February 18, 2003

Orange is In for Spring


“Government leaders said there was no need to cancel public events or alter work or travel plans. The State Department, however, issued a worldwide alert Thursday for Americans overseas…warning of the possibility of suicide bombings, kidnappings or assassinations.” –Actual AP copy, 2/6/03

Be scared, America! It’s an orange kind of day. Yes, orange is no longer the exclusive domain of Halloween. This is Terra America now, where being afraid knows no holiday.

John Ashcroft was on the idiot box last week, warning us about the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca and how al-Qaida might use that period to destroy American hotels, apartment buildings and businesses. Due to these reports, Homeland Security upgraded the United States’ terror status from Mello Yello to Minute Maid.

Don’t you just love the nifty new terror color-code system? I sure do. Before, I had to rely upon acting civilized and living with a generally tolerant attitude toward my fellow runners in the human race. Now I can throw that out the window on all but the lowest alert days. Phew! What a relief!

Even better is the unity that the setup has given all of us as a nation; this system leaves us with no doubt as to what threat level we currently occupy. Of course the terrorists know too, much like the pickup football games from my childhood when the quarterback had to yell to me mid-play, “Deep RIGHT! Go deep RIGHT!!” When that happened, no one was surprised to see the Junior Pituitary Freaks swarm my featherweight carcass. That’s the risk you take when you give away your position.

Likewise, the United States should not be surprised to see an attempted attack during a “low” day; of course, that’s assuming we ever even have a “low” day. With all of the intimidation power granted to Homeland Security by this system, what impetus do they have to ever reduce the warning? About as much impetus as a Lafayette Parish school principal has to say to students, “You know, uniforms don’t really solve anything. Wear what you want!” Sorry, that isn’t going to happen; it was our mistake affording them that power in the first place.

My issues with the terror alert system extend far beyond the political realm. For one thing, couldn’t they at least have chosen some colors that didn’t come straight out of Aunt Hazel’s candy dish? As it stands now, “severe” is red, “high” is orange, “elevated” is yellow, “guarded” is blue and “low” is green. “Severe” I understand; red is the international color for restraint. But come on now, orange? Orange isn’t a threat, it’s juice! And what color evokes happiness quite like yellow? Woe to future generations who will equate yellow with “elevated.” If the whole world weren’t cowering in fear from our cocky warmongering, they’d be laughing themselves sick. Who could blame them? This is one form of coloring that goes way outside the lines.

Taking the terror-alert system seriously requires a stretch of belief normally reserved for bad vampire movies; a truly credible contingency plan would not need such blatant marketing. It also wouldn’t involve crippling civilian freedom on a mere hunch.

The system is just one more grain of sugar in America’s gas tank. It exists mainly as a license for the Justice Dept. to threaten the public whenever it feels fit to do so. With the disturbingly skittish duo of John Ashcroft and Tom Ridge at the helm, that’s one license that will get a heck of a lot of exercise. These colors should have every freedom-loving citizen feeling blue. Or red, as the case may be.

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