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Don't be alarmed. No, really. Don't.

Stateside with Rosalea: Don't be alarmed. No, really. Don't.

By Rosalea Barker

Gmng, gmng, gmng! Do you still have a smile that looks like a left-over from last year? That's what a radio ad for a dentist just asked, with totally unconscious humour. And did my ears deceive me, or did the announcer refer to "sitcom briefings and press conferences"? He was opining on the uselessness of having embedded journalists, saying it's like looking at the war through a straw.

His co-host, on the other hand, who had been a war reporter (seemingly from a bar) in Lebanon, said the concept was "sheer genius on the part of the Bush administration" because it would create a new generation of patriotic journalists, by making them realise what's it's like to be shot at. Tell that to Margaret Moth.

Meanwhile the anti-war (as in "anti-matter") continues apace with the buses sometimes not running and the police helicopter overhead and the chanting and yelling on Market Street in San Francisco at commute time. A classmate recounted how she heard some visitors from Kansas ask a bus driver if he was going to downtown SF, only to have him reply: "Have you been under a rock for the past five days?" and give them a complicated set of instructions of how to get there on foot. Which makes it sound much worse than it is. There are plenty of bus and train services that aren't disrupted, and if you're smart you'll want to see "the world's largest outdoor lunatic asylum" come hell or high heels.

I'm not quite sure just what the implication of that quoted description is, but I heard it on my friendly right-wing radio station. It's true in the sense that most of the street people are suffering from some form of mental illness that in earlier times would have seen them in institutional care. Don't be alarmed! They're harmless, but many are pitiful, and for some reason in the first few days of war I felt particularly warm-hearted towards them. Now I'm back to my callous self, declining even to say, "Sorry, got none", when they beg for change.

Still, I can't help seeing a vision of more and more people begging, like in Germany after World War I. Aren't the similarities to the "Great War" eerie? Instead of the Arch-Duke Ferdinand getting shot and Serbia being invaded in a pre-emptive strike against the terrorists it was supposedly harboring, ordinary people die at their place of work and Iraq is invaded in a pre-emptive strike against the terrorists it is supposedly aiding and abetting.

Then there's that flu thing. The "Spanish Lady" as it was called, killed more people than the war itself. This one seems to be under control, but you have to hope that the first person to come down with it didn't pick it up off a piece of shuttle debris. Well, you know... who knows what's out there?

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