Dear Mr. Schaeffer:
Last night, I saw a report during the evening news that Secretary Ridge of the Department of Homeland Security was warning about more terrorist attacks. As I’ll explain, his timing could not have been worse. Since the events of September 11, I can’t get on an airplane without shaking uncontrollably. Along with the shaking comes profuse sweating and an inability to catch my breath. During the few times I remained on board all the way to takeoff, I spent the rest of the flight reassuring the flight attendants that I wasn't having a heart attack.
It's fear of terrorism that gets me so worked up. My sixteen-year-old son, who’s already embarrassed enough that his father’s a lawyer, told me to “get over it” because “we’re all going to die.” After thinking about it for awhile, I realized he was right. That’s when I picked up the phone and scheduled a deposition in Montana that’s been on hold for years.
I’m set to fly next week. But now Secretary Ridge has me all worked up again. I suppose I’m going to have to fly to Montana as planned. But if I do encounter a terrorist on my flight, I don’t know what I’ll do. What do you think is the best way to subdue a terrorist?
Signed, Fearful in Sioux Falls
I’m afraid the news isn’t good. It’s well known that lawyers are no match for terrorists. As you begin searching with the other passengers for a blanket to use to blind the terrorist, your head will begin filling with lawyerly abstractions like “reasonable force” and “self-defense." You’ll start to worry about the lawsuit that will come your way when the “terrorist” turns out to be nothing but an unwashed computer science major from Sacramento. Meanwhile, as the drama unfolds, the terrorist, who will turn out to actually be a terrorist, won’t be thinking about legal abstractions, but about what he’s going to do with all those virgins he’s been promised if he can successfully crash the plane. Whether he’s been promised seven virgins, fifteen virgins, or a hundred virgins (news reports differ), you can bet he’s ready and willing. It’s just one of the reasons why terrorists on a suicide mission seem to stop at nothing to get it done.
I admit it sounds very frightening. If we’ve learned anything from the frequent warnings of Secretary Ridge, it’s that terrorism such as I describe is all around us. Right now, for example, a terrorist cell might be meeting in your own garage. But don’t panic—even if a meeting had been planned, it was probably cancelled after yesterday’s warning by Secretary Ridge. That’s the beauty of all those warnings. They encourage people like us keep our “eyes open” so that we can be “vigilant” in reporting anything “out of the ordinary”—and the terrorists can’t stand it!
So my advice to you is this: Get on the airplane and don’t worry. If you do end up dying during the flight, it probably won’t be due to terrorism, but to something more ordinary like an engine malfunction or a mid-air collision. If this worries you too, try doing like thousands of others and get really drunk in the airport bar before your plane departs. It always works for me!
Your friend, Evan Schaeffer
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