Moscow News
December, 2001


       This past week America commemorated the three-months anniversary of the September 11th tragedy. The reaction of most people here was similar. Random faces, familiar and unfamiliar, complained from the television sets that it seems that a longer, a much longer stretch of time has elapsed. Indeed, the country, although united in a youthful spirit to punish and defeat the terrorists worldwide, has noticeably aged in its overall attitude. It is almost as if these three months contained condensed time within them which, once let out, could have spanned several years or decades.

Some unsettling trends among the population have also emerged within the past several weeks. The usually health-conscious and cautious Americans have been manifesting uncustomary disregard towards their own well-being. The sales and consumption of alcohol and tobacco have increased considerably. In fact, one of the major national networks, NBC, for the first time in decades, is reintroducing the airing of hard liquor commercials. Pretty soon, for all we know, we will, to quote our arch-enemy number one, Osama Bin Laden, really turn into the nation of infidels and leap towards the unthinkable: airing of cigarette commercials.

The public, having witnessed first-hand the tragedy that was the September 11th, finally started to allow for the possibility of its own mortality. And, as a result, take bigger chances on life than usual. For example, now it is not entirely unthinkable that one might get away with lighting up a cigarette in an outside caf without being bombarded by despising glances. Too bad that it had to cost so many lives for most Americans to realize that they should neutralize their strive for immortality, which is usually difficult to achieve, with a modicum of common sense that allows for imperfect habits.

Speaking of which, obesity, is once again threatening to envelop America, only this time, with a much broader sweep. The new generation of up-and-coming adults (now teenagers) has been recently officially dubbed as Generation XXL. Extra Extra-Large. A single visit to a suburban shopping mall is enough to reassure one of the fact that physical matter is, indeed, an absurdly mindless and capricious thing which does not believe in evenly spreading itself throughout the planet: simply compare the proportions of American kids with those of Afghani teenagers with whose emaciated, tortured images we are being incessantly sprayed by the media. Perhaps, instead of belligerent attempts to reintroduce prayer in the classroom, we should be thinking of outlawing super-sized meals at McDonalds?

Speaking of the media. The TV networks, the all-news cable networks especially, have managed to shrug off the initial shock of the terrorist attacks and are slowly going back to their usual genre: shock therapy with an emphasis on the word shock, naturally. Stripped of the luxury to broadcast the live action from the front, as they could during the Sr.Bushs campaign in Iraq, they are confined to the difficult task of endlessly and eclectically deliberating on something which is rather monotonous and straightforward in nature: bombing of a country.

These days, the highlight of TV is a weekly, or sometimes daily, press-conference by the newly proclaimed sex symbol, the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld. The refined, patrician Rumsfeld, looks bored and ever-so-slightly condescending as he answers the admiring reporters questions with his trademark reply: Yes, I do know the answer to the question. But, no I will not tell it to you. A burst of laughter and clapping of hands on behalf of the reporting press usually follows. Incidentally, George W., not known for the equal proclivity for chiseled words and behavior, is reportedly strongly encouraged by his advisors to pause whatever he is doing at the time and closely monitor Rumsfelds weekly performances. I suppose, they figure that with enough hours watched, W. might finally start speaking English as his first language. Well, hope is good breakfast, as the saying goes. As for Rumsfeld himself, he seems to be weary of the whole thing, and, approaching seventy, would probably prefer to spend his weekends sipping single-malt whiskey on his luxurious New Mexico ranch rather drinking stale tea with Northern Alliance leaders. So would Dick Cheney, for that matter. But even the idea of the above two quitting and leaving us to the inarticulate mercy of Dubya, would send chills up every sane Americans spine.

Speaking of sanity. Another one of the mercilessly boring Bin Laden videos was released last week. I have to say, though that this one topped the other cinematic masterpieces by Osama with its unendurable banality. It did, however, introduce, a new character into the badly written soap opera: a disabled Saudi sheik whose physical disability (his legs seem to be paralyzed) tames in comparison to his intellectual impotence. The chubby sheik praised Bin Ladens piousness which the latter proved by massacring thousands of people and offered to recount the news from Osamas birth country, Saudi Arabia. It seems, things there are sizzling. Thus, we learned that the sheiks aging mother had a disturbing dream prior to the September 11th, which, according to the unanimous opinion of the starring lunatics, makes the old woman worthy of Allahs praise.

Bin Laden, in his own turn recounted a dream that one of his soldiers had in which the Al Qaida soccer team competing against the Americans, wore pilots uniforms. And smiling all-knowingly, he pointed the finger upwards, in the manner of Da Vincis Babtist, this time, praising Allah himself. The one-eyed, Mullah Omar, who was not cast in a role in any of Bin Ladens videos had reportedly also been seeing a lot dreams lately. But the center of Omars somnambular universe is the Jihad Colonel Himself, Allah. Watching these deranged, primitive warriors who evoke the name of Allah every five seconds, it becomes apparent how easily evil can become worse than mediocre: it could also become unbearably boring. I could only imagine what the international trial of these individuals, if one ever takes place, would do to the TV ratings. Two hours into the show, wed switch back to our reality shows. Thats why, I cant blame the US Marines for coming up with a rather ingenuous slogan while the search for the lunatics continues: Allah will judge Osama Bin Laden and his friends Well just arrange the meeting.

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