waiting to takeoff or, after landing, waiting to connect to a jetway -- I worry that late arrivals will make me miss a connection, etc. I do not worry that my plane will be hijacked and flown into a building -- out of all of the millions and millions of commercial flights that have ever flown, only four flights were hijacked for that purpose, all in a coordinated effort, and now that it has happened, it is being watched for and is extremely unlikely to happen again. (It is more likely that some terrorist will try to take out an airliner with a Stinger missile... but that is less of a threat than being struck by lightening.) The most dangerous part of any air travel is the automobile trip to and from the airport. (PIT -- Pittsburgh International Airport -- is quite aways outside of town and I made the journey in a shuttle bus, traveling at highway speeds without seatbelts -- now that is scary!)

I am not worried about anthrax. I have no urge to sniff my mail. (If I were to worry about such things, I'd worry more about something like smallpox, etc.) I am more concerned about getting my annual flu shot in a timely fashion than I am about stockpiling a stash of antibiotics. Yeah, anthrax can be fatal... so can any number of poisons... how many people are running around fearful of cyanide poisoning? There are a lot of potential fatal substances around, some of them much more toxic than powdered anthrax spores... but does anyone (other than a few paranoids) truly worry that they may find themselves victims in a real life run of Arsenic and Old Lace?

Of course we did have the brave example last week of the House of Representatives fleeing Washington to hide under the bed back in their home districts. (Oh, yeah, of course, they only did that out of concern for the safety and wellbeing of their staffs. Uh-huh.)

And now the latest scary song to eminate from the choir of cowards is about cancelling Halloween (oh, right, it's for the sake of the children, yeah, it's always for the children). Hey, over there in England... do you guys have any plans for cancelling Guy Fawkes day? Have you ever considered cancelling that celebration? I mean, for the sake of the children, of course.... Yeah, that's what I thought. Well, I've bought tons of candy. Yes, hyperbole... not tons, but I do have around two hundred candybars... and I anticipate that goblins and creatures of various sizes will stop by and collect most of that pile... hope there'll be a candybar or two leftover for me. I've got a big spider web to stretch across the front porch. I'll have to hunt in the basement for a string of miniature pumpkin lights I bought a few years ago. When I got back from Pittsburgh Friday night I found a couple of large pumpkins had already made an appearance. My daughter has been busy with a sewing machine, making her costume. Nancy and I have been invited to a costume party on Saturday night and we still haven't figured out what to wear.


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