Jewish World Review Jan. 30, 2003 / 27 Shevat, 5763
Over someone's shoulder on the bus, I read a headline that
informed me: "Pentagon urged to get tougher on terror." Because the
person holding the paper flipped to the sports section, I never got to
read the article that accompanied this banner, but it set my mind a
whirring with questions.
Who, exactly, was urging the Pentagon to get tougher on terror?
Congress? The President? Joe Six Pack? Robert Downey Jr?
What does that mean, "get tougher on terror?" The Pentagon was the
driving force behind our bombing runs in Afghanistan, I assume. How much
tougher can you get? What are they supposed to do? Drop bigger bombs
from a higher altitude? Just pave Islam over with bituminous asphalt and
And what did this headline mean by "terror?" Did it refer to terrorists
and terrorist activities, or to terror itself? If the latter, how can a
huge government entity get tough on something as nebulous as "terror?" I
mean, many things terrify us. Spiders, snipers, the image of Ken Burns,
that little fuzzy bear in the detergent commercials, Madonna's acting and
outside of massive infusions of Prozac, there is no protection from
terror as an emotion. Is the Pentagon on Prozac?
Even more terrifying, to me at least, if the Pentagon is insufficiently
tough on terror, where does that leave the rest of us? Do all of us need
to get tougher on terror? If we dive under the table every time a truck
backfires, or a plane flies overhead, as we hold our breath when we see
white powder spilled, or if we scream when an actress in a thirties
movie enters a night club wearing a chic turban on her head --- are we in
fact being soft on terror?
But what does THAT mean? Soft is good, according to the little fuzzy
bear in the detergent commercials. But tough is ALSO good, if you want
those stains removed. Soft and tough must commingle in order to get the
job done. I saw an ad on television for the coyly named Feminine
Deodorant Spray, or FDS, that promised its users "confidence."
Confidence in what? I don't know. The ad didn't say. Do non-users of FDS
suffer from a lack of confidence? Would that include the Pentagon? Does
the war on terror need a dose of FDS, in addition to the Prozac?
Well, a few things are obvious. I'm going to have to start shelling out
a quarter to buy my own newspaper, for one thing, attention deficit
disorder or not. And clearly, we are in need of some new adjectives for
our ongoing struggle. I recommend "fresh," "lemony," and "harsh." And
while we're at it, could we find a new enemy as well? This whole terror
thing just isn't working for me. Is it working for you? It's not working
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JWR contributor Ian Shoales is the author of, among others, Not Wet Yet: An Anthology of Commentary. Comment by clicking here.
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© 2001, Ian Shoales