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Friday, June 07, 2002


The earliest manifestations of Peggy Noonan's war-related madness were chronicled here and here. Shortly thereafter she settled back into her usual, less troubled hagiographic state. But on Friday she relapsed horribly.

"I think of the comment of a friend whose sister lives in an ashram in Washington state," Ms. Noonan writes. "Her swami, a follower of an Indian form of astrology, has announced that June 10 and 11 will be cataclysmic for the world. She called her brother, my friend, to tell him that she loved him. My friend tells me all this and we look at each other and know what the other is thinking: I don't believe in swamis and I don't believe in Indian astrology, but June 11 is nine months after 9/11, and the enemy seems to like nines. We both sort of breathed in and out again. Should we avoid cities on those dates?"

Her previous Catholic mysticism was weird enough, but now Noonan is attending numerology and followers of swamis.

What has caused this relapse? Perhaps it was precipitated by Bush's new Homeland Security initiative -- or the security fiasco that (one could be excused for suspecting) led to it; Noonan does warn, late in her ravings, that "The longer we obsess on the systems failure that contributed to Sept. 11, the more we contribute to the next systems failure."

The latter explanation would offer some hope for Noonan's sanity. Once a Republican operative, always a Republican operative, and it would be less worrisome to imagine that the Riefenstahl of Reaganism is merely pulling a Cheney in the service of the Administration's approval ratings.

Alas, her column offers further evidence that Noonan has indeed flipped:

"As you read this I want you to do something. If you think that another bigger, more terrible shoe will not drop in our time, stand up right now.

"You're still sitting. Because just about every sane and sentient adult knows that more shoes will drop, some with a deadening thud.

"If you think New York City will not be a target, or the target, of the next big shoe or shoes, stand up.

"You're still sitting..."

This reverse-Howard Beale exhortation goes on for a while, and one imagines Noonan typing it out and envisioning millions of readers proving her psychic powers by dutifully remaining in their seats.

Her real call to action, though, is to "Think dark... be dire... We are living in a time when it is one's patriotic duty to be imaginative." And what must we imagine? "On the same day, New York and Washington are, say, dirty-nuked."

And what must be done to prevent this? Scrutinize Arabs and Muslims, she says (at least as carefully as she did last October). But above all, we must fear. "Why isn't our government telling people, through television and pamphlets and speeches and announcements, what they need to do to survive a potential nuclear attack?" asks Noonan. "What should mom and dad in the suburbs do if they see a flash of light and a two mile high cloud in the city 22 miles away?"

For some, the answer will always (or in times of psychological distress) be to live in terror. Me, I live in an apartment in Brooklyn. I have no backyard in which to build a bomb shelter, and no inclination (or money) to purchase one. If a nuclear device strikes New York, I figure, I'm screwed. More to the point, if the combined might of our intelligence and law enforcement agencies can't prevent such devices from striking, we're all screwed, and all the preparedness plans in the world won't unscrew us.

Rather than bunker ourselves, how about we find a better way to deal with the rest of the world?

Is that too crazy? Or too sane?

• • • • •

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