Friday, March 15, 2002


Our director of homeland security, former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, has invented a scheme to help us understand the scale of the threat facing our homeland (fatherland? Ċ¸berland?), something that even the first graders among us can understand. Five colors of the rainbow ranging from green (lowest threat) to red (even Captain Kirk can't save us) are all we 275 million Americans need to know about evildoers and what evil they might do to us.

Hope you're not colorblind. ("Sorry, honey, I thought it was a blue alert, not a red alert. Are you angry that Buffy and Jody were vaporized?")

I guess it makes sense. We're all familiar with "DefCon" from various cold war films and novels of the 1960s. (As opposed to "Def Jam," which, I'm sure, many folks would tell you was "da bomb" and not quite THE bomb.)

And as humans, we love to categorize things, don't we? We've arranged life into 13 phyla -- putting ourselves at the top, natch. We've classified stars by color and size. And don't get me started on people. One nose too large, one waist too thick, a few square yards of skin too dark, and that's all we need to know about that person across from us on the bus or walking through the airport metal detector.

Of course, this is the kind of crazy thing that happens when six thousand years of human history results in aiming a half-million pounds of jumbo jet at a few buildings. And it's so frighteningly clear that you can connect the dots between the building of the pyramids and the collapse of the twin towers without all that much difficulty. It's the new party game: Get from Tutankhamen to bin Laden in six moves or less.

But about our new rainbow of death. We're right now at alert stage yellow, which is right in the middle between it's-safe-to-walk-bare-ass-naked-downtown and o-my-God-they've-blown-off-my-ass.

So let me ask Tom Ridge and his new kind of Rainbow Coalition -- President Dumbya, Dick "The Undisclosed One" Cheney, Rollin' Colin Powell and Condoleeza "Wild" Rice -- if we're only in the middle of the scale, why on Earth are we already lining up support to overthrow Saddam Hussein? If that's a three response, what did Dumbya do when his daughters got caught drinking, chop off their beer-hands at the wrist? Fine, it isn't fair to point out that if we hadn't supported the muhajadeen we wouldn't have had Osama bin Laden and if we hadn't supported his war against Iran, we wouldn't have had Saddam Hussein, and if Bush the Elder had taken Hussein out in the first place we wouldn't have had to leave it to junior. But let me simply say that all I perceive from this is that our foreign policy since 1979 has been an extra-long Three Stooges movie. They're plumbers, see, and as they try to fix a leaky bathroom faucet they wind up destroying the tub, dismantling the kitchen sink, putting the kibosh on the water heater and flooding the basement.

Oh, don't go accusing me of supporting Osama bin Laden. Or even giving his al-Qaida pals aid and comfort. It ain't like that. But dear lord (whichever one you pray to), let's hope that while we're all going color-happy here and sending in the troops in whichever country looks more yellow-orange-reddish to us, that we actually make the right calls. Because, really, there are a lot of targets here in the US, and we haven't even begun to consider all the ways that evil can be done without a commercial airliner.

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