A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
There are certain things that scare the hell out of me. I’m not talking about spiders or demons or even fear of loose hair. (Dig this: it’s common enough we have a name for it: trichophobia.) Nor am I talking weird superstitions like Friday the 13th or black cats. I’m talking about things that, if I thought about them too much, I’d actually lose sleep over. Things that are big enough to rip our little world off its moorings and bring the civilization we all know (and prefer to ignore) crashing down around our ears. I’m an optimist, but this stuff tests my faith like forty days in the wilderness never could.
Recently, an official North Korean news agency reported that North Korean archeologists had discovered an ancient site which confirms the existence of … wait for it … unicorns. Apparently, some ancient emperor guy had a herd of them or some such nonsense and, now, here in the 21st century, North Korean scientists have found their lair. To be fair, after a small but pointedly hilarious Internet storm, the North Koreans have recanted saying it was all a big mistaken translation. Yeah, right! I believe that. I don’t know many words in Korean, but I imagine the word “unicorn” is just as unique in that language as it is in mine. That’s not my point, however, I don’t care if the North Koreans think they’ve found unicorns, a flock of migrating Phoenixes or the Fountain of Youth; my problem is these guys have nuclear weapons! Not only that, but they’re busy working on a system that would deliver them — in a big hurry — to my little corner of the world. Somehow, people who find unicorns under the bed don’t fill me with maximum confidence on the judgement front. My four-year-old nephew believes in unicorns, and we don’t even let him play with the television remote. The closest he gets to pushing buttons is some Spell and Speak electronic game that went nuts one night and kept shouting “fart” – to his obvious delight.
However, as much as Kim Jong whatever-his-name-is-this-week in North Korea scares me skinny, the folks who really keep me awake at night are Madmoud Ahmadinejad and his band of mad scientists over in Iran. These people gave up on the 20th century back in 1979 and haven’t looked forward since. They routinely accuse each other of consorting with jinns (“genies” to you and me) and nobody thinks this is the least bit odd. In fact, several close associates of President Ahmadinejad have been arrested and jailed on charges that range from being magicians, to practicing witchcraft. Like 15th century Salem, Mass., dabbling in the dark arts is a biggie in Tehran. And these people are not trailer trash from the Iranian equivalent of Rubberboot, Nebraska (No offence, Nebraska) they are highly placed members of the government. And that’s the problem: there are people in the Iranian government, including Ahmadinejad himself, who firmly believe in the Second Coming and the destruction of the world, and Iranian scientists are only a couple of isotopes away from giving them the means to make that happen. Remember, this is the guy who has publically stated, given half a chance, he’d turn Tel Aviv into a radioactive ashtray.
It’s pretty obvious that nuclear holocaust scares the crap out of me, and yes, I know these aren’t the only two nutbars who have their fingers on the buttons. I realize that Barack Obama, Vladimir Putin or Xi Jinping, this new guy in Beijing, could wake up tomorrow morning all pissed off and vaporize half the planet before Starbucks could brew them a Decaf. That’s something we all just have to live with. The thing is, though, these boys at least look as if they’re in touch with reality. They don’t run around riding on unicorns or accusing each other of black magic. For all the animosity in the recent US election, I can’t recall Obama ever denouncing Romney for giving him the evil eye (although the first debate might have been close.) M.A.D. (Mutually Assured Destruction) doesn’t work if one of the mutuals is mad as a hatter. However, for all my fear of nuclear destruction at the hands of some space cadet who thinks he should play with the big boys, there’s something else that scares me even more.
Friday: The Scariest Thing in the West