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Jewish World Review Nov. 7, 2001/ 21 Mar-Cheshvan 5762

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker
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Consumer Reports

Attention, shoppers: This is your president speaking --
IN the beginning, it was like a dream. There he was, the president of the United States, looking straight at me with those steely blue eyes, intoning in voce profundo: "Shop."

Shop? Did he say, shop? At first I thought he was joking. We're at war, and the commander in chief wants me to go shopping. Then I saw the genius in his command. It became clear that I was morally bound to sacrifice for my country, to put my money where my mouth was, to come to the aid and comfort of America's recessing economy.

It seemed unfair that while some were called to life-threatening military duty, I was being called to Saks, but what choice did I have? I charged; I wrote checks; I consumed with patriotic pro-American, anti-terrorist zeal.

My credit cards are maxed; I'm caught up on my Christmas shopping through 2005; my feet are blistered from marching mall-to-mall. I'm exhausted. I am also Alert! Despite being both physically and financially spent, I have dutifully accepted my government's next command to be alert.

I've always prided myself on being reasonably alert, but now I'm extremely alert. Some days, depending on the news, I'm on High Alert or even Red Alert. I'm not sure what this means -- or what I'm supposed to be alert to -- but I've interpreted this to mean I should drink as much coffee as possible.

This hyper, caffeine-induced alertness has made me a little edgy. Though I've fought the urge, I confess that I've begun eyeing my mailman suspiciously, trying to divine whether he might be delivering anthrax through a sealed but nonetheless dangerously porous envelope. Meanwhile, our Homefront Security anthrax-sniffing dog keeps setting off the motion-sensor alarms, keeping us all awake at night.

Despite these minor lifestyle adjustments, I'm trying not to change the way I live because, if I do, the terrorists win. We've heard this again and again. If we worry about contaminated mail, Osama bin Laden wins. If we don't go to Disney World, the al-Qaeda wins. If we refuse to fly on domestic airlines, even if they're filled with swarthy males carrying copies of the Quran, we're handing over Our Way of Life to the terrorist filth.

Thus, my government has urged me to remain calm, to trust in the U.S. Postal Service, to get back to normal, to not be judgmental of Muslims or suspicious of anyone wearing a turban, a beard or waving a horse's tail while making rhythmic guttural sounds.

OK, OK, I admit, remaining calm is proving difficult, what with all the coffee. Getting back to normal is also problematic. What does "normal" mean? Does it mean I stop wearing these rubber hospital gloves? Are we supposed to suspend the air-filter drills at home? If I fall asleep, will the pods take over my body?

Lots of Americans watched the Emmy Awards the other night in a stab at normalcy. For a few hours, Americans did what they always do. Television stars showed up in clothes that cost enough to house a million Afghan refugees and captured awards for pretending to be someone they're not. Don't know about you, but I'm feeling more normal already, and I'll bet the terrorists are seething with contempt and envy at our ability to achieve normalcy no matter what horrors they inflict.

Oh, yeah? You destroy the World Trade Towers and murder thousands, well watch this! We'll be normal!

As for judging our fellow man, I'm working on this. Islam is a perfectly fine religion as long as good people are practicing it. Ditto all the other religions. I'm not mad at Muslims, and my selection in a husband would suggest that I'm not anti-swarthy. As beard potential goes, Osama's a soprano.

On the turban front, I can only figure that turban-wearing men are the safest people in America. Terrorists in the United States don't wear turbans! Terrorists who want to infiltrate our culture aren't going to show up looking like Lawrence of Arabia. They're going to show up looking like Joe Schmoe, just like us, just like the 9-11 pilots.

I haven't turned on the TV yet today, so I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do next, but I stand ready to do whatever my president commands. Given the tenor and rigor of recent demands, I'm thinking a few days in Bermuda would be helpful to our war effort. Call me ruthless, but I want to make the terrorists suffer.

JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.

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