Dear Aunt Sophie,
I hold an important cabinet post, in transportation to be specific. Normally, someone in my position would not come under much criticism unless, say, every bag checked at a new airport went to the wrong destination. But even though this hasn’t happened on my watch, for some reason I, or rather some of my innovations, have become the subject of ridicule.
Everything was fine in my department until September 11, when I suddenly had to devise new guidelines for searching people who wanted to board airplanes. Of course I insisted there was to be no racial profiling. This sort of discrimination has been anathema to me ever since I experienced it first hand as a young boy, and I am determined not to inflict this terrible pain and feeling of inferiority on anyone else. So what if the 9-11 hijackers were all Arabs - does that give us the right to embarrass other Arabs? Arabs have feelings, too, you know. For that matter, so do terrorists. The fact that they’re terrorists means they already have some issues, so what gives the US government the right to add to their problems?
Lately I’ve been getting a lot of complaints from the Medicare set and people with yellow hair and blue-eyed babies. They seem to think it would be all right for them to waltz right through without their being subjected to the same treatment we mete out to Middle Eastern men in their 20’s. Well, I don’t think so! Do these people really imagine that their coloring, age or ethnicity entitles them to some sort of special treatment? There are certain norms that must be maintained. No way will I let my piece of this great land become another concentration camp with just one kind of person in it. No way! It’s my job to see to it that everybody has something to complain about. What’s fair is fair.
The problem is a lot of these pale people with their brightly colored hair have been complaining on the talk shows and writing articles calculated to make my carefully formulated and completely impartial policy look ridiculous. And if my policy looks ridiculous, I look ridiculous. They never name me when they deride my directives, but I know they mean me, and believe me, it hurts almost as much as when they discriminated against me. But what’s right is right.
How can I make them understand? And how can I restore my image?
I guess even transportation secretaries have feelings. I’m sorry you’re feeling ridiculous. I was rather hoping you’d be feeling unemployed by now.
It’s nice to know you’re attuned to the inner life of terrorists and their families since, except for the Fourth Estate and a few wistful academics and pols, most of us can’t find it in our flinty hearts to be so.
Of course when one thinks dispassionately, it was indeed tragic for nineteen young people in the prime of their lives to die under such horrific circumstances. Their families must convulse in agony whenever they imagine how terrified their young lions must have been when those huge buildings loomed in front of the planes they’d borrowed to rack up a few more hours of flight time. (And isn’t it so quintessentially American to erect buildings that tall without even considering that your typical Saudi kid with limited hours in the cockpit might view them as a call to prayer? In fact, I don’t know why their families haven’t sued the Port Authority for having created an attractive nuisance.)
I’m proud to live in a country that’s so culturally aware that it allows deeply sensitive and religious young men to board its airplanes unchallenged rather than humiliating them by questioning their choice of cutlery. I hope they’re grateful that instead of eyeing them with suspicion on account of the actions of a few of their stable mates you’ve opted instead to suspect everybody else. (Since everyone knows Americans have a decades-long history of using their toddlers to transport suicide bombs these suspicions are obviously well-founded.)
Don’t waste your energy trying to spiff up your image. Just remind people of what they already know: That the next person who blows up an airplane could be their grandmother. You should produce (at taxpayer expense, of course) a series of public service ads reiterating that point. One could show a plastic Glock being removed from Granny’s garter. Another could remind folks that more Chinese toddlers than 30-year-old Moroccan males carry Barney dolls which have been modified to accommodate a block of C4. Still another could demonstrate the explosive nature of bottled breast milk.
Once these ads start to run people will be tripping all over themselves to tell you how mistaken they were to think of you as a fanatical moron. Until then, just let the criticism roll off. And keep those divine messengers flying the friendly skies.
Good luck and God bless.