When I think of terror I think of Hitchcock's Birds landing on the jungle gym behind what's-her-name, Tippi Hedren. Terrorism is supposed to invoke terror, right? As I remember it, it was Mao Tse Tung himself who once said, "Effective terror is targeted terror which uses fear to immobilize the enemy. Boy, that Hitchcock Bird movie was scary, wasn't it? Know what else? The bourgeoisie suck." Not that Mao Tse Tung was into that sort of thing. He was mostly into American jazz.
So, anyway, here I am, three weeks after September 11, looking back on it, assessing how scared I have been.
Immediately after the attack I began to avoid skyscrapers. My newest insight: "Skyscrapers bad." No more Sunday picnics at the top of the Washington Mutual Building enjoying the bright, idyllic, scenes of falcon chicks as they happily feast upon predigested squab. By contrast, the Space Needle suddenly looked safe to me for the first time since 1962. Now I welcome massive 7.0 earthquakes in old "human-scaled" four-story buildings.
I started freaking out at the sight of turbans, excuse my sixty-ism, because Osama bin Laden wears a turban according to the only photo anyone seems to have of him. (What's up with that? It's been three weeks and nobody can find his high school album?) Of course, as you know, this meant I couldn't ride cabs. If someone could please find a picture of bin Laden wearing a homburg, that would improve matters a bit. I still wouldn't take cabs though (no money.)
I began running from Stans. I knew Osama bin Laden himself wasn't a Stan, but he was friends with some Stan. I couldn't be too safe -- I had to stay away from all Stans. Fortunately Stanley isn't a very common name in the circles I travel, which consist primarily of communists, former elected officials, historians, streetwalkers, and circus performers, so that only meant being afraid of one guy.
I can no longer stand to have airplanes in the house, nor can I pet them. I used to love airplanes, but now I am afraid that the big ones will turn on me and bite me, and that the little ones will dump messes on my head.
I am now terrified of box-cutters and razor blades, especially in the hands of swarthy men. Strangely, I have at the same time lost all my fear of carving knives, hatchets, bayonets, pistols, grenades, assault rifles, tanks, cruise missiles, tactical nuclear weapons capable of fitting in a suitcase, and postal carriers.
Arabic writing, or anything that looks like arabic writing, like two smiley faces next to each other, one upside-down, or a small flock of worms escaping a hot sidewalk, makes me scream like a little girl.
When I watch the Flintstones, or even just think about the Flintstones, I shudder at the very name of Barney Rubble. CNN has the same effect. Dan Rather makes the blood drain from my face and my spine tingle. No change there.
Worse than being afraid of CNN, I can't watch disaster movies on the VCR anymore. No more Towering Inferno, Titanic, Earthquake, Twister, Volcano, Dry Spell, Bees, Andromeda Strain, Asteroid-Hits-Earth (any), Backdraft, Updraft, Downdraft, Independence Day, Independence Day (worth mentioning twice), or Waterworld (not really a disaster flick, but disaster enough in itself.)
OK, I'm ready to admit now that I have been lying throughout this column. "Irony is dead," indeed. It'll take a lot more than what bin Laden's got to kill the irony around here. I am not at all as scared as all that.
Still, I suspect that some of the above may describe a lot of Americans. If so, then my one and only big fear may be realized: that Osama and his obedient terrorism-fodder have successfully bombed us back to the Fifties.
© Dr. Wes Browning: firstname.lastname@example.org
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