Friday--October 11, 2002—Ground
Zero Plus 394
Dismissed & Cribcrash?
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
GROUND ZERO, New York
City, October 11--The
sky is falling! At least that's what I think as I watch the
television monitors hanging from the ceiling as I work out at my local gym
in the East Village.
Four television monitors hang from
the ceiling, making it easy for the "wanna-be-skinnier" crew of mostly
young people, and me, the old one, to trundle on the treadmills and
bicycles lined like tanks on a "kill-the-fat" battlefield.
I go to the gym to work off the fat,
and to spark new energy in tired, Geritol-prone bones. I use
the time to scan the news on the monitors--usually, at least one of them
has it. Today, however, I get a full dose of the difference
between Vigilance and Complacency.
On one of the four monitors, Wolf Blitzer is
reporting on all the mounting evidence allowing America to go to war with
Iraq. The monitors are silent. Captions slowly reveal his
words, a second or two out of sync, as he reports Congress just rallied behind
President Bush, and the Senate looks like it’s also going to endorse
unilateral action—if necessary—against Saddam.
I know it's historic. It's the Gulf of
Tonkin Resolution all over. It's an authorization, an
endorsement by the people's representatives to allow their sons and
daughters to be killed in pursuit of the "evil one," the tyrant of the
21st Century. It's the O.K. Corral. It's High Noon.
It's the new Nine Eleven, ala 2002.
The silence from the monitors is carved by the
sounds of grunts and gasps, and the smell of sweat permeating the air, and
people lined up against the wall waiting for exercise machines.
I glance at the other three screens.
On one, NBC is reporting the renewal of new Al Qaeda threats against
the United States. NBC flashes video tapes of Osama bin Laden, suggesting
he’s alive and ready to pick up where he left off. Interspersed between
these reports, clips of a French super oil tanker, crippled by what
authorities suspect is a Terrorist bomb in Yemen, appear. I secretly
wonder if the CIA did it and made it look like Terrorists in a covert
attempt to pull France into supporting the Iraqi attack. I think
I've seen too many Agency and Alias television shows.
My distrust for events in prelude to war make me paranoiac.
Even the West Wing has a subplot about the U.S. killing a tyrant
and trying to cover it up as an Israeli act.
On either side of the monitors shoveling out the news of
impending war and rampant Terrorism, hang two more television
screens. They reveal something quite different. They are blasting
out the ongoing drama of Dismissed and Cribcrash—two
mindless youth-oriented shows aired on MTV.
Dismissed is a cruel dating game. Two girls or two guys vie for a
date. If one isn’t liked for whatever reason, he or she is
“Dismissed.” The girls or guys make unsavory comments about the other on
camera, a kind of “light Terrorism,” emotionally targeted to wound the
others’ ego. There is a verbal catfight going on as two young women try
to win over a guy's vote, and avoid being terminated by a "Dismissed"
I figure it's one of those brainwash shows that people stare
blankly at when they’re about to die, or, perhaps already dead, or,
they're exercising. I flick my eyes from the monitor to the
people exercising, measuring who is watching what--the thunder of war or
whether the blonde with the big chest or the Eurasian with the cat-eyes
will win the date and not get "dismissed."
When I look back I see the MTV show Dismissed is gone,
replaced by another I will call Cribcrash. I don't know what its
real name is, but I see a van pull up in front of a house with a big sign
on it--CRIBCRASH--and a bunch of MTV kids pour out with boxes in their
arms, rushing into the house to repair it for nesting.
I assume it is another
“waste-your-time-and-mind” show. I can’t figure out the purpose of the
game, for the screen shows the twenty-something crew painting and
arranging furniture, making the house ready for their "crash."
I figure it must be one of the new “reality” programs that young people
tune into right after work when they’re loading their gun to kill
themselves because “life sucks.” There can be no other justifiable
reason for its presence on the airwaves than to barometer the utter
wasteland of human existence the youth belong to, and justify the need for
binge drinking to "get away from it all."
I understand the need to escape "reality." All day I’ve been
frustrated because a critical section of my website has been eaten by the
Beast of Terror who lurks in my computer's “Motherboard.”
I’m angry with myself for not backing up everything daily—being
"Computer Vigilant." I feel hypocritical because I shout and
scream on these pages to everyone else about protecting the children, and
their children's children's children. My words are my
children. I exposed them to kidnapping by not backing them up.
I was Complacent. There is no greater Terror for a writer than to think
he’s lost all his children, the thousands upon thousands of words he
created, mothered, fathered, loved, preened, pampered and then published.
I am trying to sweat my way out of the dark feeling of abandonment and
loss, and hoping I can resurrect all the words. My wife is at
home trying to repair the damage while I work out. I
grew so angry at myself I snapped and growled at her and figured it was time to "sweat
out my Beast."
To reduce my frustration, I hoped for a mindless trip to the
gym. But the television monitors anger me, frustrate me.
I see the Eve of Destruction on one monitor, and the mindless Complacency
about it on the MTV shows. The gym provides clickers so whomever wants
to change the channel can. My machine doesn't have one.
I am forced to watch the scene before me--historic news on one set of
monitors, emptiness on the others.
Demographically, the gym is evenly mixed in the early evening,
about half men and women. In the morning, it’s mostly female. The
average age I guess to be the late 20’s and early 30’s, with some oldies
but goodies like myself thrown in.
I’m not a big television news hound. Television news seems
to be to be “off the cuff” reporting. It spins information in my book,
making its information a billboard rather than something worth digesting.
I think of media guru Marshall McLuhan's statement: "The Message Is
The Massage." I feel we are all massaged by the news.
Also, I have an aversion to a male reporter who puts on make-up before
giving the news. I figure it's a mask.
And Wolf Blitzer has never impressed me except for his name. I
admire and respect wolves. They are cunning. They run in packs,
working as teams. They treasure their young. Every member of
the pack is a mother and father to the pups, willing to risk their lives
for their young. They are Vigilant creatures, bound by family
and purpose--dedicated to the future generations by respecting the safety
of the present one.
So I give Wolf partial credit. But the
last part of his name, Blitzer, connotes he is one of Santa’s reindeer
disguised as a human being. Mentally, I position Wolf somewhere between
a vicious animal and a Christmas gift from FAO Schwarz. His beard doesn’t
do much for me either. I’ve always heard a man who wears one has
something to hide.
Despite my prejudice against Wolf, he's beating the war drums,
announcing one of the biggest decisions of the year, or decade, or
post-Tonkin Resolution endorsement. He's telling the people of the
nation their representatives have given President Bush a rubber stamp to
But that news seems to garner little
attention. What draws the eyes of those exercising is the two young
women, maybe 19 to 23, fighting over this guy who each one hopes will pick
her to be his date. One gives him a big, long slurping kiss and coaxes
him to jump into the ocean with his clothes on. The three ride horses up
the beach. The guy is supposed to pick one of the two girls fawning over
I look at the screen next to where MTV's Dismissed is showing the
battle for the date. It's an NBC news report about the wounded
I glance again between the four screens. Wolf is now giving a
“sniper update.” Next to his screen, the two girls are sitting around a
fire with a guy. One of them hands the other girl a “dismissed” card and
hauls the guy to a hammock where she cuddles up to him. On next screen,
NBC shows a French official talking about the crippled oil tanker. Then
the screen switches to videos of Osama bin Laden, showing him at a
Terrorist training camp, allegedly alive and well, plotting his next
attacks on America.
Cribcrash comes on. Young people pour out of a van to a house
and start painting and furnishing it. On another screen excerpts from
President Bush’s statement from the Oval Office are being replayed.
His mouth moves in silence as the captions ratchet across the lower
section of the screen. He is charging Iraq with more violations to
the peace of the world. He hammers at him to resign or “else.” He
puffs out his chest and tells the world America will take action with or
without the world's support if Hussein doesn't meet our demands.
As the President rattles his swords, the MTV kids in Cribcrash are
examining an ottoman someone brought into the room they are painting.
Everyone admires it. They feel it to make sure it will look
and feel good in their new "crib."
Sweat’s pouring off me as my heart and body tell me I’m warmed
up. But I can’t stop wondering: “These kids are about to go to war.
The U.S. Congress has just handed President Bush—from Texas—the
authorization to go kick Saddam Hussein’s butt. And, nobody’s changing
the channel from Dismissed or Cribcrash.
Had war become so non-threatening to the youth they didn’t care any
more, or, did they no longer believe the threats would change their
Didn’t they know that cover of Newsweek was all about
smallpox, or that Saddam and Osama are now have their backs against the
wall—with nothing to lose and everything to gain by launching whatever
"horrors of destruction" they have in storage against us as their last act
It gave me the creeps that MTV has more appeal than Wolf or NBC.
I worry most about Complacency.
The other evening, for example, when
President Bush gave his pre-Congress speech about his position on Iraq,
NBC, CBS and ABC didn’t air it. They pumped out their sitcoms, raked in
their advertising, and left the American public wallowing again in a sea
of civic Complacency—not unlike the purpose of Dismissed or Cribcrash.
Terrorism takes many forms—its most elusive and dangerous I
believe is Complacency. What scared me most was no one changed the
channel from Dismissed or Cribcrash, and worse, I watched the youths’ eyes
and saw they found those programs more eye appealing than Wolf Blitzer or
what was happening in Yemen.
Young people aren’t much interested in politics, I know. They
don’t vote. They’re busy trying to look good, achieve, make their marks,
pay the rent, fall in love and spend their passions upon the earth. To
them, the future is NOW! Iraq is a million miles away, a place where
“others” will fight and die.
That’s scary. Because, it’s not true.
Terrorism attacks the young, the innocent, the unaware, the
Complacent. The sniper in Maryland is shooting the Complacent One. He’s
picking people who are “average.” He’s not shooting authority
figures—cops, firemen, and politicians. His bullets target the “working
stiff,” the man, woman or child just trying to “live life,” to get by one
day at a time. He’s attacking the Silent Majority, as though to teach
them a lesson, a foreshadowing of the potential onslaught of Terrorism
many expect to blowback in our faces when we attack Iraq.
The Maryland sniper’s tactics are in no way justified or
sanctioned as a means of teaching a lesson. They are horrible, twisted,
retaliations against a mundane society. They are horrid examples of the
ease of killing and Terrorizing thousands with single bullets. They are,
metaphorically, “shots across the bow” of the Silent Majority-- vicious
warnings to take notice, to become Vigilant or “die.”
As I ground down my speed of walking to cool off, I wondered if
his next target might be someone working out a gym, watching Dismissed or
I wondered about the young people working feverishly to lose that
pound or two so they would look good, how they would react to red blotches
covering their body from smallpox, or, what priority their looks would
have compared with the shock of seeing their friends in bitter battle,
covered with blood, in some sandlot in the Middle East, or, ravaged by
some primitive gas that Hussein had waiting that he didn’t use in 1991.
I wasn’t critical of youths' Complacency. But I was of their
Children are the sum of their parents’ attitudes and outlooks.
They are their reflection, facets of what they were taught to believe in.
If the parents of the young people working out around me had been
Parents of Vigilance, someone would have changed the channel on Dismissed
or Cribcrash. I kept hoping they would.
They didn’t. And I suspected the reason.
The passion for Vigilance in America has yet to be fired.
September 11, 2001, was an ignition, but that spark has fizzled. Far
too many think it was a “one-time” event, an anomaly. There were no
follow-up attacks. There were no other bombings. Why wouldn’t
inexperienced youth simply want to go back to “normal?”
And that’s their parent’s fault.
The sniper in Maryland is reminding us all that Terrorism is on
the march. He’s reminding us that the Beast of Terror is just flexing
his muscles. Each bullet he fires is a precursor to a showdown with
Terrorism that will make working out at the gym a secondary issue in the
lives of our youth. It will be they, the youth, that fight and die.
Old people don’t fight wars. Young people do.
The blood of their friends, brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, and
uncles will be shed. Not their mother’s or father’s, or their
And, in this conflict, non-combatants will not be safe.
Terrorism’s nature is viral. It can be brought to a nation in a
small vial, or through an infected person. Terrorists don’t need foreign
armies to invade America. They need a rifle and some bullets and a
shooting gallery. They need a few vials of biochemical’s and a horde of
people jammed in a location. They need some fertilizer and nitrates
wrapped around their belly at a rock concert.
I fear Complacency.
I fear we might Dismiss Vigilance as our preferred date, and let
Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein “crash our crib.”
you are a young person, take the Pledge of Vigilance now.
Then grow into being a Parent of Vigilance. Do it not
for yourself, but for your children’s children’s children.
And, if you are a parent, take
the Pledge. Help protect your children’s right to
make you Grandparents of Vigilance, for only when we all, as
Citizens of Vigilance, stand up and are counted, will we “dismiss”
Terrorism to crash in a “crib” that is far more Complacent than
To Oct 10 Story: The Mind Of A Surgical Sniper
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