Saturday, November 20, 2010

At-home body scans and pat downs

After a non-Islamic apprentice baker put too much yeast in the bagels down at the local bagel shop and the oven exploded, the wife and I decided it was time to tighten our domestic security.

Soon after, we required that anyone entering our house be given the choice of a full-body scan or a thorough pat down.

When the bagels blew up, terror swept through the little strip shopping center just blocks from our house. Dough shot through the bagel shop hitting several panicked patrons. Miraculously no one was injured or seriously slimed, though a few were “badly shaken,” according to the FOX “Red Alert” News report.

Moments after the yeast explosion, agitated neighbors knocked on our door to tell us that there was great coverage of “the terror bagel explosion” on our local FOX News affiliate.

FOX even ran a special edition: “Yeast Terror Rocks Local Bakery.”

Unfortunately we didn’t subscribe to “Premium" cable service and couldn’t watch the “special edition.”

But after the bagel attack, we signed on and started watching FOX “Red Alert” News regularly to learn about our city, our neighbors and suspicious employees at local businesses.

Such mayhem! We never suspected!

They say “if it bleeds, it leads” in local TV news, but the local FOX News “Red Alert Team” doesn’t stop with leads. The whole show “bleeds.” The team is all over the crime wave that plagues every corner of our seemingly serene city. Each evening, and throughout the day (as needed), the news team reports on gore, auto crashes, police chases, home break-ins and grimacing suspects on the loose.

Often the crime and terror are all RIGHT HERE IN OUR NEIGHBORHOOD — or ones that look similar to it!

So the bakery explosion and our new heightened “Red Alert” awareness led us to buy the “All-in-One Home Scanner/Pat Down security system.” It came with an accessory kit including blue Latex gloves, a sterile white coat, a lead-lined X-ray-proof apron, waiver-of-rights forms and an ethnic/racial profiling checklist.”

The wisdom of our decision was brought home just a few days later when a small aircraft piloted by a non-Islamic person invaded our neighborhood’s airspace and landed on the middle school playground. (As Dave Barry would say, I AM NOT MAKING THIS (previous sentence) UP!)

FOX got right on the case and revealed that the pilot’s great uncle on his mother’s side immigrated here (via Chicago, DesMoines and Burns) from Yemen after the Second World War.

Now, after the terror caused by the odd plane landing, students, teachers, parents and custodial staff are required to submit to a full body scan or pat down before entering our schools. For obvious reasons, the “check points” are located far from the buildings proper. Small “security sheds” have been built at the entries to playgrounds and school property.

The middle school has, understandably, installed an “air raid” warning system. There is even talk of housing a land-to-air missile on the roof.

Expensive as all this is, it is for our children’s own good. It makes them feel much more secure about their schools — and their futures.

At the high school, the kids have had a lot of fun with the security procedure. In recent months they held an on-line “Mr. and Ms. Body Scan and Pat-down” popularity contest.

That was considered pretty funny until they did a “faculty edition.”

Then some software company came up with a program that could transform an ordinary, full-body photo of a person into a simulated “nude” scan. The resulting photos-turned-nude-scans went “viral” on YouTube.

Simulated scans of a particular female French teacher got 1,250,465 hits in one day.

That brought an immediate change in “security” at the high school. Cameras, which are ubiquitous in cell phones, water bottles, lip sticks tubes, bogus biology texts, and, alas, body cavity suppositories, became the objects of the full-body searches and pat downs.

Meanwhile, here at our house, our security screening has been a bit tricky.

You know how sensitive they are about the gender of the airport security personnel doing the patting down? Here, rest assured, we are equally sensitive.

With heterosexual friends, we instituted same sex pat downs. With gay friends we had opposite sex pat downs. With bi-sexual friends, we start with some preliminary questions about their current “inclinations.”

With strangers we instituted a “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and just let them draw straws or play “rock, paper, scissors.”

One person actually “came out” when faced with a same-sex pat down. His wife said she wasn’t surprised. She’d suspected something was odd when her husband became mildly aroused going through airport security.

Children were another matter. Patting down a child requires parental consent and a third party adult observer, preferably one’s attorney. We gave passing thought to having a member of the clergy as witness, but then, after viewing FOX’s “Priest Watch” series, we thought better of it.

After a few weeks of scanning and patting down, we found that old friends were drifting out of our lives.

“Yes,” one finally confided, “I want you to feel safe in your own home, but our other friends, who watch PBS, seem secure. Perhaps you should switch channels. Besides, do you know who makes your $20,000 home security scanner”?

I looked closely at the small label hidden on the back of a lid.

“Says here Murdoch Industries. Made in China.”


“Exactly what?”

“That’s Murdoch as in Rupert, the fear-mongering media mogul who owns FOX.”

“Sounds like a story for the ‘Red Alert’ team,” I said.

“Good luck,” said the friend.

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Thursday, November 18, 2010


A wise man knows he is not wise.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Run, Sarah, Run!

Count me in as a liberal for Sarah Palin.

Mush, Mama Grizzly, mush!

A successful Palin candidacy for the Republican nomination would be Obama's ticket to a second term.

Even better would be Republican challenger Palin up against a strong, successful liberal challenger to the president, who has gone all wobbly on us.

How's President Bill Moyers sound?

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"Radical Inclusion"

In our Quaker meeting are folks who accept Jesus as their personal savior.

In our Quaker meeting are fervent atheists and non-theists.

In our Quaker meeting are those who have found numerous other spiritual places, each as different as the individuals themselves.

And yet, in our Quaker meeting we thrive on and even rejoice in our differences.

How is this?

Consider two Quaker practices.

Our shared spirit

We share and proclaim the undeniable experience of an inexplicable spirit. It is self-evident in each of us and in our relationships.

It is a constant. It defines life. It is life.

Some call this spirit “God.” Early Friends proclaimed it, and most still do, as “that of God in everyone.”

For me the word “God” is burdened with associations. My list is long: the “Thou shalt” Father, a flowing white beard, fear, “a mighty fortress,” cloudy thrones, retribution, etc.

I don’t want THAT within me.

So, I, and others, say there is “that of the spirit in everyone” and some add ”and in everything.”

Other Friends have successfully freed “God” of such baggage. Or it simply no longer matters. “That of God in everyone” works for them. Some Friends have told me they don’t consider my “baggage” to be baggage at all. They find it divinely essential or historically significant or quaint or compelling or curious or simply irrelevant.

Worshipping without words

And that brings me to the second reason that Quakers are, as Friends say, “radically inclusive.” In our worship we put words, and the differences they define, aside. We unite in silence. We connect and unite with the one, unifying spirit (or “God” if you choose) in stillness.

At times we are sorely tested, but we know silence leads to the healing spirit.

We return again and again to this stillness. It is our great solace. It is our guide. It compels us — as individuals and as a community — to decide and ultimately to act.

As for the rest of it, the religious part, it’s words which often fail us. But we listen and rejoice. One Friend’s description of the spirit that is true for him or her gives me joy! I shouldn’t be surprised or angered if those words don’t match my own. The ineffable spirit is the same. Why should I not rejoice?

I know the communal celebration of that joy, our joy, resides in the shared, wordless stillness and unity of our silent worship. From that centered gathering emanates unity, truth and leadings of the spirit which spread to all, both in our community and the greater community beyond.

I share all this because I believe there is a profound universality to “radical inclusiveness.” Today, as always, it urgently needs to be celebrated and practiced in a world threatened by division and strife.

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