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In the early 1980’s, a personal deadline loomed—my thirtieth birthday. The crescendo of the ticking of my biological clock led me to swallow my pride and ask my more socially successful girlfriends to “fix me up” with one of their commitment-friendly exes.

Living in Washington, DC at the time, I soon had a sizeable list of lawyers from which to choose my potential dates. I thought I might try the one option that was different—Basyli* worked for the CIA.

Different was the key word. A liberal Democrat, I was quickly at odds with Basyli’s extreme conservatism, including his passionate support of President Reagan and his policies in the last days of the Cold War. Still, I couldn’t resist breaking the routine of a typical Saturday date, touring a museum at the Mall while discussing the merits of tort reform, by accepting Basyli’s invitation to visit the CIA, reputed in those days to be hidden in a grove of artificial trees off the GW Parkway in Langley, Virginia.

The CIA, like Basyli, was disappointing. Expecting an ultramodern fortress with a science-fiction flair, I was disheartened to see that the hub of our international intelligence services was a drab government building, a gray-flannel suit of a structure housing bespectacled analysts rather than dashing James Bonds.

Basyli seemed oblivious to my disillusionment, and drove us back towards DC with an intrusive enthusiasm about our future together. Commitment-friendly seemed to quickly become an understatement. At a red light, Basyli turned to me and said brightly, “I want to know where you are at all times.”

I gagged on my coffee and could barely eke out a “Why?” This was getting far too close for comfort.“Because when the Russians attack, I want to be able to come get you and take you to one of our safe areas.” was the matter-of-fact answer.

I looked at him aghast for a few moments. The Russians...?! I peered out of the windshield at the crisp blue springtime sky. The sun was shining brightly, and the few white puffy clouds seemed soothing, holding no hint of a threatening thunderstorm of Soviet ICBM's to drench the lovely spring day. I turned back to Basyli, then, after one more glance at the beauty outdoors, I said, “No. Take me home.”

Basyli did try to convince me that my future and my safety would be greatest in his protective arms and armory, but his words formed a leaden weight on my heart and my soul. The golden rays of the sun, the azure sky, the emerald leaves on the trees beckoned to me from a world of natural splendor—while Basyli’s images of darkness filled me with hopelessness and dread. Yes, Basyli, I avowed, I will choose to walk among peace and beauty rather than live as a prisoner in an emotional bunker, hiding from optimism, trust, and joy.

I hadn’t thought of Basyli in many years. The Russians never did attack us (to my knowledge) and I returned to filling my lovely spring afternoons with strolls by the Reflecting Pool, pretending to be interested in the challenges of jury selection through voir dire. I finally gave up the charade and moved to the left coast, where I soon found love, marriage, and parenthood--surprisingly in that order--and a world blessed with sunshine and warmth.

Until 2001. It was the return of that long-gone sensation, the grip, the weight, around my heart, that brought back Basyli’s memory on 9/11—a grip that has tightened with every step in the march to perpetual aggression and war led by the current neo-conservative regime. The scenario that I had perceived to be the irrational ravings of a paranoid fanatic twenty years before had not only come to pass, but, to the political advantage of the Bush administraton, had served as a trigger for the interminable emotional "bunkerization" of our populace.

As I did years ago, I want to get out of the car, slam the door, and tell Basyli Bush and his cronies to leave me in peace. I want to flee back to the daylight where I can breathe the fresh air, smell the gentle scent of blooming flowers, and feel the warm rays of the sun soothing me as I smile and reach out with kindness and love to my fellow renters of this Earth.
I try the “door handle” to escape this nightmare—and it is locked. Basyli Bush tells me that he is keeping me safe. I do not wish now, as I didn’t twenty years ago, to be “safe.”  I hope and pray that Barack Obama can unlock the door—and make me free.
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Jill Jackson is a practitioner of kindness and common sense. Unlike her cat, she prefers to think out of the box.

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