When you ride ALONE you ride with bin Laden
What the Government SHOULD Be Telling Us to Help Fight the War on Terrorism
BY BILL MAHER
NEW MILLENNIUM PRESS
I dedicate this book to my partner in crime, Sheila Griffiths, and to my friends Michael Viner, Kim Dao and Billy Martin, who also contributed mightily to achieving my completely unreasonable demand toget the book idea I thought of in June out inNovember.
Also, I am forever in the debt of the talented artists who brought to life the images you see in these posters. As my agent never stopped telling me, "a picture is worth a thousand dollars."
There are a few people I'd like to acknowledge for making this book possible, andthey are.
George Washington; Abraham Lincoln; James Madison; Alexander Hamilton; John Adams; Benjamin Franklin; Thomas Jefferson; General Ulysses S. Grant and General Dwight D. Eisenhower.
And everyone who worked so hard on this project of establishing a free nation and keeping it free. Without their hard work, dedication, brilliance of mind- and most of all, courage-a book like this simply wouldn't be possible.
Table of Contents
Make Them Fight All of Us ....
When Sacrifice Was Cool
The Kitchen is Closed
The Problem at the Airports
A Small Pond
Slaves to Our Freedom
Where's the Outraged
The Solution at the Airports
The Silent Majority
"The Man" in the Sky
The Oxygen of Terrorism
Neighbors Looking Out for Neighbors
Dark by Choice
The Empty Podium
When Your Only Right is to Remain Silent
A Game of Inches
A Hill of Beans
If You Know the Enemy and Know Yourself .
The Lamp You Don't Turn Off
Eye on the Ball
Something and Nothing
To Die For
Nothing But Time
Watching What We Say
Not Just Different
When the shock of September 11, 2001 wore off and Washington, D.C. went back to what it does best-pointing fingers and renaming things-the phrase we heard over and over with regard to our intelligence agencies was "connecting the dots." The FBI and CIA failed to "connect the dots," the strands of information that warned a real war was about to start with a sneak attack.
But plenty of dots aren't being connected by the average citizen, either, and that's what this book is about: how we all can connect what we do on the home front to quicker victory here with fewer of our servicemen overseas.
Traveling the country, I find that people want to do more here at home, but are at a loss as to what. Even when the government issues a Terrorism Advisory, it's maddeningly vague-"Terrorist alert today! Code Burnt Orange!"
"And what?" I always want to say, "Bring a sweater?"
Of course, there are reasons why the American government no longer helps us make war-related connections, mostly having to do with where those connections might lead us politically. There's a World War II-era government poster that reads "Should brave men die so you can drive?"-a question we might well ask ourselves today. But don't count on the government to ask it, not in an age when campaign contributions from oil companies are so important to getting elected.
And so we're on our own-but that's 0K. Because if the government won't tell you what time it is, I will. In the pages that follow are the posters I believe the United States government should be making and plastering everywhere, like they did in World War I, World War II and the Cold War. We see in posters from those eras a government unafraid to call upon its citizens to curb travel, save tin, buy bonds, plant a victory garden-whatever it took to make those connections for people, so the average Joe knew what he or she could do to help the war effort.
Of course, this is a very different kind of war, and what we can do to win it is sometimes very different from how other generations pitched in. But the common thread from then to now is the idea that civilian support can be the deciding factor in a war, provided people know what to do. Loving my country as I do, it is my sincerest hope that this book will help.
Make Them Fight All of Us
If you've already given blood and sent a charitable donation directly to Julia Roberts so she can personally hand it over to a World Trade Center victim, and you've already made the tough personal sacrifices outlined by our president- shop, travel, and go out to eat-you may now be asking yourself, "What more can I do to help the war effort?"
What we can all do is show a willingness to change. And I'm not talking about simple, superficial change like putting a flag on our cars or refraining from criticizing the administration. The concept I'm talking about is sacrifice. Some people do it for their families, some people do it to get rock-hard abs, but not many of us seem willing to do it for America.
Americans today confuse freedom with not being asked to sacrifice. The tact that you can't have everything YOU want exactly when you want it has somehow become un-American. We'd rather sacrifice virgins than our SUVs: "I'll guzzle as much gas as I want-this isn't Europe!" Sure you can, Captain America, but just try to imagine a World War II-era American saying, "I'll use as much damn gas and tin as I want-and while we're at it, screw your victory garden!" They'd call you "Axis Asshole." Somehow, America morphed from a nation that embraced rationing to one that practically impeached Jimmy Carter for having the nerve to suggest we turn down the thermostat and put on a sweater. Even in the wake of an event SO invasive and frightening as September 11, not one person in a leadership position in America asked anyone to really give up or rethink anything. Pandering to a spoiled citizenry had become so ingrained, it remained in place even as buildings and complacencies crumbled. "Keep shopping!" the president told us, letting the political chips fall where they may.
"Shop till they drop!"
Yes, we were asked to do very little, and we responded. That's the bargain we tacitly make with our presidents: we won't ask too much of you, if you don't ask too much of us. Especially in these past two decades of unprecedented prosperity, we Americans have come to love win-win situations: risk-free investments, no-pain dentistry, the high-fat diet. We've grown accustomed to success without effort. In operations
like the Gulf War, Somalia and Yugoslavia, we got the lowdown on our "war" from the nightly news while continuing to work, golf, build our stock portfolios and enjoy Frasier. It's not that we don't care-it's just that we'd prefer flot to get involved. We're more supporters than doers, great at the symbolic stuff like flags, ribbons, and benefit concerts. (Sitting through Liza Minnelli is too a sacrifice!)
Nothing is really our problem-especially when you're talking about an outlay of time or money, or, God forbid, something that causes stress! By Thanksgiving 2001, we were right back to "how to cope" and "things to make yourself feel better." After a hard day of stimulating the economy we congratulated ourselves for getting through this trauma without letting the bastards change the way we live!
You hear a lot of that: if we stop bowling or screwing or whatever it is we wanted to keep doing anyway, then they win! And we pretend we're dumb enough to believe that this extends not just to our American virtues, but also to our flaws. We convince ourselves that even our shameless waste, our unchecked consumption and our appalling ignorance of anyplace in the world except our own little corner must continue-or they win! No, when you become smarter and less gluttonous, you win. We all win!
And all of us can, if we want to, have a big hand in winning this war. In World War II, the axis-the original one, not the cover hand working today-had to fight every American, and they knew it. Civilians, and the level of support they give their protectors, make the difference in war time-a lesson we learned, or should have, in Vietnam. We'd bomb a bridge, and in hours the North Vietnamese townspeople had built a crude but usable replacement. It was sheer hell for our guys because they had to fight the whole country.
Likewise, American citizens today could make things a lot more hellish for Al Qaeda and all the other als out there if only we'd get it on a practical level that we're in the war too, just not on the front lines. Israelis understand that and we eventually will too, but not until our government and our media start helping us make those connections between what we do and how it can help our troops- and ourselves-stay out of harm's way.
When Sacrifice Was Cool
Perhaps the most threatening of all the connections we're not making these days is the one between terrorism and one of the great loves of the American life, the automobile. Each of us in our own individual high-performance, low-gas-mileage vehicles, exercising our God-given right to drive wherever we want, whenever we want at 0% financing and practically no fuel cost, inadvertently supports terrorism.
When we don't bother to conserve fuel and when we treat gasoline as if it were some limitless entitlement, we fund our enemies, like a wealthy junkie fattening the wallet of his dealer. Maybe not directly-it's not like you'll find Ayman al-Zawahiri making your change in the Plexiglas booth at the Exxon station. But he may as well be, because YOU can bet Al Qaeda funds their most ruthless operations with money they get from people who sell their oil to Exxon before Exxon sells it to you.
The countries that have the money to offer large cash awards to the families of suicide bombers, or to send little boys to madrasses, the prep schools of hate, are getting that money from people using lots of oil.
Of course, conserving oil by carpooling may sound like a neat idea, and maybe on some level we get it that we'd have more leverage with these terrorist-funding nations if we weren't beholden to them. But actually doing it means we'd have to drive out of our way to pick somebody up and that'll take time and he'll probably wanna talk and I'm not much of a morning person and what if he spills some of his damn mochaccino on my taupe, brushed leather seats?
And there's the rub. We are hopelessly, romantically, singin'-in-the-rain in love with our cars. Rather than carpool or improve mass transit to ease traffic and com*muting time, we'd rather live in the car and make it more like home: state-of-the-art sound systems, cruise control, telephones, bigger built-in receptacles to hold more food. No wonder Al Gore was ridiculed for suggesting we find a way to phase out the internal combustion engine within 25 years. You'd think he asked everyone to turn in their car keys right then and there, taking away our freedom to come and go as we please and trapping us cruelly in our homes with our spous*es. But Gore was right when he said it was a matter of national security.
We used to make that connection, because the government endorsed it. An orig*inal 1943 wartime poster warned Americans, "When you ride alone, you ride with Hitler!" Oil was regarded as an essential weapon during World War II, and it is certainly no less so today.
I chose "ride alone" as the title of this book because it not only pays homage to a time when sacrifice was cool, but also warns us in a larger sense what happens when we ride alone. We've become a nation of individuals, accustomed to "get*ting mine" and "looking out for Number One." Even the Army's recruitment ad shows a soldier running alone and tells you you'll be "an army of one."
But we're locked now in a bitter fight for the very way of life that allows us such indulgence, and victory clearly hinges on whether we ignorantly continue to "ride alone" or rise up once again to stand together.
So remember: when you ride alone, you ride with bin Laden. And that's not an easy smell to get out of your car.
The kitchen is Closed
After September 11th I never much liked the trend of everyone and his brother wearing the hats and jackets of the NYPD and FDNY. Only the people who do the job should get to wear the hat. Would you wear someone else's Medal of Honor?
Yes, it's a tribute, and sincere tribute is always appropriate for these brave people. But wearing their symbols is also rubbing off a piece of heroism that isn't ours. As long as we keep talking about what they did, we don't have to talk about what we're not doing.
And one thing we're definitely not doing is paying the people who do the very difficult jobs we don't want to do. According to the Department of Labor statistics, the national annual income for firefighters in 2000 was $34,000; for police officers, $37,000. The Department of Defense statistics on basic pay for an active duty officer in his first two years was about $25,000. Soldiers living on or near the base in America often need to use food stamps to get by. Teachers in their first year make an average salary of $28,000, and often buy classroom supplies out of their own pocket because there just wasn't any money in "the budget."
"No money in the budget"-we hear that, shrug, and go on, as if it's a cosmically unalterable fact. Corporations do it with their budgets, too. I've seen it in show business. One day, no more coffee and doughnuts for the crew. "The Budget" didn't allow it anymore, like "The Budget" was handed down by God himself and brought directly from heaven on a golden chariot by those bastards who pulled their ads from my show, Federal Express.
Claiming "the budget can't allow it" reminds me of when you walk into a restaurant at a civilized hour like ten o'clock and they say "The kitchen is closed." For years I would hear this, and think, "damn, just a little too late, oh well, thank you, I guess it's Denny's again."
And then one day it hit me: kitchens don't close. Just as at home, at a certain point in the night, I stop usinq the kitchen-but at three in the morning, if I want to, I still have the ability to go downstairs and "re-open" the kitchen. By turning on the stove and opening the refrigerator! Restaurants are not banks; at the stroke of ten an enormous airlock doesn't seal off the kitchen and render the preparation of food an utter impossibility.
No, kitchens can open and budgets are what certain people say they are. The budget comes fromsomewhere. There's a line extending from it, like a trail of breadcrumbs, and it leads back to people voting, or not voting, or voting stupidly. Budgets are made by politicians. Or corporations. But that's kind of the same thing. One makes teachers pay for pencils, one takes away coffee and doughnuts.
Because it wasn't in "The Budget," some things have to get cut.
Yeah, some always do. But for years until the accounting scandals of 2002, it never seemed to be the year-end bonuses of already wealthy CEOs, often in the hundreds of millions of dollars. That would buy a lot of coffee and doughnuts.
This is a country that is the richest in the history of the world-a country where middle-class people now commonly use maids and limousines, luxuries that when I was a child were the appurtenances of only the wealthy, never people I knew. It is also a country that is always reluctant to raise the minimum wage because, my God, the cost of the arugula salad at Le Crap might go up from eleven to thirteen dollars, as if anyone who'd pay eleven dollars for a salad would notice.
So what's the connection we need to make here? Again, it's one we really know, the one between how much taxes we shell out and how much pay goes to the people we say are our heroes.
Does government waste money? Of course, mostly because we let them, and frequently even encourage them. (Back home, one man's pork is another man's jobs program.) We all think the government should get by on far less of our money.
But until that miracle happens, the ones who get screwed by tax whining are the cop, the fireman, the teacher and the soldier. We should think about that the next time we put on their hats.
The problem at the Airports
I hate stupidity but what I hate even more is when people actually brag about it. For example, when America's television stars finally felt it was "emotionally safe" to hold the 2001 Emmy Awards-after a compromise of no tuxes and a somber tone-local news reports ignorantly raved about the preposterously inefficient level of security. They boasted that "even the most recognizable stars were required to present a valid photo ID." Which is exactly what's wrong with America's approach to security: we're so intent on presenting the appearance of evenhandedness, on not singling anyone out or hurting anyone's feelings, that we defeat the purpose. They're celebrating the fact that it appears as if they've left no stone unturned and I'm thinking-you have limited resources-leave a stone unturned! Sharon Stone, for instance. You can direct your manpower elsewhere because she's not a likely terrorist suspect-she's Sharon Stone!
Likewise, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta has insisted that we must heed the lessons of 40s Japanese internment in not resorting to racial or ethnic profiling in our airports. When asked on 60 Minutes whether a 70-year-old woman from Vero Beach would receive the same level of scrutiny as a Muslim young man from Jersey City, he replied, "I would hope so," proving that the first casualty of war is common sense. "Passengers should find all the evidence of equal inspection reassuring," Mineta said.
Reassuring? It's reassuring to know that the people guarding our jugular have decided on a policy of suspending human judgment? Actually, having robots and nitwits check everyone equally is a sure recipe for disaster. It's a mindless, exploitable system of window dressing and posturing; it's procedure-bound automatons following prescribed guidelines by rote. It's randomness when we need focus. It's heads up asses when we need heads up.
And this is coming straight from the top. President Bush's response to a hissy fit thrown by an armed Arab-American Secret Service agent who'd been taken out of line and questioned before boarding a plane was that he'd be "plenty hot" if he found out the guy was scrutinized because he was Muslim. Which was Dick Cheney's cue to whisper in the president's ear, "Ah sir, that's what Ashcroft is doing every day." Sure, it's OK for Ashcroft to interrogate everyone who's ever glanced toward Mecca-his profiling was A-okay. In fact, if you whined about it and brought up civil rights you were just "aiding the terrorists." But at the airports, where we face the most obvious and imminent danger, we have become dangerously and inexplicably committed to placing pretense over results.
Somewhere along the line we became this oversensitive victim culture where it is assumed that no one is ever supposed to get physically or emotionally hurt. We can't approach or question anyone about anything for fear of hurting their feelings, making them self-conscious, and ultimately becoming the defendant in their discrimination lawsuit. Remember, we're not talking about beating young Middle Eastern men with rubber hoses or placing Arab-American families into internment camps. We're asking them to perhaps endure a few extra questions at the baggage check-in line so that we can all get back to the days when the most life-threatening thing on a plane was the Chicken Kiev.
The people who hate us target all Americans-black, white, young and old-but just because they're indiscriminate about going after us doesn't mean we must he indiscriminate in going after them. We've been brainwashed into believing that it's a sin to discriminate. But discrimination doesn't mean racism; it means telling unlike things apart. Iowa grandpas and nine-year-old girls from Ohio are simply not looking to visit "a painful chastisement upon the Western infidels." "Profiling," like "discrimination," has become a bad word, even though all police work is based on it, as it must be. If we stopped calling it profiling and started calling it "proactive intelligence screening" or "high-alert detecting," people would he saying, "Well, it's about time."
By the way, passenger searches are not only random, they include random acts of kindness. Screeners are being trained to smile and glance down at the tag on the bag and call passengers by name: "Have a good flight, Mr. Samsonite!" At the Baltimore airport they've hired mimes and jugglers and other Cirque de So Lame *type entertainment to divert flyers waiting in long security lines. It's all part of our national policy of placing feeling good over actual safety.
It would be good if we could get with the program. It would be better if we had one first.
The word people most often use about matters involving a nuclear exchange between warring nations is "unthinkable." Nuclear war is simply... unthinkable.
Yes, it is-which is why we need to think about it. Because it may he unthinkable, but it unfortunately is not impossible. It's barely into "unlikely."
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told the American people last year, "I think it's unlikely that they have a nuclear weapon, hut, on the other hand, with the determination they have, they may very well." And then, to make his point even more clearly, he actually physically covered his ass.
The nuclear threat is real. Enemy sleeper cells almost undoubtedly reside amongst us right now-perhaps targeting reactors or building a device in a Bayonne, New Jersey basement-and our best hope at foiling them seems to be to get Allen Iverson to kick in their door.
One of Osama bin Laden's proclamations in 1998 was:
"We issue the following fatwa to all Muslims: the ruling to kill the Americans and their allies, civilian and military, is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country."
Gosh, is there anything this guy doesn't love about us?
On September 11, a whole city cared for 3,000. Like many people, I have had a love-hate relationship with New York City for many years, but on that day, you only saw the greatness. Strangers helping strangers, businesses offering their inventory to rescue workers and, in one touching scene, a cab driver stopping to pick up a black guy.
But, just for a moment, contemplate this unthinkable concept: what if the numbers were reversed? What if just thousands were left to come to the aid of an entire city?
I find it disconcerting to hear of the attack site in New York referred to as "Ground Zero," even though the first definition in some dictionaries certainly fits: "the tar*get of a projectile, such as a missile or bomb." However, prior to 9/11, I don't recall ever hearing other non-nuclear missile or bomb blast sites referred to as "Ground Zero." Prior to 9/1l, the common usage of "Ground Zero" was the way it's defined first in Webster's, "the point directly above, below, or at which a nuclear explosion occurs." We kept that term separate, to remind us that there is nothing like nuclear warfare-nothing.
But a pain-averse culture wants to ascribe a term equal to their perceived distress, and Ground Zero sounds appropriately ominous coming out of Tom and Peter and Dan. Trés gravitas.
But ominous and gravitas are actually in the building now. So how about actually doing something about security instead of just appearing to? A new bureaucracy and a color-coded warning system seem like steps in the right direction, and I'm sure both programs tested very well with the focus groups. But we're not unveil*ing feel-good sitcoms for the new fall season; we're talking about our survival here. When the next fall season rolls around, I'd kind of like to Be There.
A Small Pond
In the months following 9/11, it was the question asked most by bewildered Americans: "Where the hell is Dick Cheney?"
A close second, however, was, "Why do they hate us?" John Powers of the LA Weekly had what I thought was the best answer: "They hate us because we don't even know why they hate us."
The United States, as I will attempt to show in the last chapter, has acted with more restraint and non-violence than any other country in history with comparable pre-eminence--but we do ignore people. We are oblivious to suffering. We are cheap with charity if it's not close to our home.
All of which is not nearly as bad as rape and pillage and sowing salt in the earth- and attempts to lay all Muslim problems on "American foreign policy" is pathetic alibiing for not doing the hard work of fixing Muslim society. But what is it that drives haters crazy with rage? Many times, it's being ignored. To a person with pride, being ignored is often worse than out-and-out hate; it's that much more of an insult, that you're not even worth noticing. Or worse, that you deserve to he left in your own ghetto. You see it here in America: once the Persians or Arabs start coming to the disco in numbers, everybody stops going. That has to hurt.
(Not that it's all our fault: Middle Eastern men are just too aggressive with women. They came to the melting pot, but they brought that bad attitude toward women, and girls just don't put up with that shit here. When you come to the melting pot, it's polite to melt a little.)
I was watching Jeopardy (home with Mom) recently, and three whiz geeks who knew everything about everything ran the board and made my mother and me feel like idiots. But the Final Jeopardy category was "Countries in Africa," and all three bet nothing, confident that they were absolute ciphers on this topic. They were right; their answers were way off. I thought it said a lot about the American myopia that gets under the skin of have-nots, who comprise at least half the world. (Not that they really watch Jeopardy.)
And that's just the insult. Then there's the injury itself. "They" hate us because they feel-and "they" are not wrong-that it is within our power to do so much
more, and that we practice a kind of passive-aggressive violence on the Third World. We do this by, for example, demonizing tobacco as poison here while promoting American cigarettes in Asia; inflating produce prices by paying farmers not to grow food as millions go hungry worldwide; skimping on quality and then imposing tariffs on foreign products made better or cheaper than our own; padding corporate profits through Third World sweatshops; letting drug compa*nies stand by as millions die of AIDS in Africa to keep prices up on lifesaving drugs; and on and on.
We do, upon reaching a very high comfort level, mostly choose to go from ten to eleven instead of helping another guy far away go from zero to one.
We even do it in our own country. Barbara Ehrenreich's brilliant book Nickel and Dimed describes the impossibility of living with dignity or comfort as one of the millions of minimum wage workers in fast food, aisle-stocking and table-waiting jobs. Their labor for next to nothing ensures that well-off people can be a little more pampered.
So if we do it to our own, what chance do foreigners have?
Well, maybe a little more because more of them are completely nuts and will do things like, oh I don't know, fly planes into buildings. So we have some self-inter*est going here, and that's a good thing. Maybe it will make us remember-or learn-that the planet is a small pond, and everything we do has a ripple effect. We tend to follow the lead of someone like-well, our president, who before he attained that office, was known for having very little interest in foreign affairs, and itwas not held against him. Most Americans would agree with any good ol' boy who says, "Hey, I'm a good guy! So what if I don't know nothin' 'boutno for*eigners. I'm not doing anything to hurt them
Well, yes and no. That's too naïve in this global world. Not doing anything is doing something, and choosing to look away is a passive but no less mortal sin.
The poster is from a scene in the movie Apocalypse Now. Lance, the championship surfer in Captain Willard's outfit, water-skis behind his PT boat on the Mekong River, happy and oblivious to what his wake is doing to the natives. And that's America: arrogant oblivion. Not trying to hurt anyone, but not really caring when we do.
After 9/11, there was a lot of talk in this country about a "nation transformed" and "a sleeping giant awakened" and "everyone pitching in." But in the end, what did we really do?
We put a flag on our car. (Half of which were manufactured in Germany, Japan or Sweden.) Or two flags, if we were really mad! Big ones, up from, so we could feel like Rommel in his staff car, speeding to meet the Fuehrer.
For months in the fall of 2001, our highways looked like a county fair on wheels. "Look out, Al Qaeda-patriot on board!" I once saw a guy with five flags tell a guy with four flags to go back to Afghanistan.
Now, is there anything wrong with flags? Of course not. I like the flag plenty, hut I never forget it's only a symbol, a reminder of what we stand for, not a replacement for actually standing for it. Brave Americans in past wars didn't die for the actual flag-they died for the freedom it represents, including the freedom to burn it. Too many in America lead with their emotions when it comes to the flag, becoming illogically protective. Hell, the British treat their national symbol, the Royal Family, way worse, and they're people!
The problem with the flag at this moment in our history is we've become masters at fooling ourselves into thinking there is a way to get everything with very little effort. It's ridiculous we need to even be reminded of this, but just displaying a flag doesn't actually do anything, any more than "tying a yellow ribbon" brings home a hostage or AIDS ribbons cure AIDS. If we think we've done something because we went to Kmart and bought a flag, then the flag is actually hurting, not helping us.
True patriotism is doing something for your country. If our car flags had to he earned with real contributions-purchased with deeds, not dollars-if each one we saw meant someone had given blood or volunteered their time or donated money or written their congressman or saved a gallon of gas, perhaps then we'd really be bucked up at the sight of them.
Slaves to Our Freedom
volution is about survival of the fittest adapting to adversity, immunizing one's sell from that which poses a threat. And as we begin to recognize our oil dependence as an Achilles heel, well, then I would say it was time for us to do a little evolving.
After World War II, Americans started treating gasoline as if it were a necessary element for sustaining life, like air and water and television. We preach about cap*italism and the beauty of unfettered market forces determining price-hut not when it comes to gas. When it comes to gas, we need it cheap, and the president had better get it for us, or else, and we don't care how. If it takes a hundred thou*sand dead Iraqi "soldiers" to keep gas below two bucks a gallon-when the rest of the world pays five and up-then that's what it takes! That's the "price" of gasoline. Just look what happens when gasoline prices go up by even a few cents. Americans throw an embarrassingly juvenile tantrum, outraged that they have to think twice before taking the couch-mobile to Wal-Mart for a bucket of Rocky Road and a lawn bag full of potato chips.
It's a funny thing about Americans, we love to bitch about paying too much for things we really need and are really a bargain, like gas and postage stamps, but we willingly shell out outrageous amounts for unnecessary crap like gourmet coffee and soap to make your crotch smell good. Two dollars a gallon to go ten miles is too much, but five to the parking valet to go ten feet is okay.
We should stop worrying so much about the price of gasoline and start consider*ing its cost. You really want to be patriotic? Don't change your car by putting a flag on it, change the car. Improving our overall fuel efficiency by just 2.7 miles per gallon would completely eliminate our need for oil from the Persian Gulf-you know, where the troublemakers come from.
And until we can wean ourselves off the good, imported stuff altogether-and we'll have to someday-conservation is our only sound recourse. Oh sure, there's our domestic supply, that private bottle we keep in a desk drawer, but even if we drilled in every wildlife refuge and put oilrigs on all our coasts, we'd still only be tapping about 2% of the world's reserves, barely enough to continue producing Astroglide.
And for what? For big, garish wagons that we want to make us powerful, but of course cannot. Stop calling SUVs SUVs, because it stands for "sport utility," and soccer moms and football dads are not using these leviathans for sports or utilities. Unlike in the commercials, few people use them to cross the Rockies (because, you know, wherever Lewis and Clark went, ditto the Navigator). In the commer*cials, every model is "a totally new driving experience." Please-a totally new driving experience would be a car with wings. Does this car fly? Otherwise, every*thing is still basically a Chevy.
So let's cut the crap: we're driving school bus-sized urban assault vehicles around town-and that's just the women. The men want to be rebels. Oh, yeah, you're a sexy, off-road radical because you're in a Pontiac. You're not one of the masses! Hey, wouldn't it be great to go to a PTA meeting in a tank?! Wouldn't that be the coolest? That's not something everybody could do! Perish the thought of some*thing available to everyone-members only, baby.
And by the way, Selfish Utility drivers: I personally don't want other motorists sit*ting high enough to see what's going on in my lap.
The irony is what we love most about our cars-the feeling of freedom they pro*vide-has made us slaves. Slaves to cheap oil, which has corrupted our politics, threatened our environment, funded our enemies and had us doing the dirty work for a lot of royalist dirt bags in the Middle Fast for a long time. It's time we took a good, hard look at our driving, and this is something we have to do for our*selves, because our leaders aren't going to help. They're like the lush on the next barstool who drinks more than you do. Faced with our addiction to oil, what does our leadership say? Get more of it!
Strange when you consider their answer to drug dependence is to cut off the supply.
could never be a politician for many reasons; one of them is, I like to change my mind. Maybe it's just my feminine side crying to get out, but I do. And in poli*tics you can't, which is so stupid, because it means voters encourage a candidate not to grow and think. If you're running for office and your position on any issue has changed the slightest bit since you were in grade school, then you're waffling, and you're forever after labeled a waffler. Even if it means ignoring new informa*tion coming to light, be consistent. God forbid you read an article when you got into junior high that gave you information that changed your mind. Changed your mind? In attack ads, you'd find out that's why you "can't be trusted!"
The sad thing is, that shit works. The real axis of evil in America is the genius of our marketing and the gullibility of our people. It's a deadly hook-up when you can sell 'em anything, and the American people have been sold drug paranoia so long it's a tradition. Policies based on pure ignorance and fear, with detriment not just to those who get arrested, but to innocent people who never get back their seized property, to kids whose parents go away for smoking pot, to high-crime neighborhoods that go under-policed because the cops are both corrupted by the drug trade and busy chasing the dealers.
We laugh at Reefer Madness, like, "wow, how ridiculous people were about pot back then," but we don't deserve to laugh, because nothing has changed.
And why? Because it's an easy political sale. Accusing your opponent of being "soft on drugs" is money in the bank as far as attack ads go--so why not go for it? You're running for office! You have no spine, you just want to be famous and are too ugly for show business! So even though you don't really believe we should he draconian on pot smoking, you'll say that just to stake out that issue in the attack ads. Except then, when you get elected on your stupid ideas, you have to try to turn them into laws. Otherwise, in the next election, the asshole you beat with your cynical attack ads will accuse you in his cynical attack ads of not following through on your campaign promise of the death penalty for anyone with a Bob Marley record.
Early in the twentieth century, starting with a false marketing campaign, Americans abandoned their previous policy of government non-interference in whatever people wanted to do to take the edge off, put the edge on, or get it up- and we've been the worse for it ever since. There are real victims in this Drug War. Where's the Dateline frosty lens report on the "pot-smoking Daddy who never came home?!" There's some swing sets going un-pushed in the Drug War, too, if the 700,000 annual pot arrests mean anything.
My last, best hope of ending the Drug War quickly ended shortly after 9/11, when it became apparent that we were all politicians, and even in light of new information-you know, the "we're under attack" thing-we still did not "waffle." We stayed loyal to stupidity and the stupid stuff that had always failed, because we're loyal and have honor and integrity. The Drug War would continue!
But for a couple of weeks there, I had hope. After all, a new day had dawned, and everyone was in agreement that we'd just gotten our priorities slapped into shape like two weeks at Juvenile Boot Camp. Attorney General John Ashcroft said, "We cannot do everything we once did because lives now depend on us doing a few things very well."
Right on. Cool. Well said. The guy really gets it.
Except, of course, he doesn't, and didn't really mean it. Cut to February 12, 2002, the target date for the most specific FBI-issued terrorist warning since the 9/11 attacks. This was before the color-coded alert system, so it was somewhere between "Heads up" and "Danger, Will Robinson!" And where were our federal authorities? Well, at least some of them were kicking in the doors of California medical marijuana dispensaries for AIDS and cancer patients. They didn't catch any actual hijackers, but they did nab a guy named Jack who was high.
On that same day, President Bush announced, "If you're buying illegal drugs in America, it is likely that the money is going to end up in the hands of terrorist organizations," echoing the television ad campaign that premiered two weeks earlier on the Super Bowl-because those Super Bowl ads are real cheap, so what a good use of terrorist-fighting money!
It was all part of the administration's plan to piggyback their Drug War agenda onto the blank check of support they were receiving for the "other" war-you know, the one everyone was really behind. In making political headway, "for the war" had become the new "for the children."
But in the same way our airport security suffers when we spend finite time and manpower pretending everyone is equally likely to blow up the plane, so does our defense suffer when we pretend the drug trade is the real piggy bank for crazy Arabs. It's one thing for our American government to have abdicated the role of helping citizens make connections in time of war, as we see they have. But it's even worse when the government purposefully misleads the public to the wrong connection. You actually do more to support Al Qaeda by driving when you go out to pick up your drugs! Hell, all of us can help by driving less but, unfortunately, not everyone has a smack habit to give up. (And among those who do, is "George Bush really wants you to!" going to be the thing that makes a junkie quit?)
No, the target of drugs as faux terrorist-connection #1 was chosen because it's politically perfect-truly, a dream come true for any administration's top spinmeis*ter, because it:
a) targets something-drugs-that has been successfully demonized, certified evil from decades of marketing.
b) asks absolutely nothing of 99.9% of the people because heroin is the only drug that really benefits terrorists, so when even a crackhead hears "drugs fund ter*rorism," he can say "well, he's not talking about me!'~ and:
c) it takes the heat off the oil companies, who make a hell of a lot more campaign contributions than drug dealers.
Which is not to say that contributions from more than a few drug dealers haven't slipped through over the years. They have, but then the candidate has to send the check back and pretend he really cares where the money comes from.
I promise you, he doesn't. Oil companies, car companies-that's a big chunk of the economy, and a lot of contributions. Not to mention that we Americans love our Lincoln Navigators, so that leaves the druggies to take the heat on sacrificing for the war... at least until we can find a way to blame it on the smokers.
Oh, by the way, if you're looking for an actual connection between drugs and ter*rorism, there is one, but it's a little Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. You see, the reli*giously conservative Taliban forbade involvement in the heroin or opium trade. It's the Northern Alliance-you know, our allies-who cultivate and deal in the substances that find their way to America under such colorful names as China White and Tango & Cash. But hey, ally, enemy-minor point when you've got the evil of drugs working for you in the ad campaign.
Just as long as we all know: the President should conceivably be calling on Americans to support our allies by increasing their heroin use. Where's the ad that says, "Hey America, why not switch from that skunky-tasting import beer... to smack?"
Where's the Outrage?
think we need to change that old saying, "I don't need a building to fall on me," because two did and we still don't get it.
We all do it, of course. Sticking one's head in the sand is a deep human impulse. Like when you feel some kind of bump or growth on the back of your neck, and your heart jumps, because Christ, that could be something bad, I should see a doctor right away! But then you don't, because it's too scary, and what if they do find something, and... and besides: maybe it will just go away!
Hmm... something growing under my skin... bubbling up from inside me somehow... literally a problem coming to the surface: let's make that our very sixth priority!
People are funny about warnings and precautions. Warnings can be frightening and imposing and require action-who needs that hassle? Remember Jeffrey Dahmer, the homosexual pedophile who killed and ate his victims? Months before his eventual arrest, an Asian teenager-a male Asian teenager-came running from Dahmer's apartment naked, bleeding from the rectum and pleading for police officers to help. The cops wrote it off as a likely "domestic disturbance"-you know, naked, in shock, bleeding from the rectum-just another gay tiff. No red flag there. Yet the press found a story where Jeff Dahmcr was caught sneaking into the Honor Society photo every year in high school, and they made it seem like that should have been the red flag.
How did we not see it coming?! Sneaking into the Honor Society photo, eating Asian teenagers-duh! It was an obvious, desperate cry for help, and now we must ask ourselves, "What can we do to make sure it never happens again! Stricter policing of Honor Society photo sessions! I challenge my opponent to sign a pledge making it a federal crime for anyone caught sneaking into high school photo sessions, and if he doesn't sign it, he'll be threatening our children!"
(By the way, hack politicians promising to make more and more crimes federal is one reason the FBI didn't have time for terrorism. But hey, carjacking is down 20%.)
In a similar way, why do people act shocked whenever NASCAR drivers get into an accident or die-what?! No! Wow, One minute he's flying around an oil-slicked track at 200 mph, bobbing and weaving between cars, and the next minute: gone! He was standing right next to me an hour ago, and then he got in the car and... fate, huh?
Yeah, that one came out of the blue, but remember the American nuclear submarine that surfaced directly under a Japanese fishing boat, killing nine? That we have to stop from happening again. Like it ever would. Have you been on an ocean? It's big. It's literally an ocean of water. That a Japanese fisherman could awaken one morning as he does every day and by lunch have a Los Angeles Class Attack Submarine up his ass just means a certain allowance for fate must be accorded. America is bad at discriminating between danger likely to strike again, and red herrings, the freakish helpings of disaster that no man or plan can prevent.
Having the Pentagon attacked is a red flag, not a red herring. The flag does not get redder or realer than that. With all due respect to the poor souls who didn't deserve to die in New York, a successful breaching of America's defense core-speaking from reason and not sentiment-should be more worrisome. It should serve as the highest possible warning of danger. The World Trade Center was the one that got more attention, and aroused more feelings, so of course the media loved it. But attacking the Pentagon? That's our defense department-the castle keep, the place that's supposed to be secure within the secure place. It's threatening your queen in a very direct way. When the enemy gets to your citadel, your prided epicenter, everything's in play.
When the Vietcong ran amok in the capital of South Vietnam in the 1968 Tet offensive, that was when people here started to really freak out about the war, and rightly so. But Tet, and Walter Cronkite's pronouncement after it that the war couldn't be won, probably changed American minds of that era more than this brazen attack on our own capital today. Two months after Tet, a sitting president who loved the office and the power abdicated. People were mad at him, and he knew it. I'd like to see a little more of that anger from people now. Anytime we find out that the fight against terrorism is being shortchanged by politics and greed we should bare our teeth at Washington.
We should have done it a few times already, and we haven't. For example, when in December, 2001, President Bush said "civilization is at stake," that was just one week after announcing that if Congress asked for more than the $40 billion ear*marked to fight terrorism, he'd veto it. So, while pledging $140 billion to a no-strings-attached tax give-back to corporate campaign donors and $5 billion to an airline bailout, we capped "civilization" off at a non-negotiable $40 billion.
The brave Argentinian author Jacobo Timerman once said, probably from his jail cell, "It is very easy to hate a Nazi, a guardian in a Gulag. But the real danger is not them. It is the decent people who compromise with evil."
Eric Hoffer said, "The mystery of our time is the inability of decent people to get angry."
I realize that sadness is a much safer emotion, but is it necessary to have sodemo*nized anger in America?
"McCain? Hey, doesn't he have a temper? Yeah, I think I read that-ooh, I don't know about him. Can you trust a guy who gets mad?"
Can you trust a guy who doesn't get mad? Let's get a guy with a temper. Maybe spending five years in a box in Vietnam makes a man a little cranky. But it also gives you firsthand experience with "evildoers," and maybe we need a little more of that.
The Solution at the Airports
s of the day this book went to press, there has not been another terrorist attack on the United States since 9/11-but that, I'm afraid, has more to do
with them reloading than in us fixing our security gaps. At the airports, you'll find a true Potemkin Village for the nuclear age-all bells-and-whistles and papier*mache masks, helmed by power-obsessed rent-a-cops who treat passengers like crap and act like they're being heroic in doing so. Only in America do we have troops with unloaded rifles at an airport, then turn our ire to the press for giving that secret away to the terrorists. We waste so much anger in America. Of all the things we waste prodigiously in this country-food, energy, money-that one bothers me the most. We're a complacent society, hard to get riled up in the first place, and then when we do, it's misdirected.
Since we're fond of pretending in America that the president isn't above any one of us, let me pose this question to stir a little ire: why does he get professional securi*ty, and we don't? OK, maybe in the past, but now that 9/11 has shown that civil*ians are in play-why don't we the people have a Secret Service, too? A discriminat*ing professional force to guard the places where large crowds gather-airports, sea*ports, train stations, stadiums, etc. Smart, serious people who know, like the presi*dent's detail does, what they're looking for. Why do we get stuck with minimum-wage Richard Jewells asking lame questions that can be answered with a lie?
"Did you pack your own bags?"
"No, Allah packed my bags. Can I go now?"
And looking at driver's license IDs? Oh, yeah, they can never be faked. The presi*dent's daughter had one! And by the way, terrorists' IDs very rarely say "Carlos the Jackal" right on them.
Our security should consist of trained human behavioral experts who know how to read body language, eye contact, and voice inflection and how to conduct a rapid-fire, on-the-spot grilling. If such a force had been in place on 9/11, the plot would have been foiled. A professional with a trained eye, seeing an angry, twitchy prick like Mohammed Atta, eyes darting and hyperventilating on the airport courtesy tram, would have targeted him immediately for questioning. You don't have to be Mannix to figure out maybe we should have looked into why this guy had a one-way ticket.
But we didn't on September 11, and I don't see evidence it's gotten much better since. Our front line of airport defense can't tell a Mexican from an Arab any helter than they can tell a dirty bomb from a disc player-anyone darker on the color chart than George Hamilton gets pulled out of line more. That's as close as they come to "detective work." (Not incidentally, a corps of knowledgeable interlocutors would be better also for the vast majority of non-threatening Muslim-Americans, who would greatly benefit from contact with security personnel who could also tell who the bad guys aren't.)
A Secret Service for the people would be much like the actual Secret Service: a well-dressed, well-paid, elite unit-part soldier, part policeman, part detective, and part psychiatrist-who, like the president's posse, realize there's no time to stop and search everyone individually and no sense in directing their attentions randomly. They'd know how to scan a crowd, identify incongruities, and sniff out trouble, all while watching but not being watched.
And we don't even have to make this up as we go along-Israel already does it, we could just copy. Ben Gurion, Israel's international airport, is the safest airport in the world, and El Al the safest airline. The only complaints they get are about the size of the portions. A full 50% of the people working at Ben Gurion are involved with security in a skilled, highly-respected Secret Service force much like I've been describing. These aren't part-time, desultory. GED-hopefuls juggling offers between life and death security work and Arby's-they're educated, astute professionals, many of whom are ex-army intelligence officers. They work efficiently, but almost invisibly, on high alert, treating each and every day as if there is going to be an attack. Like rappers.
Remember our famed shoe bomber, Richard Reid? He flew El Al the year previously and his look, background and demeanor caused concern and special treatment-as well they should have! Did you see the picture of this guy? Sorry, but creepy is creepy, and for ages and ages civilized human societies understood you hire "detectives" who detect creepy and check it out to see if it's harmless creepy or something to worry about.
In 1986, a young, pregnant Irishwoman named Anne Marie Murphy was about to take an El Al flight from London to Tel Aviv. Israeli profilers interviewing her learned that she had a Palestinian boyfriend and, again, being detectives, were wise in the ways of the world. They knew a woman in love is capable of doing any*thing for her man, and there are men in this world who can get a woman to do anything. They're called pimps.
And Anne Marie Murphy's pimp, the Israelis discovered, had unbeknownst to her planted plastic explosives in her suitcase. Another terror act aborted where it should be, in the first trimester.
These are the comforting success stories I'd love to hear coming out of LaGuardia, O'Hare and LAX, instead of the one about the woman suing over the humiliation of having a nitwit baggage screener pull out her vibrator.
And that's the part of this that really breaks my heart-that this country, which has so many bright people in it, and could act so smart, so often acts so dumb. It's not like we don't have the brainpower here to pull it off, we most certainly do. But truth be told, we are often, as one president feared we would become, a "piti*ful, helpless giant."
The government should he appealing to our best and brightest, asking them to rise to this challenge, but also paying them well to do so. You get what you pay for, and we need to make the connection between the sorry state of our security and our greed; our baffling reluctance to pay for the really important stuff for fear of dipping into profit margins.
If we paid 10,000 highly professional agents $100,000 a year, it would cost one billion dollars. One billion-Congress tosses around bigger figures than that for combating the boll weevil. The Pentagon loses that much before lunch every day.
We all need bodyguards now. Can you honestly think of anything we could bet*ter spend the money on?
The Silent Majority
Scott Fitzgerald has an indispensable quote: "The test of a first-rate intelli*gence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at once and still
retain the ability to function." Or as I like to call it, "O.J. killed his wife, and the police are corrupt."
I bring this up because fear and war make people single-minded, and it's the worst time for it. For example, criticizing America doesn't mean we want them to win- we want us to win, that's why we're criticizing! I care about making my country better.
When I criticize Bush, there is never a doubt in my mind, I like him better than Mullah Omar.
One mind, two things-here's another one: while it's true that most Muslims or Arabs are not terrorists, almost all the terrorists are Muslims or Arabs. The ques*tion, therefore, is: uponwhich one of these independent facts do we concentrate more heavily right now? Is this the time for Muslim and Arab-Americans to be grousing about profiling and tolerance? Or is it a time to stand up and be count*ed as among those patriots uniquely qualified right now to render service to their country?
On the morning after the 9/11 attacks, San Antonio-based Saudi national Dr. Al Badr al-Hazimi was arrested at his home and hauled off by federal authorities, mostly due to the fact that he had the same last name as two of the hijackers. Completely innocent, Dr. al-Hazimi had his home searched, was told his visa was revoked and was transported, under guard, to the East Coast for a week of con*stant interrogation before he was cleared. And when it was suggested to Dr. al-*Hazimi that he was owed an apology, he said, "With all respect, I might dis*agree... because it is not time to point fingers and to apologize. It's time to coop*erate with officials In other words, in a time of heightened alert and national crisis, Dr. al-Hazimi chose to practice tolerance rather than demand it.
Contrast that with the story of an the Arab-American Secret Service agent I men*tioned earlier, the one who got a lawyer and held a news conference. He made a big stink and demanded an apology because an airline temporarily refused to board him, proving, once again, every flight has a crying baby. He was an Arab with a gun, and he took exception to being pulled aside while his credentials werechecked. He's willing to take a bullet for his country, but a flight delay is apparently OUt of the question.
Later, the agent's lawyer said their goal was to make sure this sort of thing "does not happen again." Right. That's the lesson we want the airlines to take away: if an angry, armed Arab flashes a badge, wave him on and get in the sky, because we don't want a lawsuit.
Let me put it bluntly: the Japanese-Americans in World War II got it far worse, and still gave far more. Throwing people in camps and asking them to step out of a line at the airport are not quite the same thing. And yet, the Americans of the 40s who were of Japanese descent refused to give in to self pity. They just wanted to prove they belonged here, yes, even though it wasn't fair. Life isn't fair sometimes, and no amount of government, litigation or whining can make it fair.
After his ordeal, Dr. al-Hazimi said, "Given the circumstances and the unusual situation, my treatment was fair." Now, there's a phrase you rarely hear from Americans: "given the circumstances"-to say nothing of "my treatment is fair." We have become so hyper-entitled to our individual liberties and our personal rights, so conditioned to automatically put ourselves before the greater whole, that we forget tolerance works both ways, that all of us have the freedom and perhaps the duty to choose to endure heightened scrutiny "given the circumstances." How about some tolerance for our extremely reasonable suspicion that the terrorist is more likely to be both Arab and Muslim, being the people in the world who hate us and are doinq something about it!
Those clinging to political correctness even in an age of war like to bring up the example of Timothy McVeigh-you know, the all-American terrorist, who shows us it could just as easily be the guy with the blonde crewcut. Yes, it could be, but not just as easily. You can get wet by a single raindrop in a sunshower or by a tidal wave heading toward you. Only fools treat them equally. Timothy McVeigh was a lone wolf, supported by maybe 5,000 fringe militia types, whose ranks have since thinned due to over-masturbation to gun magazines. 5,000 people in the whole world who thought McVeigh's philosophy and methods were sound, and only a handful who would actually help out.
But how many Muslims around the world-in Egypt, Pakistan, Indonesia, Gaza, and Saudi Arabia-think what bin Laden has been doing is a good thing, and would love to help out? He's the big seller on T-shirts, that ought to tell you something. People don't wear Timothy McVeigh T-shirts in America, but Osama bin Laden is, for a people who don't have too many recent heroes, Michael Jordan, Bill Gates and Batman all rolled into one. And as long as his face is hanging from the mirror in guys' cabs in Jordan, it means bin Ladenism is mainstream.
It's time we insisted that the Muslim silent majority, the one that claims to abhor Islamist fanaticism and its message of hatred and violence, stop being silent on this issue and actually say so. Say it out loud. In newspapers, and on Al Jazeera, and in the public square. Yes, some people will get jailed and even killed for speaking out, but change comes no other way. Bloodless revolutions are rare. Somebody has to stand up and produce a play as offensive to Allah as Piss Christ was to anyone in America who lives above Canal Street. Somebody has to do Chris Rock's act for Arabs.
The first duty within any group is to police itself. Right now, the Muslim world is like a neighbor family who have a rotten teenager named Fundamentalist Terrorism living in their house. He's terrorized the neighborhood, torn up our lawns, and threatened our children. But he's a real thug, and he's still living at home, and the rest of the family is terrified to confront him.
But it's their job to confront him-not ours.
And now our message is clear: "Either you control him or we will."
And as long as you don't, all Muslims are somewhat complicit for not speaking out, just the way German civilians who could smell the death camps pretended not to and went on baking bread.
But it doesn't have to be that way. The opportunities for heroism are astounding for Muslim-Americans right now, and an opportunity for heroism is not a gift to be taken lightly. Our CIA, to take just one example, is way behind in this battle, because they put too much faith in technology and too little in the human element. But the human element is right here, living among us. Some hear that phrase-"living among us"-and think "fifth column." But it wouldn't take much to have us thinking "heroes."
And so, Muslim-Americans, I say to you: join the FBI. Join the CIA. Join both, and never talk to yourself again.
It's important to remember as America focuses on the Arab world as our prime terrorist threat that just because other people aren't blowing themselves up to get at us, that's just lucky. Just lucky the African or Filipino or Mexican temperament-or religion or history or whatever-hasn't taken them in the "72 Virgins" direction, too, because the hate is present on every continent, and some of it is justified.
Here's one example: we've spent billions on something called Plan Colombia, which, if you're not familiar, allows you to get the first 12 CDs for just a penny. Actually, it's a scheme to address our mammoth coke jones by defoliating the coca fields of Colombia. We love coke, so you get agent-oranged-sound fair? U.S. planes have thus far showered defoliant on more than 200,000 acres, killing not just coca plants but entire ecosystems: damaging legitimate crops, poisoning water supplies, killing fish and livestock, uprooting entire villages, and causing people to suffer fevers, diarrhea, allergies and rashes.
And that's why they hate us: because, to keep drugs out of Bobby Brown's glove box, we kill peasants in Putumayo. If we did this kind of thing to the Arabs, they'd actually have the kind of beef with us that they think they do.
By the way-not that you probably couldn't have guessed this about a government plan-it doesn't work. When a coca field is successfully sprayed, of course the farmers simply move their operation to another valley, like a Whack-a-Mole game. Not to mention that we're sending military hardware and "advisors" into the middle of a convoluted civil war with two leftist guerilla armies fighting the government, right wing paramilitary forces fighting the guerillas, and civilians trapped in the middle. It's Vietnam in Spanish.
But hey, it's got to be done, because some of the plants that grow in the southern hemisphere are just plain evil. We know that because they're not stamped with labels like Bristol-Meyers Squibb, Eli Lilly or Pfizer. And it's vital that we understand that these southern hemisphere plants and their cultivators are to blame, because the alternative is to believe that our national appetite for drugs is our own problem. And that's just crazy talk.
Like any addict, when it comes to the Drug War, the United States is in lull denial. What our posturing, moralizing leadership pretends they don't know is that if it wasn't Colombian cocaine, it'd be Bolivian cocaine, and if it wasn't that it'd be homemade methadone or a forty or glue or stolen pills or pot or ecstasy. It'd be something, because the mind is a terrible place to be stuck sober. The Department of Stopping Fun can show me all the statistics in the world about how usage of a certain drug has dropped off, but what they never tell you is it's because people found something else. They always will. Whether you call it wine, women and song, or sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll, humans like certain pleasures, and it's really not worth making whole countries hate us by "fighting" something so deep. People like to alter their mood, mostly because other people screw up the planet with dumb laws and dumb decisions that just make you have to do something at the end of the day.
The Man in the Sky
Having always defined political correctness as the elevation of sensitivity over truth and being an optimist, I guessed that after 9/11, Americans would judge all matters "PC" to be an indulgence herewith unaffordable. Boy, was I wrong.
Which is bad, because political correctness is much more dangerous now than it was before 9/11. What were once the kind of lies we told to spare anyone's "feelings" from ever getting bruised are now revealed as blind spots in our rationale, inhibiting our ability to fully grasp our predicament.
And there's nothing more politically correct than pretending religion is always a good thing. Saying someone is religious is heard in most of America as a compliment, a reassuring affirmation that someone will be moral, ethical and, after a few glasses of wine, a freak in the bedroom.
People say "I'm a Christian" the way certain politicians say "I have integrity," like we're all supposed to be impressed and back off and kneel down to that almighty testament to naiveté and hyp