Thursday, August 14, 2014

this crazy state

Yesterday I went to the post office to pick up a package. I stood in line between a woman talking on her cell phone (the woman happened to be Muslim), and an older man grumbling about the wait. (The older man happened to be Jewish.)

The grumbling man went over to some grocery bags sitting under a table next to us, and nudged one of them with his foot. The woman on the cell phone spoke to him sharply, saying those were her bags, and why was he touching them with his foot!? The grumbling man grumbled that he was just checking to see if it was a bomb. The man and the woman argued for a minute. He insisted that she not leave her bags under the table. "It could have been a bomb!" and the woman complained about him touching her groceries. Finally the woman went back to her phone call and the man went back to grumbling about being in line so long.

So this is the world we live in. We think grocery bags on the floor of a sleepy post office in a sleepy little part of the city might contain a bomb.  (Never mind why nudging a bomb/bag with your foot would be a good idea in the first place...) This is the world we live in.

This is why I hate the "See Something/Say Something" ad campaign that the police department has been waging at us for the past decade.

The odds of there being a bomb in a grocery bag under a table in a post office in a quiet neighborhood  (or under your subway seat or next to a garbage bin) are ridiculously slim. In fact, I don't know of any instances in which this ad campaign has led to an actual bomb or threat being reported and stopped. I know it was led to countless false alarms and terrifying waits for parents picking up kids, as it did to me last year.

I'm reminded of this great New Yorker cartoon, published in the months after 9/11.

We are all properly terrified, thank you.

I remember well the days after that one terrible day. I remember being told to "help the economy". Go shopping! Don't let the terrorists win! We would have done anything for our country then. We would have done anything for each other. We lined up by the thousands to give blood those days, even when we knew there was no one who needed it. But, instead of being told to help, we were turned away. Go shopping! And be scared. Be scared of your fellow passengers, be scared of white powder, of packages left by mistake in train cars, of anything "out of the ordinary."

Which is why we now have old men and harried shoppers arguing in post office lines over imaginary bombs, and we take our shoes and nearly everything else off to board a plane, and we have suburban police departments with tanks and machine guns.

Oh if only we had been all told on 9/12/01 to help each other. To sweep the dust off our neighbors' sidewalks, to gather at our chosen place of worship, to have community picnics or to visit the sick.  Instead we were turned away at the blood banks and sent to the mall.  Now we are collectively in debt, both material and spiritual.

Congratulations. The terrorists won. We are all completely terrified. Weapons drawn, we stare at each other over police barricades and imaginary bombs.

I have a fantasy of how that interaction in the post office might have ended... I imagine that the woman hung up her phone and laughed at the grumbling man's fear of bombs. That she picked up the grocery bags and showed him the fruit inside. Laughing, she offers him a pear, and smiling now, the man accepts, and takes a sweet bite.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Add your comment here. Don't worry about logging in... you can just use your name, and leave the "URL" box blank. Thank you! -Becky