‘Dear-John’ letter to Poindexter and the Pentagon

By Maralyn Lois Polak

Dear John:

I understand you and the Pentagon have a massive plan to electronically monitor each and every purchase Americans make, for what you define as a necessary tool in the terror war. Congratulations on your foresight.

Er, make that further innovative efforts to circumscribe the rights of the individual, under the guise of going after those “evil-doers” who would undermine the Amurrican Way of Life. If there isn’t an Oscar for that, there should be, doncha think?

But, on deeper reflection, this shopping surveillance thing could end up being a really bad idea.

Do you have the slightest inkling what you’re getting into?

So far, you people have taken away freedom after freedom, in alleged pursuit of National Stress, uh, Security. There’s been remarkably little mainstream outcry at this burgeoning Big Brotherism. That Patriot Act, the Homeland Security Act – brilliant! Folks are lining up like lemmings at the cliff, begging their government, OUR GOVERNMENT: Handcuff me, if it will make me feel safer!

And it’s catching.

Even my own chronic insomnia has mysteriously vanished, knowing my beloved country is well on its way to Orwellian Fascism. Now I can sleep nights again. Whew. And I don’t have to rent videos any more, these bloody nightmares are so diverting!

But with this shopping thing, I believe you have clearly blown it. And here’s why.

Sometimes in the interstices of existence, when I am not Writing Commentary or Thinking about Writing Commentary, I lapse back into what’s loosely called Having a Life. Which means, like any woman, or, in my case, Girlie-Gurl, I enjoy going shopping.

Spending money I don’t have is … my American prerogative, and, truth to tell, positively erotic. Besides, I admit, at certain junctures in my life, though not currently, I have been something of a collector. After all, as I once confessed to my politically astute friend “Kitten Jim,” astounded at the myriad useless objects other than books cramming my shelves, Think of every purchase as a hitherto-unexpressed orgasm. He gasped in shock!

Don’t ask!

Generally, shopping is to our culture what hunting and gathering were to the hunters and gatherers. Think of that slogan: When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping. Or that other slogan: I shop, therefore I am.

For women, shopping is an Olympic Event. My as-yet-unindicted co-conspirator in this typical female-bonding pursuit is often my dear friend, code name “Dahlia,” an unlikely partner in crime since we are each so atypical.

And yet, playing blonde to my brunette, Dahlia and I can, on rare occasion when my deadlines and her healing practice permit, pile hour upon hour in a kind of ambulatory trance at one of America’s largest malls, toning our calves by brisk walking between bizarre product displays at Spencer Gifts, mesmerized by the total uselessness of DayGlo Peacock Lamps and similar boons to the advance of Western Civilization.

Allow me to confess my recent purchases. Are you ready for this?

A case of Gerolsteiner mineral water. I can’t live without it.

Four bottles of Natra-Bio homeopathic allergy tablets. My cat allergy has ratcheted up to mega-proportions during this era of National Stress.

Rice pudding. That bland diet thing, again for my National Stress.

Eel sushi. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Yet another black folding umbrella, after being caught in the rain enroute to the office of my new acupuncturist, “Dr. Lee-Ping Chiao,” treating me for National Stress.

A Snow-White wristwatch, intended as a gift when I go visit my friend “Felice” down South next month, to research escaping National Stress by moving to a more isolated region of America less prone to being a terror target.

And, oh, an aerosol can of black enamel spray paint, for my back window because the overpriced work done by “Giddings,” that pretentious twit impersonating a historic restorationist, began peeling as soon as it dried, and, true to form, he’s skipped town.

There, satisfied?

Mostly, Dahlia and I exist as shopping counter-forces: “Promise you won’t let me go home with that,” a line I also was fond of using during my fortunately expired bar-pickup dating days.

What I am trying to tell you, John, is this: If you and the Pentagon begin surveilling our shopping purchases, I guarantee within seven weeks, YOU GUYS WILL DIE OF BOREDOM! Mark my words.

And John, can’t you find a small country to run?