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September 12, 2012 / Melissa Leeanne

The Social Commentary of Dirty Dancing

Spoiler alert, in case you have never seen a movie that’s been out for decades.

I’m watching Dirty Dancing again; I’ve lost count. I saw it for the first time when I was pretty young, probably in elementary school still. Many might dismiss Dirty Dancing as a frivolous dance movie from the 80’s, but it is so much more. I gave my first lecture on the merits of Dirty Dancing three or four years ago while I was wasting away as a bartender at a dive bar in the basement of a hotel cum flop house. It was most likely a night such that I was providing the beer and the entertainment – empty but for one or two. I know it was a male patron who was the unwitting recipient of my lecture.

Baby is a strong female lead. Within the first ten minutes of the film, you discover that Baby is intelligent, socially conscious, curious, and open-minded despite her sheltered upbringing and naiveté. She has flaws and doesn’t always make the right choices, which, you know, makes her seem human. She’s observant and empathetic, which is how the real story is illuminated. Sure, there is impressive dancing and there are some comedic moments (way to go dumping that pitcher on Robbie the Creep’s crotch) but there’s so much more.

You get a great look at the difference between the privileged upper class and the lower class when Ayn Rand wielding prep, Robbie, refuses to provide a paltry amount to fund an abortion, while most of the guests at Kellerman’s are completely blind to the financial instability the staff face or their mistreatment. It is clear that the upper class and lower class have a different set of options before them, dictated by their financial situation. Where Baby can ask for $250 for no reason, Penny’s only option is to pay $250 for a an illegally conducted and unsafe abortion.

Abortion?! Dirty Dancing highlights the importance of the availability of legal and safe abortion procedures by showing the consequences of having a procedure that is not even illegal, but simply unobtainable. Abortions are not new and they will not go away, illegal, unobtainable or otherwise. Dirty Dancing provides a narrative of a woman with whom the audience can sympathize, with few realistic options, whose life is endangered by the unavailability of a safe option.

And let me get back to how Baby is not just a strong female character, but a strong female. She takes a stand for herself and she tries to take a stand for other people. When she feels Johnny doesn’t take her seriously, she takes on a challenge (to help Penny, of course) and when she feels that he is being disrespectful, she asserts herself. She doesn’t expect respect from others, she earns it by her actions. It’s somewhat unfortunate that Baby’s good qualities are more apparent in juxtaposition with her sister’s superficiality and narcissism, but it’s a storytelling technique. Baby really peaks as a character when she takes responsibility for her actions to do right by Johnny and [proves him innocent] of his accused crime.

There is also reference to unfair employment practices and the allure of a union job, even if it’s a dull one. Johnny and Penny are terrified that they have no job security and Johnny is harassed when Penny takes a break from her physically strenuous job. Johnny recognizes that a union job provides a level of security, though it certainly doesn’t thrill him to think of being a house painter or something equally as mundane.

Possibly the best thing about Dirty Dancing is that it sneaks all of this social commentary into a funny romantic movie with a happy ending, sort of like sneaking vegetables into delicious dishes that kids will eat. So, enjoy that closing dance number with, knowing that you’ve earned it. You just watched a film that celebrates equality, feminism, reproductive rights, workers’ rights, and really great dancing. Now, didn’t you have the time of your life?

June 17, 2012 / Melissa Leeanne

Puppy Love

I’m a generally happy person. By all means, things are going well in my life. I have a job I really enjoy, live in a great community, have really fulfilling interpersonal relationships and I recently moved out of an apartment and into a house (still a rental, but it’s a step up). But there was something missing — his name is Beau.

Each week, I add Gastineau Humane Society’s pets of the week to the Neighbors section. Each week, I read about and see photos of the animals at the shelter that need a home. And each week, up until recently, there was nothing I could do about their predicament. For a long time, I wouldn’t even visit the Humane Society — you can visit animals inside the facilities most afternoons or volunteer to walk dogs in the mornings — would it be too sad to meet all these animals who needed a home I couldn’t provide? My little through Big Brothers Big Sisters, Sophie, loves animals and almost all our meet-ups start with one thing (Folk Fest, frozen yogurt, etc.) and end up with us at the Humane Society. I couldn’t deny an animal-loving kid a trip to meet some shelter pets.

Then, one day, I found a house for rent that, lo and behold, allows pets. I immediately started thinking about getting a pet, even before the rental agreement was signed. Once we were sure about getting the house, I told Sophie she’d have to help me pick out a pet. I visited the Humane Society once or twice before we had even moved into the house, but it wasn’t until last Saturday that I absolutely, without doubt had to go to the Humane Society.

I was placing the pets of the week on the page and I kept looking at Beau, the cute little dog with bat ears. When I finished the section and it was ready for print, instead of going home, I went to the Humane Society. I signed in and immediately asked to meet Beau.

For me, it was love at first sight. He’s a smaller dog (appealing because of the smaller poop) with a reddish brown coat of extra-short, soft fur (less shedding). The bat ears — he’s a miniature pinscher — were even more adorable in person. And he has a great personality. He is sometimes quite energetic and excitable, but can also be mellow and cuddly. I filled out the application immediately, then asked permission of the housemates.

Both knew that I wanted a pet. The week before I had tried to convince them we should get a micro mini pig (do a google image search, it’s adorable). On Monday, I took them both to the Humane Society to meet Beau, hoping they’d adore him as much as I did. What can I say? Beau’s a charmer.

I went back and saw him again Tuesday as well. The adoption process is actually really quick. It takes just a few days once it is initiated. They had contacted my landlord and references, people I have dog-sat for, and Louisa told me that day I was approved and could bring Beau home after going through a half-hour meeting with their trainer the next day.

My meeting with Marcia, the trainer, was really helpful, we went over some basic commands and how to reward good behavior. We talked about some of Beau’s specific needs and how to continue training so he doesn’t forget his manners.

Sandra was there to help through the adoption process. She can help with paperwork, recommend veterinarian options and make suggestions about caring for a pet and how to manage paying for things like vet visits or emergency situations.

I also was able to outfit Beau with a leash, collar and harness right there at the Humane Society, and they offer starter bags of pet food should one decide to change his or her new pet’s diet.

Beau hasn’t been with me for too long yet, but he’s already adjusted to his new life and I already can’t imagine my life without the little guy. I have become one of those people who constantly talks about and shares photos of her pet (some people do it with children).

Beau has been lavished with attention and I’ve actually had to turn down treats from passers-by and friends who are smitten with him. He has also been on more walks each day than is probably sustainable, though with three people in the household, he might still get four walks each day.

He’s made himself at home, picking a perch atop the loveseat that overlooks the window, where he’ll occasionally play guard dog and bark (not yap) at someone outside.

For some people, adopting a pet from the Humane Society is the only option, while for others it might seem intimidating. Beau is already about 10-years-old and I’ve had people react like I was a saint, taking in a dog who would die any day now. But the pets that are available for adoption still have a lot of life and even more love left in them. Beau is 10 and some animals out there may be older, but each animal is in good health and, though they may have a quirk or two, each animal is able to be a loving pet to someone out there.

For me, adopting a pet from the Gastineau Humane Society has been easy and incredibly fulfilling. The Humane Society provides valuable services to the Juneau community and the pets we love, or soon will love.

My lack of writing here may have something to do with writing for my job. Feel free to check things out.

October 30, 2011 / Melissa Leeanne

Juneau arts support per capita

Juneau must be the most supportive arts community if you look at it in terms of arts support per capita. This community of 30,000 has more arts organizations than I can count and more events than a person could attend without the use of time travel. This weekend I took part in a Rocky Horror showing at the independent Gold Town Nickelodeon, saw the Juneau Symphony’s performance of Sweeney Todd, and missed out on numerous other events, including a roller derby bout and a guest musical artist. We have the umbrella Juneau Arts and Humanities Council, several dedicated galleries, organizations dedicated to every facet of the arts, and once a month there are several art show openings at galleries and cafes and retail locations.

We, as a community, support a professional theatre, plus two or three smaller troupes, two organizations dedicated to opera, a symphony orchestra, the Jazz and Classics festival and related events, community studios and every other citizen is a photographer, painter or musician. You never know who you are going to see, but you will see at least 3-5 people you know at any given event, usually as a member of the cast or band or showing their art. These creators are your neighbors, your co-workers, and your servers (even bouncers). Mrs. Lovett – I’ve been to her house! I’ve taken shots of whiskey with the popular bluegrass band. I have seen a musician who performed at Lollapalooza wearing a wacky blue wig and sunglasses on stage, performing after a group of middle school students playing death metal.

Another great thing about the arts here is how accessible everything is. There is live music most weekends, usually for free. First Friday Gallery Walk is free each month to attend. The Juneau-Douglas City Museum is free for the winter thanks to some sponsorship, there are pay-as-you-can performances of even the professional theatre’s shows, and there is a good chance that you can have a chat with the actors or musicians or artists. The most known musicians and actors are still regular people, rather than distant celebrities.

The best thing about it is that it makes for great date nights. Who needs dinner and a movie when you can have dinner and a live performance? Clearly, I’ve set my standards higher with such classy date nights – no more are the “dates” that involve cheap beer at a dive bar and late night Pel’meni. Who am I kidding, there’s room for that, too, especially if there is live music.

Now, if I were a numbers person like Nate Silver and a great graphics creator like David McCandless, I would figure out some numeric equation to quantify the arts in Juneau and come up with some fancy graphic  for arts per capita. Looks like I have a  new project!


Dear Nate Silver, I’m linking you back for that time you linked to my OWS – Juneau article in your blog. Thanks. Also, I admire your work.

Dear David McCandless, I also admire your work. If I succeed at this infographic bit, I thank you for some inspiration.


Edit: Oh Google, how I love thee, I’m taking my cues from this article:

October 25, 2011 / Melissa Leeanne

Write for my supper

For a few months this year, I had the privilege of working under the amazing communications director of a non-profit organization as her assistant. Due to lack of funding, my position wasn’t able to be renewed, leaving me unemployed and, worse, hoping for another job I would actually enjoy.

I’m going to assume that we’ve all held jobs we didn’t much like, for the sake of paying those pesky bills. Especially with the whole economic recession thing. Working as the communications assistant for this organization was one of the first jobs that gave me the satisfaction of feeling like my skills were being utilized. Sure, I can competently file documents or answer telephones or enter data, but I can do things that a number of people cannot.

Still, after this position, I was in the mindset that I needed to find another job in the non-profit field, even if it was back to administrative drudgery. It was kind of a blow to the ego when I didn’t get a job for which I was qualified at the same organization, but it wasn’t an insult at all. The office manager knew, my old boss knew: I wouldn’t really be content with administration. I might sleep well at night knowing I was indirectly saving the world, but I’d be sleepwalking at work doing a job that wasn’t challenging enough.

I value administrative professionals for their competence and contributions, and at that organization especially, most people did a lot more than basic administrative work. They were often also grant managers, working on interesting projects, and they were integral to the organization running smoothly and being as successful as it was. It wasn’t right for me, though.

For a few months after this failure, I stagnated in unemployment, applying only for jobs that seemed particularly interesting or challenging while sleeping until noon and losing all ability to function as a contributing member of society. I am really bad at unemployment. The only productive things I did for three months were learning to bake sourdough bread and continually changing my resume in my copy of illustrator. I occasionally worked a little retail or even babysat for my former boss’ daughter. One day at her house, she suggested I apply for a job at the paper. The paper had three or four openings at the time, two of which interested me, though both were a bit of a stretch.

Without getting into the gritty details about the application process, the wait, the interviews, the peeing in a cup – I got a job offer. I am the neighbors editor for the daily paper and, honestly, I am so glad to have had a mentor who encouraged me to apply for positions outside of my comfort zone. As it turns out, I’m a fine writer, AP style isn’t too difficult to pick up, and layout grows less exasperating with each week. My job includes writing one or two features a week (sometimes more if I’m feeling particularly productive), editing my section and proofing the A section twice a week, plus doing layout for my section and occasionally some of the A section. It’s a job that is almost never dull and it encourages me to learn and be creative.

I wish everyone could spend 40 hours a week doing something they love and getting paid for it. I don’t think I can ever turn back.


October 24, 2011 / Melissa Leeanne


Having lived in Alaska for nearly five years, I have noticed a pattern. Each spring, I feel a surprising sense of relief when the days start to get longer and there is more light in my life. Maybe it’s not quite science or medicine, but this tells me that I may be dealing with a bit of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Some people suggest taking vitamin D capsules, but I can’t take pills on time or regularly to save my life. Another option, some people have said a few minutes in the tanning bed cures their blues, but my delicate and pale as a halibut belly complexion and tanning beds don’t really go well together. What is left, then, is the “SAD light.”

Hopefully the “SAD light” is effective, either as it claims or as a placebo. I went to Costco over the weekend and bought one that looks like a weird modern lamp.

Everyone at Costco seemed really concerned with my mental and emotional health – nobody can stand to see a cute girl sad, it seems. I had seen the light on display the week before and had been thinking about it since. When I got back to Costco, there was a different and $100 more expensive and less attractive “SAD Light” in its place. I asked someone who worked there, pointing, “There was another light there before, do you still have it?” He looked at me knowingly, “Ah, you mean the happy light?” and directed me to the pharmaceutical section. I put the light in my cart and was already getting happy thinking about increasing my (pretend) natural sunlight intake. When I got to the check-out line, the woman scanned it and also commented on the light. “Gonna get happy, huh?” I joked that I was going to put it in my office. A joke not because of its location -it is at my desk at work – but because I actually like my job and feel happier since working there. Upon departure, because it was Costco, I handed my receipt to the man at the exit for him to check off.

“Are you sad?” he asked, “Are you unhappy?”

I explained to him, as I explained above, that the sense of relief I feel in the spring is likely indicative of Seasonal Affective Disorder and I thought the light might lessen the effects of the short days and endless gray skies. His response was along the lines of, ‘this place is depressing and there’s nothing to do and you’re crazy to live here by choice, especially being young (and cute)’ and I had the longest chat anyone has probably ever had with the door guy at a Costco, explaining why I do like Juneau and how there is plenty to do and how I don’t mind the rain and cold, at least in theory. Even though I was buying a lamp to make up for the sunlight I don’t receive.

According to the website for the lamp company, 80 percent of people benefit from the lights and most notice results in two to four days. Here’s hoping.

Out of curiosity, if I am unhappy with the light, do you think the people at Costco would take it back out of pity for the sad, cute girl?

October 23, 2011 / Melissa Leeanne

Diary of a dogsitter

I can’t have pets at my apartment or I’d probably have picked up a pound pup after one of my searches. To make up for my puppy-less-ness, I sometimes agree to walk or watch other people’s dogs, with more interesting results than anyone would want.

When I sat for a friend about a year ago, I was pretty enamored with her medium sized King Charles Spaniel with all his exuberance and soft fur that would decorate everything I wore for the week my friend was in Hawaii. We would go on walks together and sit on the couch for petting sessions and everything was great.

That exuberance I was talking about, though, it meant that he wanted to go a bit faster than my bipedal frame and admittedly less than lithe figure could manage, so I decided that I would let him off leash based on generally obedient behavior and how he always seemed to want to be everywhere I was, especially when I needed to take my own pee breaks, closing the door to the bathroom right in his cute little face. I was having good off leash experiences for the quick morning jaunts and decided, later one evening, to let him roam free for a bit. Winter in Alaska means it is dark by around 4pm and cold. I didn’t have a flashlight (I am still cursing myself for not buying a stupid headlamp, come on already) and when he dashed off outside of my field of vision, I started calling his name. Repeatedly. For about a half hour. While wandering in the dark among trees like an idiot. At least the bears are hibernating in the winter. I called a friend, who talked me down, convincing me to go back to my friend’s house because the dog was probably there. He was right. The exuberant dog was sitting in front of the door looking all too exuberant for my mood at the time, with something adding to his exuberance in his mouth. Again, it’s dark this time of year, and I reached for the mystery item in his mouth to find that it was a salmon head.

A slimy, cold salmon head (Alaskan problems).

That evening continued to be adventure filled because, of course, I had to give the exuberant, dead-fish-smelling dog a bath. He was less exuberant in the bath, shaking and pouting, and clearly aware of his much deserved ill favor for the hour I looked for him and then had to bathe him.

We made up, don’t worry.

Another friend of mine has a dog that can best be described as the embodiment of adorable. She’s a pom-chi-gle (Pomeranian-Chihuahua-Beagle) and the belle of the metaphorical ball. My friend had to work some pretty long shifts and the embodiment of adorable needs a break during that time, and my friend and her out-of-town (now) fiance needed to enlist someone who could handle that much cute without acting on the inevitable urge to steal a dog that cute. I would take the cutie on walks around town and everyone would be beside themselves, squealing and cooing at her. This was a summertime gig, too, so I had the occasional chance to parade around town in sundresses with the most sought after accessory of all, an adorable dog.

One day I was on dog walking duty (or had dog walking privileges?) and there was also an event going on at a nearby park. I asked permission to take the cutie to the park for Punk Fest, and apparently neither my friend nor I thought that maybe, just maybe, a tiny and adorable dog might be terrified of discordant, three-chord, punk songs and crowds. Once bitten twice shy, I was hesitant to allow her free roaming abilities and, as it turns out, I was right to be worried. As soon as the first band started their sound check, the ball of adorable disappeared from sight. Again, I looked everywhere for a half hour, enlisting friends to search for “the really adorable, tiny dog” until an acquaintance casually mentioned seeing said dog up the hill. By her house. Of course.

The embodiment of adorable was sitting on her little deck at home, apparently not desensitized to loud and discordant music like my neighbor’s girlfriend’s dog (my neighbor listens to a lot of Screeching Weasel). Luckily, we were able to fix it all with cuddles, so in the end, we all won.

If you are curious as to why I’m suddenly inspired to write about a year’s worth of darling and occasionally frustrating dog sitting experiences, it’s because I’m writing this with a 13-year-old pug snoring at my side. A family I know had to head out of town suddenly to see an ailing family member on the East coast and I offered to sit. Now, in my experience, dogs can exhibit uncharacteristic behaviors when their schedules and situations are altered, but at least this little guy isn’t going to run away. As a matter of fact, he doesn’t really want to run, walk, or waddle anywhere.

At age 13 (which is 81 in dog years), my current canine pal is not in peak physical health. He is also used to the attention of a family of four, with at least one adult working from home. I keep a weird schedule – job related – more on that another day. This confluence of factors means that the little guy and I do not have the most compatible schedules, or that  is the determination I’ve made based on our two days together.

Let me set the scene: It’s October in the rainforest of Southeast Alaska and, naturally, rain is falling. It’s gray, it’s cold, it’s kind of depressing (we’ll revisit this theme soon, also) and apparently snuffly-pug-face isn’t really into that. Most times that I try to coax him out of the house to go pee or poo, he will stand in the doorway staring at me like I am out of my mind. I have tried cooing and clucking and whistling and beckoning and bribery with treats. He’s got an iron will, this one. I think I’ve gotten him to pee outside three times so far. So far, he has peed indoors once. Pooped indoors twice. The first time was due to a slightly longer wait time between caretakers than he is used to, due to an early flight, and my work schedule for the day – which should have been no work but ended up being hours of work due to my post-unemployment terror at spending a day outside a workplace(?) or my incredibly slow, but ever quickening layout skills.

The second indoor pooping, though, that was just him exacting revenge for not enough petting, I assume. At this moment, we are best friends, with him keeping my left thigh warm (can I get him to sleep on my feet?), but earlier today I provided only about 2 hours of in house time and only about 10 minutes of active petting. Not acceptable, I have learned. After two attempts at bathroom breaks, one a no-go, the other successful in the liquids department, we were hanging out in the living room and I was reading a article and chuckling to myself when I saw the all-too-familiar squat of a dog about to poop. Seriously, within the half hour before that moment, I had offered him the vast outdoors twice, yet here he was, squatting on the carpet.

I used the proven method of making a really loud noise to scare the impending poop back into him (okay, I was not near enough to see if it was that close) and herded him toward the back door. We made it half way. It was a compromise, really. I wanted him to poop outside, he wanted to poop on the beige rug – instead, he pooped on the linoleum. Much easier to clean up, but still involving picking up poop with a paper towel and some floor scrubbing.

I am hoping that the more normal hours I will have the next few days will be more to the little guy’s liking and that our time together will involve less indoor pooping and cleaning and more petting and leg warming.

Reasoning with dogs is about as easy as reasoning with a 7-year-old. I should probably explain that later, as well.

All said and done, I still enjoy dog sitting and I still consider myself an excellent candidate. Don’t you want me to watch your dog?

July 14, 2011 / Melissa Leeanne

Old Fashioned

Today I was bored and wandered into the Observatory, a dimly lit and somewhat labyrinthine, though small book store in downtown Juneau. Day in and day out, it is tended by the owner, a smiling, bespectacled woman. She keeps the bookstore stocked with books on all possible topics, with small collections of mostly hardback books. I can get lost in there for days. Today I found a number of nice books but I decided that I really wanted this 1940 hard cover, illustrated edition of Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman, neatly encased in a slip cover. I had it in my head that the shop only took cash and casually commented that she must only take cash, right? Adding, “or checks?” She actually accepts credit cards for purchases over $10 but offered that she accepts checks too (the book is more than $10) but I don’t know why I even brought them up, I told her, because I don’t have checks because I think they are so old fashioned. But despite the wonders of technology (and e-readers, specifically) I still love the look and feel and the concept of a book in my hands, especially an old hard cover book that has been around for longer than I or my parents have been alive. Hell – my grandma wasn’t born until 1945. Now I really need this book. Old fashioned or not, I hope actual, physical books, whose pages we can turn and dog ear to mark places, remain for a long, long time.

December 5, 2010 / Melissa Leeanne

New Media and New Lows of Laziness

It’s sweeping the social network landscape, a wildfire of cartoon character faces in place of the faces of our friends.  Similar to when women were mysteriously posting the colors of their bras.  In the name of fighting child abuse or breast cancer.  How?  How is changing a profile picture or posting a status update doing anything?

Awareness, they say.  Awareness.

I didn’t realize that there were people who were not aware that some children are abused or that some women (and even some men!) will be diagnosed with breast cancer.

Perhaps I, myself, am unaware of the unaware.  With my multiple organizations, many relating to women’s issues (and therefore also children’s issues), perhaps I had overlooked the fact that some people are so busy with farmville that they didn’t realize that bad stuff was happening in the world, except maybe if they were causing it.

My problem isn’t with people using new media and social networking, it’s that people are patting themselves on the backs for doing something that in no way, directly or indirectly as far as I can tell, actually benefits victims of child abuse or cancer.  I’ve seen a handful of people post useful links to sites that work to prevent child abuse, but mostly people have googled an image from their childhood (ah, nostalgia), saved the image (does this fall under fair use?), and then uploaded the image to facebook.  And everyone reminisces about Rainbow Brite and the Smurfs and three people took a further step.

What I would like to see is people taking the time to do the following with their social networking:

1.  Post a useful link to a shelter or an organization where people can donate money or volunteer

2.  Post an article about statistics or prevention tips, signs to look for, or something that is in some way educational or helpful.

3.  Go and actually donate money or volunteer your time.

4.  Understand that you did not just save the world, whether you changed your facebook profile image or you actually posted an article, and think about some ways you can make changes – you obviously have some time on your hands.


November 27, 2010 / Melissa Leeanne

Should Oregon Worry?

I grew up in Oregon and I grew up without much fear.  I lived in a small town and never worried about violence.  Most of the people I know who live in Oregon don’t worry about violence.  When I was growing up, my overly concerned parents feigned worry over my sister and I taking a trip to Portland to see a concert because we’d surely get shot.  Really though, Oregon always felt pretty safe.  And even in the wake of 9/11, I didn’t worry that my state had anything to worry about.

A friend of mine who grew up in my same home town posted an article today that would elicit fear in Oregonians.  I will post the link to the FBI press release as well.  The reason I am posting the link to the FBI press release is because the article leaves a lot vague.  Why did this young man believe he was setting off a bomb?  Who provided this bomb laden van?  Even after poring over the FBI press release, I found that I still had questions, mainly: would this young man have committed a terrorist act were it not for the involvement of the FBI?

As I write this, I am checking other news sources, though The Huffington Post states clearly that the so-called bomb was provided by the US Government, they also threw in a nice inflammatory jihad cry.

Maybe I am too cynical of government and of people in general, but I don’t believe this foreign born, 19 year old kid, who has apparently had disturbed thoughts since age 15, was any real threat.  He apparently failed to get in touch with the second person who was meant to collaborate, we are told, on terrorist activities.  He could not have (a) afforded, nor (b) figured out building a bomb, which says to me that the FBI played a much larger role in this bombing plot than Mohamud did.

I am also curious as to why they were reading his e-mails to know about his correspondence in the first place.  What made Mohamud, a 19 year old naturalized citizen, a target?  Is it because he’s a poor, black Muslim?  To me, it seems that Mohamud was no more of a threat than your average disgruntled teen who doesn’t fit in and wants his revenge. Some kids dream of taking a gun to school, this kid dreamed of blowing up a Christmas tree lighting ceremony.  I don’t mean to make light of school shootings, but I’m sure if the FBI ran around offering every teen who wants to blow something up a car bomb, we’d have a lot more lockdowns in our schools.

Note that both Mohamed and US Attorney Holton emphasize that even in Oregon, people ought to be scared/want to kill Americans (so Oregonians ought to be scared). Two posts in a row about America, the fear state?  Next time I’ll choose another topic, I swear.

In case I was too vague, the moral of the story is: take everything with a grain of salt, or a metric ton of salt in some cases.

November 17, 2010 / Melissa Leeanne

The Most Effective Terrorists

Beep beep beep goes the metal detector.

I didn’t fly much before 2001, being rather young then, but I have watched (and felt) as the procedures for boarding become exceedingly ridiculous.  A friend of mine works in my Senator’s office and has been receiving excessive phone calls regarding TSA procedures and I have to admit that I have some complaints as well.  My complaints didn’t start when I was submitted to a pat down because of bobby pins in my hair, though.  I’ve had my complaints for a long time.

I just returned from a brief vacation and traveling between Juneau, Alaska and anywhere is stressful and inconvenient.  It always involves at least one layover unless your end destination is Anchorage or Seattle, it frequently involves being on a milk run with stops in up to three smaller communities, and sometimes your only nourishment along the way will be a small plastic cup of orange juice with a foil top.  To add to the regular annoyances of traveling, I had pinned my hair back in a hurry and upon heading through security, I set off the metal detector.  Beep.  Beep.  Beep.

A large man in TSA uniform asked me if I had “lots of bobby pins” in my hair.  I responded in the affirmative.  There were at least five or six.  He then asked if I wanted to take them out.  Flustered and annoyed I chose the wrong answer: “I’d really rather not.”  I was then ushered into a clear fiberglass closet in the middle of the security checkpoint to wait for a female TSA agent to perform a pat down.  Also, while being ushered into the closet I saw them take all of my bags to another location to be searched through because of a “mass of metal” which, to most women who style their hair, would be called a curling iron.  I was then submitted to the most invasive frisking I had ever experienced which involved questioning buttons on my sleeves (lucky that it wasn’t cold in there?), feeling most every inch of my body and poking at my hair.  It was beyond what I was expecting, inconvenient and, quite simply, an enormous waste of resources.

I have read plenty of articles about terrorism, enough to know that terrorism is about weakening a state through creating fear – crippling fear.  I also have the mental capacity to realize that the most effective terrorists are not Al Qaeda or the Taliban, they are not bombers or plane hijackers.  The most effective terrorists, in my opinion, are domestic and part of our own government.  I am not a conspiracy theorist, nor am I some sort of anti-government extremist.  I am educated and I am frustrated that the most effective terrorist organization seems to be Homeland Security.

An organization that can perceive me as a threat, an organization that has a threat level system that has never shown us to not be at risk, an organization that has itself created the fear that it pretends to alleviate.  Limiting the liquids we can take on a plane, excessive pat downs, wiping down hands for chemicals, full body scans – for what?  Homeland Security manufactures fear and sells us overpriced tickets to a circus masquerading as a solution.  A curling iron is not a bomb, my shampoo and conditioner are not going to be combined to form an explosive to take down a plane, nobody will again hijack a plane like on September 11th, 2001. People are afraid of impossible threats imagined in Hollywood and adopted by the Homeland Security and are falsely comforted and greatly inconvenienced by absurd half baked solutions to absurd and impossible scenarios.

It is embarrassing to me that in “the land of the free and the home of the brave,” we are limiting our freedom unnecessarily and fabricating fear. Is it so the masses believe that our government is doing something? Is it so we have some excuse for unnecessary wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? How many people are actually delusional enough to not realize that our taxes are paying for large scale domestic terrorism?

Sure, this post is a little inflammatory, but it is absolutely outrageous to me that we are wasting resources on band-aid fixes for our government’s own flimsy lies. I told my friend in the office about my complaints with the policies, let’s hope that those of us smart enough to be outraged are also pro-active enough to say something.