I have a terrorist's mind.
Terrorism has succeeded because I now think like a terrorist. I have just returned from London. Yes, despite pleas from hysterics: "Don't you know what's going on???" I ventured forth to be a very old groupie for my sweet husband and his mates playing Wembley on behalf of the planet at Live Earth with Metallica and Madonna. Not that I wasn't more than a tad anxious. I was. I am. My terrorist mind worked overtime. Where would I hit me? I even wondered if it would be the soft target in Beverly Hills, of a pre-trip mani/pedi (Vietnamese, Jews and Bottle Blondes) -- Los Angeles as well as Chicago and Atlanta supposedly being American possibilities. Of course the plane ride itself was enough tsouris. Air New Zealand, never flown nicer by the way, had me in mind. They gave me my own control panel/bed/condo/entertainment unit and they very cleverly gave me my own, personal, small, child's back-seat steering wheel to let me feel, and feel I did, that although I was on a 747 from LAX to London in the midst of a "critical" terror alert, that I WAS IN CONTROL. From the air, I was reminded of the vastness of London, and although I knew that the chances of my being in the wrong place at the wrong time were a sand grain in a very large hourglass, my terrorist mind still kept me thinking. I was thinking like a dangerous grain of sand.
When entering the UK at Heathrow on the 4th of July, a perfect opportunity for a two-fer, I exchanged a bon mot with the customs inspector. When asked if I had anything to declare I pithily responded "Only my independence." The ugly American strikes again. With my terrorist mind, I looked at every face, wondered aloud if the Portrait Gallery and the Tate Modern were too "easy" and if the small out- of- the-way Sardinian place, Olivo, was a clever pawn move. I now became a chess player as well as terrorist. All of us have, we ersatz jihadists.
My mind now joined the millions who live in countries where they bomb daily in retaliation for other bombs and so on and so on (see: The End of Faith). I now felt what I assume they feel as they walk their children to school, get their local produce... do their jobs.
Now, because of those Hippocratic oath violators and their expensive cars, all luxury cars looked suspect. I analyzed my daily time clock. I timed my movements to avoid rush hour, trash bins, post boxes and anything even remotely associated with America. I ate at odd times in odd places with odd names trying to avoid numerology and word associations in sinister combinations. I became a physicist, me with my combined SAT of 860, trying to determine blast theory and the benefits of being outside vs. inside if a blast occurred.
Going to Wembley, for the reason I walked into the minefield in the first place, was oddly calming. The sheer magnitude of humanity and noise and perhaps the talisman of a stage version of Stonehenge somehow deafened my terrorist mind meld. Since anyone can be a terrorist, no one can? Isn't that what Brad Bird said in The Incredibles: When everyone is a super-hero, no one is?
It made me realize that we are all the same. We all have fears, loves, laughs, dreams and realities. I realized that I was no less afraid than the man in a turban at LAX saying goodbye to his young wife and child, all tear-stained faces and locked eyes as they parted. We walk through fear everyday. We are human. To keep us going we must live in some version of acceptance or delusion but all these grim realities are there. Like the smoking Mercedes, the subway bomb, Madrid, London, New York, Bali, Iraq.
It is everywhere.
It is everyone.
Since I am an author of books for children and a mother of two, a daughter who was exploring Europe while I was there, a big dose of acceptance and a young son waiting for my safe return back home, my cultural references are almost all child entertainment related. In one of his favorite Cartoon Network shows they said: "Without fear, there can be no courage."
Makes sense to me. I don't want to think like a terrorist anymore. I just want to be my kid's mom, my husband's wife, my friend's friend, and my family's relative. I just want to be a good global citizen. I just want to walk through it all with a modicum of grace and courage and humor. Care to join me? I'll be the thin-faced, grey-haired, 48-year-old, in navy, standing in front of Piccadilly Circus wearing the T-shirt saying: BRING IT ON.