For those of you who missed the 1950s the first time around, the government is sponsoring a re-run. Back then when we were at war with North Korea, and terrified of all other communists from Moscow to Hollywood, the government had school kids regularly practice what to do in case of nuclear attack. As soon as we saw the blinding flash of light coming from downtown we were supposed to jump under our desks and cover up our heads with our hands. The maneuver was known as “Duck and Cover,” and the symbol and spokesman for this Civil Defense campaign was Bert, a cartoon turtle, who would quickly pull into his shell at the first sign of a mushroom cloud.
In this re-run of the 1950s, the new high-tech, 21st century Civil Defense Dept. (Homeland Security) says that the best way for average citizens to protect ourselves against nuclear radiation, as well as diseases like anthrax and smallpox, and paralyzing nerve agents like Sarin and VX, is to go out and buy a few rolls of duct tape and plastic, and at the first sign of danger, winterproof our windows and doors. Not only will we be foiling the terrorists, but we’ll save money on heating bills, too. Then we can sit tight and cozy for a nuclear half-life, playing online games and eating leftover Y2K canned beans, until Rush Limbaugh gives the all-clear on the transistor radio that it’s OK to go out and spend untaxed stock dividends again.
If you were really paranoid and serious about saving your ass back in the 1950s, you built a “fallout shelter.” People dug up their yards with backhoes and built elaborate cellars, stocking them with provisions and chemical toilets, as well as guns and ammo to keep out enemy invaders, or unprepared pinko neighbors. This time, given the apparent imminence of the attack, we don’t have enough time to build fallout shelters, so we’ll have to improvise. Maybe we can duct tape our garages with plastic, and wait out the terrorist threat inside our SUVs.
Can duct tape really make us safe from the dangers of war? Who knows, maybe we are divinely protected. Maybe if we just faithfully listen to our leaders, and put a piece of duct tape on each of our doors, then God will know we are good people, and will allow the radioactive cloud of toxic diseases to pass over us. But please, God, don’t make me wander in the desert for forty years eating matzos this time. It gives me constipation.
Another government agency, the FBI’s National Infrastructure Protection Center, recently issued its expert opinion on what citizens should to do in case of biological/chemical/radioactive attacks. “Cover your mouths and wash your hands!” says the FBI-NIPC. And, my mother would add, “Don’t blow your nose on your sleeve, use a handkerchief!” But my mom offers her advice for free, whereas we taxpayers are actually paying the government to come up with this stuff.
Of course, you can’t be too careful. The terrorists want to destroy the American way of life, and like all the best ghouls and goblins, they’re willing to go anywhere to scare us. My brother-in-law Rick reports that the (rather small) Boynton Beach Cinema now has a sign in front that reads: Due to the heightened terrorist alert, no backpacks, briefcases, packages, or parcels will be allowed in the theater. Rick says, “I have a vision of bin Laden and his al Qaeda henchmen sitting around a campfire in northern Pakistan. Bin Laden says,”Let’s bomb that movie theater in Boynton Beach, Florida. That’ll stop the infidels!”
As if we didn’t have enough trouble worrying about how to duct tape and seal our homes from terrorist attacks, without suffocating ourselves (if we don’t have any bad air to breathe, then it can’t kill us, right?), now the leaders of Congress want to start a war with France. To punish those dastardly French for trying to find a peaceful solution to the Iraq crisis, House Speaker Dennis Hastert says he would like to impose trade sanctions on French wine and bottled water. In response to this a Palm Beach, Florida restaurant owner poured all his French wine into the gutter, and a County Commissioner there announced that, per his request, the upcoming Palm Beach International Film Festival will not include any French movies. Expect upcoming action from the right-wing against French fashion, French kissing, and French fries.
And what better way to start another world war then by picking a fight with Germany? Majority leader Tom DeLay is so pissed at the Germans that he’s threatening to withdraw all 71,455 U.S. troops currently stationed in Germany. There’s a threat I’ve never heard used before, “If you don’t do what we tell you to, we’ll stop occupying your country!”
According to The Washington Post, almost half the duct tape sold in the U.S. comes from a company whose founder donated more than $100,000 to Republicans in 2000. Maybe that explains Homeland Security’s sudden enthusiasm for duct tape. But probably the reason is even more basic. The Bush Administration wants to believe that it can come up with simple do-it-yourself solutions to even the most complex modern problems. We don’t need the help of professional diplomats, or weapons inspectors, or international laws and treaties to fix the things that are wrong with the world. Just take the American can-do spirit and a box full of duct tape, and we’ll tie evil up in so many knots that it’ll never threaten the shores of Boynton Beach, Florida again. So long as there’s not a French film festival playing at the cinema.