October 19, 2001
Admittedly, the world is a pretty uncertain
place right now.
We're still reeling from the attacks
on New York and Washington. Nations are in turmoil. The Taliban
keeps making threats. The US has dropped a couple billion dollars
worth of bombs on Afghanistan, even though everything in the
country is only worth about a buck sixty-five on a good day.
Even in this country thankfully
once-removed from the real action we can't help but be
caught up in world events. Maybe too caught up.
While no one can take what's going on
in the world lightly, we've allowed ourselves to be driven into
a hysterical frenzy by a media circus that's looking to interview
every victim, survivor, family member, general, former general,
expert, pundit, diplomat, politician and psychologist for hire.
We'll know the crisis is just about over when the reporters start
interviewing each other.
The result has been that every particle
of dust or pile of sand creates a new anthrax scare. Someone
leaves half a bottle of Mountain Dew in a public park and before
you know it the guys in the white suits and gas masks show up
with TV cameras in tow. God help you if you have white powder
on your chin after eating a sugar doughnut.
None of this takes away from the seriousness
of some nut (or collection of nuts) sending toxic letters around,
but we can't stop our lives every time someone leaves a free
sample of baby powder on our doorstep or we discover dust under
the bed. If a few specks of dust is suspicious, then my house
could be mistaken for a warehouse for weapons of mass destruction.
A New York State public health official
tried to put it in perspective when he said that every day we're
exposed to things more dangerous than anthrax, but did we pay
attention? Every rash, cold and sniffle is a fresh outbreak of
Ebola, and evacuating buildings is fast becoming Canada's national
sport. There's a national conceit that whatever we do and wherever
we are, we're important enough to be a target for terrorism.
Trust me, when it comes to terrorists, the public library in
Cowbum, Nova Scotia isn't in the same league as the US Senate
or New York's Governor's office.
And of course the whole thing has brought
out the nuts, whether they're hooligans tearing up the streets
of Toronto or bottom-feeders who call in false alarms. We have
travellers demanding that every airline passenger be issued his
or her own tommy gun on boarding, or suggesting that the best
way to protect our freedoms is to give some of them up. Or those
who criticize our own immigration system and want to turn it
over to the Americans, in spite of the fact the US issued visas
to half of the terrorists and have almost a third of a million
of their own deportees still illegally walking around on their
Then you have the geniuses in Canada
who harassed Sikhs and torched a Hindu temple. These self-appointed
saviours of Western civilization haven't the brainpower to figure
out their senseless vandalism was being directed at completely
different religions. I guess that's what happens when you burn
books instead of reading them.
So deep breaths everyone. Those white
crystals in your sugar bowl are probably just sugar. That letter
in your mailbox is a birthday card from your aunt Minnie. Your
neighbour with the darker skin works for the Bay, the gas company
or the government, not the Taliban.
Should we vigilant? Yes. But that doesn't
mean we have to leave our brains at the door.