The Sleep Deprived Crank
by editor Michael Hutchison
Discussed this month: WHAT A MONTH.
It's hard to believe that it was just a little over four weeks ago that I completed Fanzing #38 and left for Washington Island. It was vacation time! Time to relax at a secluded resort, away from television, away from the Internet. Peace and relaxation...enough to charge me up for another year. So much that I'd be busting with energy for this issue.
Since then (in no particular order of importance): Chuck Dixon announced he's leaving DC to join CrossGen; my brother got called up by the Air Force and had to leave in under two hours; my grandmother died after a decade of battling Alzheimer's...and Rush Limbaugh announced that he's deaf. Oh, and there was a terrorist attack on America that killed almost 7000 people and we're now at war.
I apologize that I can't just print a long, glowing review of my vacation. Lord knows that there's little I could say about the terrorist attack at this late date which hasn't been said numerous times by others. Still, I do have some thoughts on the matter.
First, I may as well relate the part of my vacation that was unmarred by the tragedy.
On Saturday, September 8, we packed up the minivan and drove across Wisconsin, getting as far as Fond du Lac, the town where I was born. Fond du Lac is a LOT smaller than I remember...but then, I've lived in Minneapolis and Rochester where our shopping malls are collossal. The shopping mall where I saw "Star Wars" in 1977 is so small that you can easily see the east end from the west end. It's disconcerting, because I still remember it as a thriving commercial center. That night, I took Melinda driving through the beautiful park down by the marina. Again, fond memories of the place all lit up at Christmastime ran through my head. I remember the lighthouse being decked out with Christmas lights and at the top a figure of Rudolph, with his nose placed where the red light of the lighthouse emanates. Of course, it doesn't look like that on a Saturday night in autumn. Melinda, having no preconceived notions of the place, glanced around at all the idle teenagers blasting their music by the parked cars in the dank lighting and said, "I think they're selling drugs here."
Sunday, we drove up Door County peninsula. To all of you who haven't studied Wisconsin's shape, you'll see that the dairyland is shaped like a left hand with the thumb sticking out. Door County is the thumb on the hand of Wisconsin, and we were heading to Washington Island, a five mile by four mile island just off the thumb. It was a rainy drive, but fun. We found a large used bookstore and spent an hour there. I purchased Peggy Noonan's memoirs of working as Ronald Reagan's speechwriter, plus a mystery book, a small picture book about D-Day...and a wonderful find in the very back of the store: Winston Churchill's six volume series of books on World War II. Hardcover books from a local library...possibly first editions...in great shape, all for $75. More than I'd usually care to spend, but this is Winston Churchill we're talking about. One of my favorite world leaders, and probably my favorite orator. I read the one-paragraph description at the front of one of the books, "Their Finest Hour," and even his little forward was thrilling:
Theme of the Volume:
What a compelling sentence! I wish I could write like Winston Churchill. I snatched up the books...not knowing how much I'd be thinking of great leadership, warfare and oratory in the next month.
We took the rainy ferry boat ride to Washington Island and checked into the Gibsons Resort. Sunday and Monday were spent relaxing at the resort, driving past the Ostrich Farm/petting zoo, shopping, eating at the almost-deserted restaurants and playing games like Monopoly and Skip-Bo near the roaring fireplace. We were supposed to keep doing that until Thursday.
Visiting a small Norwegian store on Monday, Melinda and I met a woman who asked us where we hailed from. "Minnesota," we replied...which, of course, gets her talking about how much she likes Jesse Ventura. As you know, Minnesota doesn't have anything of note within its borders except for our megalomaniacal governor. So, we agreed that he's rather mercurial but at least he keeps working to get more of our tax money back to us; we've got to give him that much! The shopkeeper uses the discussion of tax cuts to roll her eyes and comment that she "wishes George had just kept the $300 and used it to fix the problems in Washington." Melinda and I inform her that we were spending our $600 on the Washington Island economy, so she shouldn't be so dismissive of that. She didn't seem swayed, so we left without buying anything at her store. (If she doesn't want to benefit from tax cuts, then we will help her do that.)
Tuesday, September 11, I relaxed in the main lounge reading "The Return of the King" when Mrs. Gibson came out and asked if I'd heard about the news. Since the only television was an old console that barely picked up the three networks from Green Bay, she invited us into the Gibson family's private residence to watch the replay of the attack. The rest of the day was spent eating at the local bar with a bigscreen TV and satellite news, and this pretty much took the wind out of our sails for the rest of the vacation. Even a visit to the petting zoo to see our buddy the camel and buy some ostrich burgers didn't cheer us up.
One thing about around-the-clock news programming: the present state of our journalism sucks. Instead of giving a concise, well-written status report...an actual story with a beginning, middle and an end...at the top and bottom of every hour for people who haven't caught the news earlier, all there is is a mish-mash of data and blurbs and yammering. Flag graphics waving in the top corner and a title and a two-level series of crawling ticker graphics, all obscuring a protracted interview with some so-and-so expert and laid over an endless loop of disaster photography. Give me Edward R. Murrow shouting into a microphone with an actual REPORT as to what has happened, instead of this endless yammering.
There was one man who wasn't yammering: British Prime Minister Tony Blair. On September 11, with barely any time to write a speech, Tony delivered a stirring tribute to freedom and America that made me proud. Now THAT guy is a true heir to Winston Churchill!
Still, aside from sponging off of others' televisions, we didn't have much in the way of information on our remote island. Our cell phones wouldn't even work until we were part of the way across Wisconsin. Melinda called in to see how crazy it was at the Mayo Clinic, since all medical centers were trying to help the victims in NYC. Melinda's co-worker told her that everything was okay at Mayo, although there was a group of Arabian men who were hooting and cheering in the TV lounge while watching the towers collapse. What a lot of nerve! They come to America to get the best health care money can buy, then stand amongst a crowd of Americans and celebrate the deaths of thousands of our citizens.
I would like to point out that these guys were NOT attacked, they were NOT lynched, they were NOT even arrested. Remember that the next time someone talks about what a bloodthirsty, racist nation we are. They acted like the biggest, most ungrateful pricks in the world, and they were allowed to speak because we have a civilized country.
For all the fretting about a few racially-motivated crimes that occured in the wake of the attack, I actually see the optimistic side. We are a nation of 300 million people...300 million very angry people who watched an attack on our shores by some sick terrorist bastards, ALL of whom were Islamic fundamentalists from Saudi Arabia, and yet the number of racial confrontations resulting from it are miniscule. Let me ask you something: if you were in Saudi Arabia when American terrorists staged a similar attack on their soil, do you think you'd stand a good chance of getting out of the country alive? We will always have our minority of racist bozos and hatemongers, but they are not at all representative of who we are as a nation.
We are an open-minded and accepting culture. It is this very aspect of our nation which is being exploited by these sleeper agents who took advantage of our good will towards foreigners. Sadly, their actions will have brought more inconvenience and pain to their fellow middle-eastern men. But even as we may tighten up our borders and begin enforcing our immigration laws, we will do so as a nation that continues to accept immigrants as a cornerstone of our culture. I'm actually for super-tight immigration laws and deportation of illegal immigrants because it will benefit those legal immigrants and naturalized Americans who are currently suffering undue suspicion. Right now, we're wondering whether the middle Eastern men we see have slipped through the massive cracks in our system, living with expired visas and avoiding background checks. Under tighter laws, we'll be able to take comfort in knowing that the immigrants we see have been checked out and okayed.
Anyway...back to my vacation...
I returned the next weekend to finally log onto the Internet and check in with my buddies. At least I could get a sense of stability from my pals on the Fanzing and Dixonverse message boards, right? So I find out that Chuck Dixon is leaving DC Comics and joining CrossGen. This after telling all of us at the WizardWorld dinner that he hated Florida and couldn't imagine working there! Chuck's motivations check out, though. Chuck's a fan who wants to see the medium thrive, and CrossGen impressed him with their plans. So, I'm sorry to see him go from Birds of Prey and Nightwing, but I can see why he made the decision.
I checked the date on his announcement and saw it was dated the day before the terrorist attack. Crossgen must be kicking themselves about the timing of that one!
Another thing that happened in September is that my brother, Andy, who had been applying to get back into the Air Force, was called up. He had barely two hours to pack and leave! So far, he is still in training in the United States. I hope you'll keep him in your prayers.
A week after the attack, my parents called to say that my paternal grandmother had passed away. I wish I could say that was a horrible thing, but she'd been suffering from Alzheimer's for well over a decade and for most of the late 1990s her life had been "over" for all practical purposes. Our family stayed in contact with her and supportive, but in many ways we had said good-bye to Ruth Hutchison long ago. Alzheimer's is a horrible way to spend the rest of your life. It's also horrible for the family because we feel guilty whenever we secretly wish, for even an instant, that she had died at the same time that she was mentally gone.
I often think of President Ronald Reagan, who suffers from the same illness. Somewhere he still lives (and just recently reached the oldest age that any president has ever reached)...and yet he isn't truly alive. It was years ago that we were told that Reagan had no memory of ever being president. At this point, there must be almost nothing left of the man we all knew. Reagan wrote in his farewell letter that he was now "entering the twilight of my life"; sadly, that twilight can last a long time.
Our medical science has found ways to greatly prolong our lifespans...but in the case of Alzheimer's, all that means is that we can now hang around in a mindless state for years and years. And Alzheimer's runs in families. I pray to God that my father doesn't come down with it. And if I ever have Alzheimer's (and we haven't found a cure by 2040), I hope that I have the presence of mind and the willpower to slit my wrists and save everyone else the anguish.
And speaking of agonizing ways to spend the rest of one's life...another one of my Republican heroes, Rush Limbaugh, just announced he's become almost totally deaf in the space of three months. For a radio broadcaster to lose one of the essentials of his job...to not be able to hear his voice, or listen to music, or the intonations of a caller, or the way a politician speaks...well, Rush intends to continue, but I sure don't see how he can for long. I'm glad Rush has put up a brave front and is showing his infamous "can-do" attitude, because I think this is about as much sadness as I can handle.
By the way, I hope it's okay for me to mention Reagan and Rush as long as it's for non-political reasons. I've gotten flak in the past for voicing my opinions; God forbid I should do that in my magazine's opinion column. But if you're the type whose skin crawls at the mention of Rush or Reagan, would you at least do me the courtesy of keeping it to yourself for the moment? I really don't need any e-mails or Forum posts saying nasty things about them right now. It amazes me the cruelty that flows openly on the Internet sometimes.
The fallout from the terrorist attack has been wonderfully uplifting in that it's brought our contentious country together and marginalized the extreme weirdos. Pat Buchanan has never looked more out of touch. On the left wing, the wheat's been separated from the chaff, as mainstream Democrats have waved the flag and supported our country while the Berkeley crowd managed to shut up for all of a respectful 27 seconds before rewriting their same old anti-America screeds to suit the occasion. That's got to be embarrassing and irritating for many Dems like the blue collar union guys in New York who may support labor and big government but love America as much as anybody.
There's more that I could write about this, but I'll save the politics for a column on my other web site.
I will say this: I was right about Bush. I knew that he'd be a great president, and this last month has really brought that out. Sure, he's not Reagan or Churchill in the oratory department, but he'll easily surpass his dad both as a speaker and a president. I never really liked George H. W. Bush. His son has a fire and a determination that I never saw in his dad, and you know that he has a solid set of ideals. I am very glad he won.
I pray that this next month will be less "interesting" than the last one. I am confident that we are reasonably safe from terrorism at the moment, at least from Bin Laden's group. Weeks ago, when everyone else was frantic with talk of what they'll do next, I wasn't afraid. This was bin Laden's big play; it could be nothing else. From a strategy point of view it's clear that all the attacks were planned to be simultaneous...because after that, Americans would be guarded and suspicious, and it would be MUCH more difficult to pull off another plan. I mean, their plan of attack was already coming apart by the time the passengers on the fourth plane heard what happened to the other planes. If he had any other plans, they would have been timed to occur at the same time as the WTC attacks.
And all these people who fear that the next attack will be deadlier. Does it make any sense that if he had some plan that was even worse that he wouldn't have used THAT plan on 9-11? Didn't think so.
Mind you, I work at IBM and Melinda works at Mayo Clinic, so it's not as if we are free from being targets. We also live in Rochester, where one of Usama Bin Laden's compatriots is still imprisoned, and Bin Laden has sworn to free the guy. Thus, I'm not speaking from a position of isolation and safety. Still, aside from musing about possibly purchasing a firearm, we're trying to resume our same old lives as much as possible. (Speaking of which: OF COURSE pilots should be armed! I think that somewhere in the back of my head I'd always assumed that they were! How nice of the media to make it clear that the pilots currently have no way to defend themselves.)
They attacked our financial centers. They attacked our military center (actually, I believe that they were aiming for something else in Washington). Now, it would be a shame if they were to attack some other element of our culture, such as our great education centers...say, Berkeley...but I don't think that's even a risk at this point. The terrorists made their move...and now, America is coming at them like gangbusters.
We're fighting this war the right way, and I am proud of the way we're fighting it. We're not stooping to racial slurs. We're not indiscriminately bombing just for the sake of doing "something." Anyone screaming "jingoism" doesn't know the meaning of the word.
Best of all, we've made it clear to the world that even in war we just want what's best for the other countries. We've shown more sympathy to the people of Afghanistan than most any other nation on the world would show them after being attacked by terrorists that they harbor. We've continued our humanitarian aid.
We need to bring freedom to the oppressed people of Afghanistan, and bringing down the Taliban is the first step. I hope we will not back down from the next step of helping them to establish a democracy there, for free nations don't harbor terrorists.
One final announcement: Fanzing is going to be shaking things up in the coming year, with some major changes underway. We have discussed them in the Fanzing Forum. To read them, check out the link below.
Next issue is "Robots", followed by "Times Past" in December. January is Reboot, both in topic and in the changes to the magazine. Please contribute if you can. Thank you.
This column is © 2001 Michael Hutchison.
Fanzing is not associated with DC Comics.
All DC Comics characters, trademarks and images (where used) are DC Comics, Inc.
DC characters are used here in fan art and fiction in accordance with their generous "fair use" policies.
Fanzing site version 7.4