The inconveniences of terrorism

August 27, 2006|By C. Fraser Smith

Herewith, a couple of election year thoughts on citizenship and our democracy.

Thought Number One:

When the Brits uncovered a scheme to blow up airplanes bound for the U.S., a crisis arose. Would-be suicide bombers were planning to take certain materials - gels and liquids of some sort - onto the planes. These items were to be mixed into an explosive cocktail. But they were foiled. Hail Britannia. Those guys are good.

But who knew if all the miscreants had been apprehended? Were others in the plot still at large, their liquids and gels at the ready? What to do?

Americans knew they were headed toward the dreaded "heightened security." A code of some color was about to be posted. It's so tiresome. Long lines. Bare and stocking feet. And now a ban on liquids or gels in carry-on baggage? What are we supposed to do about our hair?

And they say we're not making any sacrifices!

First cuticle scissors and now this. Really! Great bins the size of your basic Humvee were rolling through airports chock full of discarded contraband. People were forced to discard critical products at the start of their vacations. Or take off for paradise and risk not finding what they needed at their destinations. We were on the verge of A Great Dishevelment.

What is the world coming to? What indeed?

Thought Number Two:

We need a new definition of political corruption. It would have nothing to do with the usual kind of corruption: self-dealing, theft, kickbacks, campaign finance shenanigans and things like that. These things are not trifling, to be sure. (I heard someone suggest recently that House Ethics Committee is an oxymoron. The cynics are everywhere.) But there's an even bigger problem, largely unaddressed.

It should be a requirement that political leaders engage in the dispensing of hard truths, leveling with the people whose votes they want. Candidates would have to say things like this:

"My fellow Americans, you're way overweight. You need to ease up on the chicken wings. You're a burden on the health care system, not to speak of the furniture. You need to go on a diet. Do you have a mirror? Please. I have your best interests at heart. Did you know that heart disease, cancer and diabetes are associated with obesity?

"Also, we need a draft. You can't go along as if someone else will do the fighting, the sacrificing and, of course, the dying. I am the candidate who will stand up and say we can't keep fighting unless we have more soldiers, and you're it - or your sons are daughters are it.

"My platform also includes this obvious finding. Higher taxes are in your future. If you want better public schools, and you always tell the pollsters you do, you need better teachers, better facilities, a gym class once a month to deal with that other problem I mentioned, and the odd bit of music. All of this costs money. It's pretty simple. I know you'll want to thank me for my candor.

"I will also propose the following. You, Mr. and Mrs. Consumer, are not saving enough. Oh, yes, I know you haven't had a pay increase since the first Clinton administration. But suck it up.

"And you must stop using your home as an automated bank machines, borrowing against equity to buy things. I am here to tell you the bubble is about to burst. You'll have borrowed yourself into a mortgage you can't afford.

"You are part of the nation's great shopping spree, trusting in government to borrow from the Chinese and others to cover your excesses. This is thought to be unhealthy for the nation's long- or short-term future. Oh, and don't forget to get rid of your gas guzzler, your Jet Skis, your inefficient lawn mowers. They're implicated in the global warming thing.

"Finally, voting should be mandatory.

"You could all make an important symbolic statement by riding your bike to the polling place. I'm sure I don't have to remind you to vote for me."

C. Fraser Smith is senior news analyst for WYPR-FM. His column appears Sundays. His e-mail address is

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.