Dear Mr President
Hey, want to fight a War on TerrorTM ?
I’ve found a really good one, and it’s not far away from you at all. You can actually drive there, which has got to cut down on expense. Even better, it seems that the Terror hasn’t been delivered by Terrorists. So there’s one less thing to worry about! It turns out you can cut out the middle man and get garden variety Terror in your own backyard. How about that? Who knew? All you need to do is watch a natural disaster unleash itself on an impoverished population, then sit back and wait until they’re dying of thirst, hunger and disease. Eventually Terror will set in, at which point you can swoop in and fight it. Or not – it’s up to you, really.
True, it’s not the kind of Terror we’re used to. You know, that ambiguous, vague kind you usually talk about. The kind that’s related somehow to 9/11 and to Iraq, to caves and bunkers and shoeless children playing soccer in dusty streets. That Terror is hard to get a grip on. And rightly so. It’s carried out by men we can’t find, invisible cells, secret societies. After all, if it were easy to pin down, it wouldn’t be Terror!
Or would it? Because this other Terror, this new, American Terror, is fairly concrete. It’s babies dying of dehydration. It’s help that is supposed to arrive but doesn’t. It’s all that money poured into Homeland Security, but still no medicine for the sick. It’s the rhetoric about America’s love of freedom – a love which doesn’t extend to giving the largely black populations left in Katrina’s path the freedom to eat. To not be afraid. And to leave the unbearable squalor of the New Orleans Superdome before those sheltering at the Hyatt, who at least presumably had beds.
Of course, this kind of Terror happens in other countries as well. We don’t really hear about their hurricanes, earthquakes and tornadoes so much. It’s certainly not enough to pre-empt things like those handy CNN ‘People in the News’ segments, where we can learn about pivotal figures in the entertainment world. In fact, just last year, when the Asian tsunami first struck, CNN didn’t see fit to interrupt their biography of Billy Graham. Their website, however, did prominently feature a handy poll: Would the tsunami negatively affect tourism in Asia? And let’s be very clear: such issues were worth thinking about. If, for instance, I’d wanted to go on holiday to Thailand with Billy Graham, I’d have had all the information I needed. Well done, media!
Still, it seems things are changing, Mr President. This time, people are asking questions. Reporters knee-deep in the Terror, the horror of what-is-actually-happening, are putting paid to the lies, the spin, the press releases. They’ve even been questioning comments that you’ve made. Journalists are attacking ‘official’ truths, there’s palpable passion back in the news. It almost makes you feel like they should do this all the time.
But let’s not go overboard! Just because there’s some Terror hanging around in America’s backyard, you needn’t feel compelled to take it on. Make no mistake: there are other important questions to consider. Like whether or not the Ten Commandments should be displayed in courthouses. Whether intelligent design should be taught in public schools. And God’s endorsement of your foreign policy. After all, these are exactly the kind of issues Jesus would have devoted time to. That’s if he weren’t so busy feeding the hungry and healing the sick. Giving water to the thirsty. And comforting the marginalised. Too bad there aren’t more opportunities for us to do these things. Never mind. If Pat Robertson prays hard enough, anything is possible.
I know that you’re busy, Mr President. And if you’re not so interested in this particular War on TerrorTM, I’ll understand. You have to choose your battles, after all. And as battles go, this one doesn’t offer as many photo ops. Just a lot of desperate people who need help. It’s funny, but I could have sworn during some of this week’s news coverage that I spotted the real face of Terror. Did you see it too? Strange thing was, it looked just like us.
A Concerned Citizen