“LIFE WHERE 9/11 is 24/7"
Or, Suppose our Far West was like the Middle East
For the last half century, relatively few Americans have ever experienced anything like 9/11 first hand. A few million or so were close enough to ground zero in New York to smell and hear it as it happened. A few thousand in Oklahoma City lived sufficiently near to the Federal Building to have their windows blown out when Timothy McVey decided to show how Americans can be good at terrorism too. A few hundred were in the Colorado and Oregon high schools when kids went on random shooting sprees. A few dozen have been unfortunate enough to witness bombings of abortion clinics or hear the supersonic crack of a serial sniper’s bullet. Terrifying terrorism events each and every one, but in this country at least, they are noteworthy for both their rarity and short duration.
Granted, they were life disrupting events as well as life ending for some. They scared and scarred TV spectators far and near as well as the original unwilling participants. At the same time, for the most part, other than the lost loved ones and perhaps traumatic stress syndrome, “everything” was not changed. For the most part, any change was only a few days or weeks or months in length except for comparatively minor aspects of daily life. Taking off shoes in airport lines. Metal detectors at the courthouse.
The anguish no doubt is still there undiminished for many families, but not all, not even for all those individuals present at the scene when it happened. Frankly, an observer from another planet would be hard pressed to see much physical difference in the daily conduct of American life, especially out here on our West Coast before and after those events. People still go to malls, stand in line at the cineplex, attend concerts, open their front doors to total strangers and do not have bomb shelters or buried supplies. The blood and bandages, the debris and dead children are far, far away.
Suppose we weren’t so lucky. Suppose the destruction happening “over there” in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Palestine and Israel and pictured so graphically on our nightly broadcasts and at the newsstand was happening “over here”?
An unpleasant thought. Decidedly so. However, as unspeakable as the events pictured on daily news may be, we do need to speak about them. More on that later, but first, here is a mental exercise for you. A necessary one. Think about the unthinkable in concrete terms, real concrete. Imagine the same level of violence taking place on the concrete streets in your own USPO zip code. Forget, just for the moment, what Hollywood star is sleeping with whom. Picture instead what is happening in the Middle East happening to you and yours where you could see it outside your front door.
Having a hard time visualizing it? Then, imagine if you were afraid to go to the ironically titled Safeway for food because someone in the checkout line next to you may detonate a bomb. Imagine your nearest Target store in the target sights of a military jet. Still want to shop there?
Imagine armed guards frisking you at the doorways of Albertsons which would now be windowless, boarded up with huge concrete barriers out front so that truck bomber can’t crash through the entry. Even if you’re able to shop without interference, there might not be any food because of blockades or bombed out roads or fearful farmers not working the fields or hoarding by suppliers. Imagine the mighty Fred Meyer grocery chain with endless row upon row of empty shelves.
Imagine the blemished apples or even the rotting rutabaga never making it to the dumpster. Imagine harvesting the dandelion leaves from your lawn because you need them in your salad. Imagine a growling of your stomach that seldom stops. Imagine those little children with the all ribs prominently showing as yours. If there is edible food on the shelves, black market war profiteers could make it so expensive you couldn’t afford it.
Imagine your dollars being worth little anyway. Imagine sorting through your possessions to see what you can barter or sell to put food on the table. Imagine what you would be willing to do to put food on the table. Sorry, the Bank of American ATMs don’t work anymore. Snipers might have the box in their cross hairs. No, E-bay is probably not interested in your Beanie Baby collection if E-bay is still working at all.
You can’t even go to church on the weekend to pray it will all stop. The white bell tower on that cute little church is an obvious aiming point for others who don’t like your particular choice of religion. Bingo. Or, once you get to church, you may discover your priest or pastor was killed. Hey, once zealots start believing they have the only true religion and are the only ones worthy of being saved, it becomes much easier to contemplate eliminating the “menace” of other sects by “pre-empting” their practitioners.
Or, worse yet in many ways, you might hear your own preacher in all his finery preaching about how the [Catholics][Lutherans][Mormons][insert here whatever other congregation is down the lane] are plotting against you and how they are going to Hell anyway. Praise your version of the Lord and pass the ammunition with the collection plate so to speak. Sort of “Do unto others before they do unto you” becoming the new rule. Besides, there’s always the excuse available that “They started it first.”
Some in the Middle East are interpreting the Koran’s wording as allowing bombing of others. And, a distressing percentage of them seem to be trained “ordained” religious leaders. What’s that you say? You believe only the leaders of Muslim religion variants ever say such horrific things or encourage or justify killings? You don’t think “our” Christian churches would ever be a party to such “un-Christian” behavior as killing “heretics”? Hmm, read some history books and wonder if Joan of Arc or Oliver Cromwell or Richard the Lion Hearted, Christians all remember, would agree. Heck, we have well known and apparently admired TV evangelists who, this past year, advocated assassinations. Bet they were standing near a copy of the 10 Commandments when they said it too and probably clutching a Bible.
If attending church is dangerous, then what about a Regal movie theater for a temporary escape? The Rotary Club luncheon perhaps? The Seaside Public Library to quietly read a magazine? Hanging out at the beach? Forget it. Assembled crowds equal opportunities for a perfectly ordinary looking someone to punctuate his religious or political statements. You’re forced to wonder, as a result, whether the “beer belly” guy brooding at the end of the bar in the local McMenamin’s is just fat or has a row of dynamite strapped around his waist?