Peace Kills

Peace Kills by P. J. O’Rourke

Book: Peace Kills by P. J. O’Rourke Read Free Book Online
Authors: P. J. O’Rourke
it’s said, was to exclaim how glad he was that he didn’t have a book out. Discriminating readers are
glad when he doesn’t have a book out.)
    Airport security would soon be turned over to the government so that a federal agency could do the same fine job of protecting the nation in the future that the CIA and the FBI did in early September. Meanwhile, “heightened security precautions” were allowing airlines to perfect their technique of treating passengers like convicted felons and providing all the transportation amenities usually accorded to smuggled cockatoos.
    At the Los Angeles airport I watched as an elderly, arthritic man was forced to remove his buckle shoes and send them through the carry-on baggage X ray. In Ontario, California, a friend was meeting me at the airport. Of course he couldn’t wait at curbside. He had to circle through the arrivals lane while slugs (slugs with valid photo IDs!) delivered my checked bags. On the forth go-round a policeman stepped into the road and told my friend that if he drove by one more time he’d be arrested.
    What caused the giant python lines at airport security checkpoints remained a mystery. An acquaintance, a plastic surgeon who specializes in cranial reconstruction, was returning from a conference on head injuries shortly after September 11. His hand luggage contained three human skulls. These passed unnoticed through the X-ray screening.
    Doubtless all sorts of civil rights must be sacrificed temporarily in times of crisis. But there is no ACLU for comfort and convenience. A generation hence we’ll be living in a world of metal detectors in nudist colonies.
    Traveling around the country did, however, allow me to see how different regions of America were coping with current events. On October 9 a local TV anchorman in Washington, D.C., called Islam (using an adjective perhaps left behind by the sudden journalistic shift away from celebrityobsession) “the second most popular religion on earth.” It has an amazing Q factor, too, that Islam.
    At about the same time, aided by the Internet, there was a cheerful realization nationwide that “Taliban” scans perfectly in “The Banana Boat Song”:
    Come Mr. Taliban, rid me of Osama
    Air Force come and it flatten me home
    Cruise missile
    Half-ton bomb
    Air Force come and it flatten me home
    On October 16, in Austin, Texas, local TV reported that the Austin fire department had responded to a call from a household concerning a “suspicious package.” The sole suspicious thing about the package was that it had been mailed from New York City.
    On October 19 a chipper announcer for KFWB radio, in southern California, said, “Anthrax news certainly has Orange County people talking …” Later that day, at a lunch in Simi Valley, I was sitting next to someone from the Ventura County district attorney’s office. He said anthrax alarms were coming in at a rate of one every three minutes, and that the only practical decontamination response would be to have people get naked and be hosed down. That evening, on the set of a public-television book show, T. C. Boyle talked about how he had a certain admiration for acts of “ecotage,” but in his fiction he tried to show both sides of the story. He managed never to mention September 11.
    I can remember when powdery white substances of sinister origin were doing a lot more damage to America than anthrax had done so far. Circa 1980 America’s elite wassuffering “nasaltage.” It emptied bank accounts, wrecked marriages, ruined thousands of careers, and brought the nation to its knees (with a soda straw over a glass coffee table). But Attorney General John Ashcroft was very firm in stating that anthrax threats are no laughing matter. Pranks and jests concerning anthrax would be treated as serious criminal actions. Thus various larval jokes with “You’ve got

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