Saturday, July 09, 2005

Memo to al-Qaida: Target Us, Please! (Pretty Please?!)

It's possible that an al-Qaida cell is plotting at this moment to blow up the Bolivar ferry. Or maybe they've targeted the Lynchburg ferry. Or Minute Maid Park. Or Houston's light rail line (which unfortunately will not rate the description packed with rush-hour commuters in subsequent worldwide dispatches). Or ...

Possible, just as pretty much anything seems possible after Sept. 11. But unlikely. Highly unlikely. The odds of it happening are so overwhelmingly infinitesimal that it's barely worth mentioning, much less fretting over. Yet in the aftermath of the London subway bombings, the local television stations could barely contain their ginned-up hysteria as they asked: Can it happen here, and if so where?

Yes, of course, it could happen here. As sure as we're writing this, in 15 minutes a dirty bomb will go off in downtown Houston and we'll all be sprinting down I-10 in our nightclothes. Or a dozen suicide bombers could descend on the Galleria. Or an incoming flight from Mexico ... after Sept. 11, the runaway imagination can conjure endless possibilities.

But they all seem unlikely. Al-Qaida picks its targets for both maximum murderous effect and maximum symbolic effect, and neither Minute Maid Park nor a plant on the Houston Ship Channel seems to meet those criteria. But if they did, what can we really do about it, other than to "remain vigilant," as all those "security experts" keep telling us to do.

One local TV station even trotted out a gentleman who was in charge of security on the ferry between Galveston and Port Bolivar (or maybe it was the Lynchburg ferry; we weren't paying close attention). He allowed that, yes, ferry security had been tightened after London, but, no, he wasn't at liberty to divulge exactly how. He cautioned us to remain vigilant.

We sense that this almost palpable yearning to be targeted by al-Qaida somehow stems from Houston's nagging civic inferiority complex. Y'know, we've got a zillion new stadiums, wonderful art museums, a world-renowned opera, a first-rate ethnic restaurant on every corner, some of those most fragrant air in the country, etc. and so forth. But to be hit by Islamofascists --- that would really seal the deal in our pursuit of that coveted "world-class" designation, wouldn't it? (In lieu of landing the Olympics, that is.)

Whatever the odds, we here at Slampo's Place pledge not to be deterred. We'll ride the Bolivar ferry, we'll ride the Lynchburg ferry (if it's still operational). We'll take the No. 68 Metro, we'll take the No 4. We might even go downtown. And we'll remain vigilant, even when it's 98 degrees outside.

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