This is Al Qaeda day because it is on this day nine years ago that Al Qaeda, the terrorist organization that had been doing battle with the US for some 8 years or so, finally won the War against the West, resoundingly defeating George Bush by successfully completing the most terrorizing event to have been carried out ever. To this day, the United States is little more than a deer caught fearfully in the headlights of Osama bin Laden’s Cadillac SUV as he drives about the desert playing with his guns and religion.
Sadly, the defeat was not so much a success of bin Laden, as it was a collapse of the will, strength, mind, and courage of our leader, George Bush, and the American People generally. We were crushed not as much because we were smitten by a great weapon, but rather, because we were very crushable. Our inherent weakness was the strongest weapon against us.
I knew a guy who hijacked an airplane. He was mentally ill. He boarded an aircraft, told them he had a bomb, and that he wanted to go to Cuba. The FBI found his wife (with my help) and put them in touch with each other, and she talked him down. He was arrested, given medical attention, and let free. No one was injured, though I’m sure a several hour delay of the aircraft was annoying to the passengers and crew.
That hijacking occurred some six or seven years after a ten year spate during which one US based airline was hijacked almost every week. Think about that for a second. There was a time in the US when hijackings were more common than major western brush Fires, school shootings, mine collapses, huge multi-car accidents, train wrecks, and kidnappings of little blue eyed blond girls combined. About every week, eating your TV dinner in front of your TV in your TV room you would be informed by Walter Cronkite of the hijacking of an American based air liner. And you would go, “Oh, another hi-jacking, how terrible,” and move on.
If a US based air liner was hijacked tomorrow, everyone in America would have a heart attack. Everyone in America would clutch their chests with one hand, stagger around the the room while flaying about their other arm, eyes rolling back into their lolling heads, collapsing to their knees knocking over a chair or some other piece of furniture, chest heaving, ululating, and wailing “Oh my god, we have been struck again by the TERRORIZERS….. The MOSSLEMAN had attacked us again, SEND THE ARMY to the Desert!!!! This is the BIG ONE, Elizabeth!!!!”
But back in those days, we just kept munching our cube steak dinner, taking in the news, wish the passengers well and move on.
Granted, there is a huge difference between Cubans and/or Crazypeople forcing a New York to Miami flight to make an extra stop in Havana vs. flying four planes full of passengers into ground targets killing thousands. The latter is a much more powerful act, and a true act of terrorism. But that is not what I’m talking about here. What I’m talking about here is that Al Qaeda has brilliantly converted the pysche of an entire nation into wide-eyed paranoid fearful Fred G. Sanfords.
On this anniversary of 911, we see that things have not gotten much worse or much better over nearly ten years. I’ve written about the time I witnessed a group of rural Iowans so fearful of being in the city after 911 that they accused an older African American man in a wheelchair of being a terrorist because his effort to get through a too-narrow storefront door was somewhat disruptive (though he was utterly polite at every moment of the ordeal). That’s one kind of stupidity, the fearful stupidity of the masses. The other day, we were passing through airport security and my minor Daughter flashed her passport for the Homeland Security officer. The officer said “Wait, are you a minor, under 18?” and Julia said “Yes.” The officer said “Then you don’t have to show me your ID.” I interjected: “Wait, how do you know she’s telling you the truth? She could be a young looking 18 year old, then we’d all be in big trouble!” The Homeland Security officer grinned and said “I know, it’s stupid.” Indeed. That would be the stupidity of our government security response.
The other day, I was grilling hot dogs and witnessed a crime. We called the police, and they came. As part of their investigation, they asked me for my ID. There I am standing in my yard with a fork pierced through a hot dog that I’m grilling on the Weber, a table of cole slaw and relish and potato salad and plates and stuff next to me, and a police officer is asking me to produce identification. I said no, he backed off. This was the stupidity of the new Police State in which we live.
The other day we arrived at a time-share apartment complex with reservations in our name, but the reservations were made by my sister, who had not arrived yet. Amanda, Julia, Baby Huxley and I … again with the same last name as the reservations … and we were told we could not check in until my sister arrived, because she had made the reservations (This was a Westgate Inc facility, by the way. Avoid buying their time shares!) It isn’t even the case that my sister owned the time share …. it was simply a matter of the inability for their reservation system to call up the records without her credit card.
When I objected, I was told that this was a “security concern.” I asked them if they had reserved the crib for the baby (pointing to the baby). They said yes. Then, I asked them if they realized that this was one of those EXPLODING BABIES!!11!!” And as they stood there wondering what I was talking about, I told them that they were out of line telling us that we, paying customers, were terrorists just because their reservation system was fucked.
This was the stupidity of people allowing businesses to use “security” as an excuse for being bad at what they do.
My real thoughts in each of these instances remained hidden, of course, as they usually do. In the airport, my thoughts were, “I’m pretty sure middle eastern teenagers commonly don explosive tank tops on a regular basis, you moron. How do you know this blond blue-eyed girl is not going to EXPLODE!!!!.” Since members of my local police department may or may not read my blog, I’ll continue to keep my hot dog grilling thoughts to myself. At the time share, I thought about how the Westgate Resorts would be mentioned by me on my widely read blog (16 readers these days, if my count is correct) every time it occurred to me to annoy them. 4-ever.
So today, I’m sitting peacefully at the lake side, probably for the last time this year (the owners of the cabin have decided to shut down early this year, for some reason). And as I look across the lake, I can not see a single boat: No one is fishing, no one is skiing, no one is dragging their screaming children in a rubber box behind a speed boat. But I know there are terrorists out there. They may be in a submarine, or perhaps in the woods behind us. It is possible that they have a lookout dressed in a bald eagle suit perched on the Norway Pine overlooking the marsh. I don’t know how they are doing it or where they are exactly, but they are out there, waiting for their next move.
Well, probably not. But I do know this: If I proposed the possibility that there are terrorists in submarines, or hiding in the woods, to any of our local Minnesotans, some would say that was absurd, but a disturbing number would think it possible, and a small but not insignificant number would say “I know. I see their shadows in the day and hear their footsteps in the night.”