The War On Terror Inside My Head
Now that I’m getting close to the last week of my primary treatment, I’m starting to prepare myself mentally for the upcoming maintenance phase. I’ve decided that living with brain cancer will be no worse than living in the United States during the age of the so-called “War on Terror.”
Here’s the main reason why: The primary measure of success will not be in the realization of a positive, but in the avoidance of a negative. Just substitute the phrase “recurring brain tumor” for “major terrorist attack” and you’ll get the drift.
If a brain tumor comes back, I lose. If a tumor does not come back, I don’t lose. But I don’t ever get to win, either. Not even close. Yet, as we all know, not winning is still better than losing. Right? (continued below)
The chart above was an attempt I made back in 2002 with Orlando Sentinel reporter Jim Leusner and graphic-artist Shiniko Floyd to convey visually the complexity of the nation’s so-called “Homeland Security” mission. (This was for a newspaper series we did called The Race For Security.) To do so, we examined the new, unfamiliar and multi-dimensional federal program against that ever-reliable, can-do yardstick that anyone old enough to remember the 1960s could relate to: Putting a Man on the Moon. We broke the two huge federal-bureaucratic endeavours down to their common denominators: Triggering events, political factors, management and operational requirements and finally, major objectives. Then we plotted both missions against the urgency factor of time. I won’t belabor the results — but you can get the basic drift by comparing the Homeland Security chart to the Moon Mission chart (below). Compared to the Race For Security, the Race For The Moon was a relatively linear task. Today, it looks almost the way putting a busted arm in a sling would look if you compared it to stereotactic brain surgery. And we even got the old-school NASA guys who actually ran the Apollo program to agree with that assessment. (continued below)
Homeland Security — with its multiple, gauzy objectives — has always looked as hopelessly complex as a scary, untreatable brain tumor looks in an MRI scan. So now I’m thinking the whole War On Terror deal was almost like the government telling the entire country it had terminal brain cancer and that we’d all just have to learn to live with it. Now, lots of the same folks who were telling us THAT are currently fighting for dear life against the concept of health care for all. They say THAT would ruin the country. So let’s get this straight: An all-encompassing, unbounded, 10-times-bigger-than-the-Moon, federal police-intelligence and law-enforcement apparatus that swallowed up our entire society would have been okay with the Founding Fathers. But universal health care? That’s waaayyyy too much Big Government. Go figure.
Anyway, to keep the spirit of fear-mongering-with-no-hope-for-human-progress alive, here are 10 new rules I’m going to impose on everyone in order to protect my brain from another tumor attack:
1. If you want to be my friend or be around me at all, you will be required to always be afraid that something bad is about to happen to my brain.
2. I am developing a five-tiered, color-coded scheme to keep everyone aware of the current condition of my brain. It will always be set at the second highest level of alert.
3. You may not park your car within 1,000 feet of my brain for more than five seconds, even if you are only using those additional few seconds to kiss your dearest loved one goodbye.
4. If you come near my brain, you must remove your shoes.
5. Anyone attempting to bring more than 3 fluid ounces of any liquid that is not a double Martini near my brain will be immediately arrested.
6. You may not mail any white powdery substances to my brain.
7. Those sending written or verbal communications to the inside of my brain from anywhere outside my brain will automatically be subject to eavesdropping and surveillance without a search warrant.
8. Thoughts that I manage to keep to myself inside my own brain will from time to time be subject to warrantless surveillance, as circumstances require.
9. If warrantless surveillance of my own internal brain traffic fails to yield actionable intelligence, I may be required to subject my brain to enhanced interrogation techniques such as sleep deprivation, prolonged stress positions, wall banging or waterboarding. But under no circumstances may any of these techniques be characterized as torture.
10. It may become necessary at some point for my brain to protect itself by invading another part of my body — my liver, let’s say — even if that part of my body has nothing to do with brain cancer. And my brain will declare victory even if such an action yields no evidence of anything even close to cancer, not even Cirrhosis Of Mass Destruction.
Those are just the first 10 rules. We may be adding more or changing them around as the game goes on. So you see? This brain-cancer deal isn’t going to be all that bad after all. We all know the drill. It’s been in all of our heads for eight years now.
As far as I’m concerned, it’s Mission Accomplished.