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The Ghost of Christmas Future in the Land of the Free
Published on Wednesday, December 12, 2001 in the San Francisco Chronicle
The Ghost of Christmas Future in the Land of the Free
by Stephanie Salter
 
Afghanistan is just the beginning on the war against terror . . . Across the world, and across the years, we will fight these evil ones, and we will win.

-- George W. Bush, Fort Campbell, Ky., Nov. 21, 2001

HEY, GRANDMA! Are you home? I just picked up our new flag at the Wal-Mart Patriot Center. You want me to take down the old one?

"Bless your heart, Bobby. What would I do without you? It's been so long since I could afford my arthritis medicine, I can't even pull on the flagpole rope. And you know what trouble I'd be in if somebody passed by and reported us flagless. President-for-Life Bush made that a federal crime back in early- 2005, I believe."

Did he do that with an executive order, Grandma, or was Congress in on it?

"I think it was an executive order, Bobby; Congress became kind of irrelevant after Mr. Bush was re-elected in '04. Like allowing him to be President-for-Life, it made the people feel better. But it's hard to remember. So much has changed."

Like what, Grandma? Weren't we already at war with the Evil Ones back then?

"Well, of course we were, honey. America has been fighting the Evil Ones since before you were born. God rest your mother's and father's souls; they made the ultimate sacrifice -- your daddy early on in Iraq, your Mamma almost four years later in Switzerland."

I wish I could remember Mamma.

"I know, Bobby. But don't forget: you can always play that lovely 'Tribute to Our Fallen Heroes' video that United Airlines, Home Depot and the National Football League put out for Christmas '07. They made it so every family could morph in the image of their lost loved one."

So, what has changed, Grandma? Besides going to prison for being flagless, how is life different from what it used to be?

"Let me see. Well, we didn't always have surveillance cameras in every room of our house, and nobody listened in on our phone calls unless a judge gave them permission."

Come on, Grandma! How can you fight the Evil Ones if your government isn't free to seek them out where ever they might hide?

"I know, honey. We were so naive back then. Thank God Attorney-General-for- Life Ashcroft woke us up. He showed us how silly and dangerous our notions of privacy and constitutional rights were. Just two months into the war against the Evil Ones, he scolded a bunch of senators -- people still cared what Congress thought back then -- for scaring 'peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty.' He said, 'Your tactics only aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve. They give ammunition to America's enemies and pause to America's friends.' "

I know that speech by heart, Grandma. We recite it at the start of history class -- right after the prayer and right before we name names of neighbors and friends we suspect of aiding the Evil Ones. I turned in Justin this morning because his mom keeps copies of some old magazine called The Nation hidden in her underwear drawer.

"Such a good boy. If only your folks were here to see what a friend of freedom you've become."

Gosh, Grandma, that's what being an American is all about. We may be poor in material things -- what with 90 percent of the national budget going to the long war against the Evil Ones -- but no sacrifice is too great to ensure our security and protect our freedom. Now, let's go out in the yard and raise that new flag. I'll hoist her up and you sing "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" -- real loud so Justin's mom will hear when the police come to take her away.

©2001 San Francisco Chronicle

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