a high warning SUIT column by Chris Jungle
Okay everybody, take a big sigh of relief. Come out of the bomb shelter. The white stuff coming down from the sky isn't Anthrax. It's going to be all right. How do I know? The government decided it's all right to turn off our Orange Alert. Thank goodness.
Am I the only one who thought they conveniently cranked up our terrorist alert system to the second highest rating just because it was the holidays? With heavy travel expected during the Christmas break, it seems like the government just wanted to make sure they could stick a hand in your pants without the common courtesy of a reach-around.
What really happened over the holidays? A few flights from Britain and France got canceled, a flight was diverted to Canada, and nothing came of any of them. No arrests were reported, no imminent threat, nothing but the color orange.
The first time the country went to orange alert, people took it very seriously. There are a couple people who take cab rides to the local air force base, and the guards strictly refused my big yellow cruiser from entering the premises. This time around, Orange Alert took on a slightly less drastic meaning. I took a lady to the base as she does every weekday. The guards knew she always takes a cab, and this time around the result was different. "You will take her directly to her destination and return to this exit. Do you get me?" I Get You, Sir! All right, it wasn't that silly, but the point was that they let me on base to do my job.
We are now down to Yellow (elevated) Alert. It was quite amusing to hear news people ironically say the government had lowered the alert to elevated. It's also slightly amusing to hear that orange means high alert. Is there a big shipment coming in from Mexico? I guess that would be a Green Alert.
For all the jokes, there is one thing I don't find funny about Orange Alert. If you look at what the government is allowed to do to its own citizens during Orange Alert, the phrase civil rights doesn't have much meaning. It's bad enough that they use the unconstitutional Patriot Act to monitor anyone for any reason any time, but stick an Orange Alert on top of that, and there's really nothing to stop them from those cavity searches they've been trained so well to perform.
Orange Alert also means we are literally one notch away from martial law. If you look at what Red Alert means, it basically says the military is in charge of everything. In the 80s we had Def-Con 1, now we have Red Alert. Same shit, different decade.
There are those who like the heightened security. Take all the time searching people as you need. As long as we're safe. As long as we're secure. These are the people who stand in long lines at the bank without wondering why there's only one teller working. I have not heard of anything that happened over the holidays that merited the color orange being blended with the colors red and green.
Since we're now safely back to yellow, does that mean the intelligence folks will explain what the big danger was? Nope. The strange thing about our current government is that they are hell bent in being allowed to dig up anything and everything on its citizens, but they'll be damned if they have disclose any information about what they are really doing. I would be rather interested to know what Ashcroft, Cheney and Rumsfeld are up to in the darkness of night.
So congratulations, America. We survived another stint of Orange Alert. With no major holidays on the radar screen for a few months, I think we'll wallow in the yellowness for a time. Hey, while we're at it, how about bumping it down another color. I don't even know what color is directly lower than elevated. Why? Because we've only used two colors since the whole thing began.
Remember folks, don't let The Man hinder your plans. You can get killed walking your doggie, and you can live a long life wandering the land without color coded systems.