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Milksop Nation


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  • Milksop Nation

    I didn't feel entirely comfortable with the idea of posting this on September 11th, although it's certainly no less appropriate than some of the things that were posted. But where I'm sitting, it's gone past midnight, so I'm alright with it now.

    It's an essay written back in 2002 (although I didn't see it until about a month ago) that, in my opinion, hits the nail square on the head. I'm afraid it's only available as a .PDF, but it's reasonably brief, and well worth the read. The title is Milksop Nation. I'll copy the first few paragraphs to get you started.

    I like thunderstorms. My dog does not.

    I never feel so impressed by planet Earth, nor so satisfied to inhabit it, as when a proper thunderstorm is in progress. I like the rumbling approach of the great cumulus cloud, the booms and flashes, the way you can actually feel the air pressure drop in the moments just before the first wallop of wind arrives. I like storms even through one tried to kill me a few years ago, late at night on a 36-foot sloop with its full mainsail still stupidly up, 20 miles from the nearest shore of Lake Superior.

    No thunderstorm ever offered my dog any harm, but they terrify her just the same. She wimpers and shivers. She hides in the bathroom. She crawls into people's laps. She makes an insufferable nuisance of herself, and no reassurance can calm her. Call Roxie neurotic, but she just doesn't feel safe.

    Then again, if "neurotic" refers to behavior dictated by a fear that is unreasonable by prevailing social norms, then perhaps the word no longer applies. When the TV weather people in Minnesota, where we both live, interrupt their regularly scheduled programming to issue panicky bulletins concerning a thunderstorm detected (by Doppler radar) somewhere withing 150 miles (but headed this way!), they always speak as if addressing viewers no better able than Roxie to assess the odds against being eaten by thunder or struck by lightning.

    Blowing threats out of proportion is, of course, the stock in trade of TV news, whether the menace in question is a summer rainstorm or the distressing stains revealed when an investigative reporter shines ultraviolet light on a freshly laundered bed sheet an an upscale hotel. But television reflects its viewers' attitudes as well as shaping them, and clearly there exists a very large audience receptive to the never-ending theme: Life is meant, ever and always, to be safe — and you're not safe.

    Enter Osama bin Laden.