Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon said that President Bush ... had not explained the necessity of the war on terror to women. Mr. Smith ... illustrat[ed] his point with an observation from personal experience. Mr. Smith's five sisters, the senator said, did not see the link between the war and their own safety to the extent that he did. ...
The senator encouraged the Bush administration to work harder to make a stronger connection with his sisters -- and by extension women across the country.
-- Carl Hulse, "Trouble Talking to the Ladies - About Terrorism," New York Times, June 10, 2004
Shopping caused the problem - as it so often does with us of the frail sex. Four of the girls from Miss Fitz's Young Ladies Academy - Veronique, Scarlett, Mistress Domina, and Stephanie (aka Spike) - decided they just had to check out the latest designer duds in the Big City.
So they set off in the academy's van, heedless and willy nilly, out into the Real World. Forgive them. They're young. They didn't understand that it's not like Hardyville out there.
No sooner had they crested Lonelyheart Pass then they sailed headlong and headstrong into a federal government checkpoint. Black-clad and cammo-covered officers at the barricades were pulling over carloads of women.
The girls failed to understand the etiquette of the situation (or to be fast enough on the draw, depending on your viewpoint). And next thing you know, what with their lack of "green" travel profiles and definite non-lack of Attitude, all four were trussed up like Thanksgiving turkeys, face-down on the pavement -- hands cuffed behind them and German MP5 machine guns sticking in their spines.
"You can't arrest us!" Spike bellowed. "We're free Hardyvillians. We have a right ..."
"Shut up," explained a Man With a Clipboard, as a face-shielded trooper gave an emphatic poke with a gun barrel. "You're not under arrest. You're just detained."
"What's the difference?"
"War on terror. When you're only 'detained' you're not entitled to a lawyer. Or a trial."
"&^%$#" said Spike. Scarlett started to weep.
"Show some respect for authority," one of the gun-wielding troopers snarled.
Domina glared. "I'd gladly treat you boys to exactly the kind of respect you deserve," she drawled in her slow, controlled way. "Except you don't deserve to get it from somebody as gentle and refined as me."
The stunned girls craned their necks up from the pavement to watch what was happening around them.
A huddle of women of all ages shuffled off to one side of the checkpoint, surrounded by helmeted men with more German machine guns. German shepherd dogs sniffed and snarled and lunged at their leashes. As the women were herded toward the back of a semi-trailer, matrons felt them up and ran metal detectors over their bodies.
Some of the shuffling women were run through a sort of x-ray machine that showed ... well, enough to make the men with the guns snicker and snort.
It looked a lot like a typical day at an airport, war on terror style.
Meanwhile, a pickup truck driven by a swarthy young man and reeking of fertilizer was waved through the barricades.
Veronique pleaded to Mr. Clipboard, "I'm sorry, but we really don't understand. Who are you? Why did you stop us? And what's that trailer where you're herding those women?"
He barked, "Homeland Security Mobile Education Strike Force. Gender-Based Re-Education Checkpoint."
"Gender-Based Re-Education Strike Van. Portable classroom," he droned, nodding toward the semi trailer. "Those who aren't with us in the war on terror are aiding our enemies. Persons of the female gender have been shown by DARPA computer modeling not to be right-thinking. Therefore they must be re-educated for their own safety and for national security. No exceptions. Emergency War on Terror Directive Number 7X-666-1984."
"You mean ... you're herding those women in there to teach them how the war on terror makes us all safer?"
The girls looked at each other, blinking in confusion.
"Er ..." said Veronique, wriggling uncomfortably in her restraints. Then all four began to babble at once.
"You mean you're telling those women how we're safer because when Saudi men attack us, we invade Iraq and Afghanistan?"
"And bomb their women and kids?"
"And lie about why?"
"And y'all mean t' tell us," Scarlett sniffed, "that we all's safer 'cause you know what library books we read or cause y'all at the Pentagon know lickety-split on your big computers anytime some girl charges a tube of lipstick on her credit card?"
"And we're safer because peace activists and people named David Nelson aren't allowed to fly on airplanes - while Osama bin Laden doesn't make the no-fly list?"
"And because you've got SS and FBI guys off doing important stuff like investigating Jewish nerds for reading magazine articles over their lattes?"
"Or because 'security' tells people not to wait outside airplane restrooms and considers us suspicious if we read maps or almanacs?"
"And you're telling those women in there were all safer because you've finally gotten rid of that pesky Fourth Amendment? And done away with that silly fair trial and right to confront your accuser stuff?"
Veronique shook her head. "Girls," she said. "I think we're better off out here lying in the dirt."
"Well," Domina purred at the Clipboard Man in a tone of great agreeableness, "It is true that you can make friends by humiliating and torturing people. On camera, especially. But the government torture lawyers don't quite get the picture. I'll share a trade secret with you: torture only wins friends when the man begs you to do it."
"Girls," said Mr. Clipboard, "Don't worry your pretty little heads about all those details. Your leaders know best. The black helicopters will be here in a few minutes to pick you four up." And off he walked, smiling smugly, leaving Miss Fitz's ladies fuming in the gravel.
While all this was going on, other agents were, of course, pawing through the young ladies' purses and other possessions. One of the agents reached into Scarlett's confiscated bag and pulled out ...
"Y'all put that back!" Scarlett wailed. "That's mah private business. Ain't none of yours."
The agents snickered and snorted, and one clicked a switch that made the mysterious object buzz. Which made them snicker and snort some more.
"Well, Scarlett," said Spike, "if you ever do want to carry a bomb around, you know know how to disguise it. These monkeys would flick the switch and blow themselves straight up."
Meanwhile a van with a radiation symbol and a swarthy young driver breezed through the checkpoint.
Then one of the cops dug deep into Veronique's purse and came up with a really dangerous item ... a book.
"Oh no. Now we're totally *&^%ed," Spike moaned, laying her head back down.
"Not quite," said Veronique with a nod to the north.
And over the top of the pass came both of Hardy County's sheriff's cars, lights flashing and sirens wailing.
The sheriff's SUVs squealed to a stop. Out flooded not only the sheriff and Miss Fitz (called by Veronique on her cell just before the girls got nabbed, of course), but Hardyville's own Ultra-violet Purple Alert Multijurisdictional Anti-Juju Delta-SEAL Hunter-Killer Special Tactics Team (formed specially for this occasion and mostly consisting of two part-time deputies and Nat and Carty with coal scuttles upended on their heads to look like armor).
"All right!" the sheriff boomed, the moment he assessed the situation. "I'm taking charge of these prisoners. Special Security Directive."
"On whose orders?" demanded Mr. Clipboard.
"Mine," grinned the sheriff. "You dumbbutts set up your checkpoint two feet inside the Hardy County line - and The citizens made me the ultimate law around here. If the Hardy County Jail was big enough, I'd put your worthless federal backsides in it for depriving people of their civil rights under color of law. But for now I'll settle for you handing over those prisoners and moving this stinking load of Joe Stalin off my jurisdiction. RIGHT NOW."
In no time, Miss Fitz and company had the free but shaken girls bundled into the van and headed back to Hardyville, with Carty at the wheel for some genuine security.
Scarlett finally sniffed her last sniff and started getting mad. "We've got to tell everybody what happened out there!"
Veronique shook her head. "Yeah ... but how can we? No reasonable person will ever believe there's anything as totally ridiculous as a Mobile Gender-Based Re-education Strike Force."
"Well, wait a minute," said Carty. "Why wouldn't they believe it? It's clumsy and ineffective. It uses brute force as a first resort. It's based on the idea that everybody's guilty until proved innocent. It's nosy. It violates rights. It aims at the wrong target. It presumes if you don't agree with the government you're either a traitor or too stupid to live. It's a complete waste of taxpayers' money. It destroys freedom. And it makes enemies instead of winning friends.
"What's not to believe, ladies? It's exactly like everything else in the war on terror."
Thank you, Jim B. for the lead on the Wise Sen. Smith and his Five Foolish Sisters. The world is a better place because you do worry your pretty little head about these things.