America Beseiged:

A Solemn Nation Mourns and Courageously Shops In the Face of Terror!

Whenever any American has the temerity to question the wisdom of the bombing of the people of Afghanistan, indignant voices quickly denounce such skepticism as unpatriotic and insensitive. "Don't these pacifists have any shame," screeches the rhetorical question, "to disrespect the memory of those who were killed on September 11?" America is a nation in mourning, we're told, and it's our duty to solemnly, courageously, and quietly stand behind the President and give him our support for whatever he wants to do.

irregular actionWe're told that America is grieving, suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome and anthrax anxiety, so it just won't do to question whether it's the right thing to do to drop bombs over the heads of civilians living in one of the poorest nations on Earth. Sure, the Afghan people may be suffering, we're told, but Americans are suffering too!

Well, I may have serious questions about the wisdom of President Bush's war against evil, but I can respect that a traumatized nation should perhaps be spared the pain caused by uncalled for political dissent. I wanted to make sure that I didn't shatter the fragile hearts of any shell-shocked American patriots with ill-timed calls for nonviolence, so on the tenth of November I went out on a field trip to observe the heavy-hearted grief of the American soul firsthand.

The Lenox Square Mall in Buckhead, Georgia: A Case Study in Post-September 11 American Grief

Driving through Buckhead, Georgia I spied long lines of traffic waiting to get in to the parking lots for a large complex of buildings. I figured the locals were probably all going to a memorial for the people killed on September 11, so I stopped in. It turns out that they were actually all going to the Lenox Square Mall.

Poor things, they were obviously still in mourning for the people who died on September 11. I could see how hard they were working to force smiles onto their faces as they climbed out of their sport utility vehicles at the valet parking section. I saw groups of mourners leaving the mall carrying lots of paper and plastic bags, full with what I guessed were donations for the families of the victims. It made my heart swell to see such selfless community spirit during wartime.

The inside of the mall was packed with stressed-out Americans, clearly apprehensive that they could come under attack at any moment. If anyone ever needed a military campaign of carpet bombing to protect them, it was these people. They laughed loudly as they browsed the store windows, but I could see through the facade to the pain beneath. Poor things.

I felt a surge of pride as I saw that the entire mall was decorated with patriotic displays:

  • At the California Bead Company booth, with flags waving on every corner, "Defend Freedom" stickers were for sale for just $1.95. American Flag handkerchiefs made in China at slave-labor prices were sold for just $5.95.

  • In the Food Court, the red white and blue Chill Station simultaneously promoted patriotism, "the joy of Pepsi", and the latest album from Britney Spears.

  • A free-standing sign read "United We Stand. Show your commitment to America by purchasing United We Stand, a 2002 calendar celebrating our nation's most visible symbol, the flag" just outside the Sunglass Hut shop.

  • An alternating billboard switched back and forth between the declaration "United We Stand" and a photograph of a young woman in a black cocktail dress declaring "I am Martell" (Martell Fine Cognac, that is).

  • In the display window of the Ann Taylor women's clothing store, an American flag hangs next to a trio of headless mannequins weaing the latest fashions.

  • In the B. Dalton bookstore, a paperback entitled "Pray For Our Nation: Scriptural Prayers to Revive Our Country" is sold just above the hardback coffee table book "Tiger Woods: How I Play Golf".

    Suddenly, it dawned on me: all the people standing united at the Lenox Square Mall were nothing more than ordinary shoppers, buying luxuries for themselves while their government dropped bombs on conscripted soldiers and civilians halfway across the world on the pretext that America was under seige. There was no seige at the Lenox Square Mall in Buckhead. Why, from the center of the Food Court, it didn't look like wartime at all. I certainly observed no symptoms of post-traumatic stress syndrome among the happy shoppers

    Those who died and were injured on September 11 have my sympathy, as do their families. But let's face it: for almost everyone else in America, the party continues. If we're waging a war to protect our freedoms, it's only to protect our freedom to shop -- President George W. Bush, his Homeland Security Chief Tom Ridge and his Attorney General are hard at work to dismantle the fundamental civil rights of American citizens in the name of their war. It's futile to wage a war for the dead, and the hundreds of millions of Americans left completely unscathed by the attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. don't need a war. They remain the wealthiest, healthiest, happiest people on Earth. For them, the war is little more than a fashion statement, a chance to dress up as if they belong to something really important, when in reality they only belong to Macy's valued customer mailing list.

    This holiday season, war chic is on sale at a mall near you. Are you buying it?

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