Some outrageous acts, comments in time of crisis

Along with the outpouring of support for victims of the terrorist attacks and the selflessness shown by volunteers across the nation, there have been some acts that made me shake my head.

I may wonder at the motives of the psychos who perpetrated the suicidal hijackings, but I'm beyond bewilderment when it comes to the attitudes of some of the people right here at home.

One of the worst examples, I am embarrassed to say, came right here in Carson City.

I'm talking, of course, of the graffiti spray-painted last Friday night on a few prominent walls saying "Death to America."

Sheriff's deputies are right when they say it was likely vandalism and not some kind of terrorist threat.

To my mind, it would have been easier to understand if it had been a terrorist. Now I have to confront the thought that some boneheaded teenager in Carson City didn't think far enough ahead to realize what might have happened if the wrong person drove by and caught him in the act.

The tagger made the people in this community sick to their stomachs. If he's ever caught, I suggest a one-way ticket to Afghanistan.

From Florida came the news the chief executive of a company in Bacon Raton told its 850 employees to remove any American flags from desks.

"Divisive statements or actions, political or religious discussions and anything else that could be divisive or mean different things to different people are not appropriate in our work environment," wrote Chief Executive Officer Bill Schrempf in a memo to employees, according to the Palm Beach Post.

The Post also reported one employee was suspended and told to go home when she refused to remove a small flag from her desk.

After a firestorm of protest - the company apparently had to shut down its e-mail - Schrempf apologized and rescinded his order.

To me, this is indicative of the small-mindedness that can overtake people who haven't stopped to think lately about the fundamental principles on which the United States was founded. Simple things like freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

On that note, we can thank both those freedoms for Jerry Falwell, who helped prove religious fanaticism isn't limited to the nation of Islam.

"The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this," Falwell said, "because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way - all of them who have tried to secularize America - I point the finger in their face and say, 'You helped this happen.' "

Falwell can be as angry as he wants about these issues, and he was no doubt equally angry about the terrorist attacks. I just hope our military does a better job of aiming its counterattacks than Falwell did his.

A similarly reckless statement came from a Republican Louisiana congressman, John Cooksey.

Here's what he told a network of Louisiana radio stations: "If I see someone who comes in that's got a diaper on his head and a fan belt wrapped around the diaper on his head, that guy needs to be pulled over."

In case you don't speak Louisianan, he was talking about Arabs. He later said he was talking about Osama bin Laden and the type of people who should be "profiled" when they approach airport security.

What I got from his explanation, though, was that we shouldn't worry too much about giving up our personal freedoms in times of a national crisis. Maybe we should construct a few interment camps, just to be safe? We can always let them go later, and maybe apologize after the war on terrorism is over.

On a slightly lighter note comes the memo from Clear Channel Communications - a Texas-based company that owns some 1,170 radio stations in the United States.

The memo listed 150 songs the company said might be inappropriate for its playlist in the wake of the disasters, according to the New York Times. Some made sense, such as the Gap Band's "You Dropped a Bomb on Me" and Soundgarden's "Blow Up the Outside World" - neither of which is about terrorism, by the way - but you had to wonder about others.

"Ticket to Ride" by the Beatles. "Bennie and the Jets" by Elton John. "What a Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong. "Imagine" by John Lennon. Even Neil Diamond's "America" and Don McLean's "American Pie."

Only one group's entire catalogue made the list. That would be "Rage Against the Machine," the politically active rap-rock group.

"If our songs are 'questionable' in any way," wrote the group's guitarist, Tom Morello, "it is that they encourage people to question the kind of ignorance that breeds intolerance - intolerance which can lead to censorship and the extinguishing of our civil liberties, or at its extremes can lead to the kind of violence we witnessed."

Well, I can certainly see why we need to shut him up.

-- Barry Smith is managing editor of the Nevada Appeal.


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