by RIP RENSE
Return to Subversive Sender. . .
(May 7, 2003)
Call me "Chemical Ripi." Orensa
bin-Laden. Mohammad Said-Riposte, mother of all propaganda ministers. Infidel
cyber-bellies will roast on the white-hot spits of hell! Ptui! Think I'm kidding?
The federal government has pegged me as a
Go ahead, laugh. I know---you think I pose as
much threat to peace as Oprah Winfrey does to original thinking. Well. . .
I'm a dangerous man. The United States Post
Office seems to think so. Just as it recognized Kris Kringle as Santa Claus in
"Miracle on 34th St.," it now recognizes Rip Rense as an exception to the sanity
clause. I'm a wild-eyed fanatic! Not just about The Beatles, I mean. . .
You see, a package I mailed
has been returned to me, for security reasons. There is a "no airplanes" sticker
on it, and the words "surface transportation only"---plus a great big lime-green
sticker explaining that "heightened security measures" would not permit my mail
to go through.
Neither snow nor sleet nor hail nor dark of
night nor pit bulls nor crackheads will stay the mailman from his appointed rounds---but
John Ashcroft will. Homeland Security sent my package back home. Return to possibly
subersive sender. And man, I stuck twelve stamps on that thing!
But why? Had Tom Ridge looked inside? The
package contained only a copy of my new novel, "The Last Byline,"
mailed to a fellow who said he might review it. Yes, there are readers who consider my
prose a weapon of mass destruction, but heck, it's more on the side of terrible
Still, I leafed through the book,
just in case there was something suspicious in it that I'd forgotten about. Whoah! There
it was---a chapter called "Kaboom!" Did they think it contained a secret dirty
bomb recipe? That it exhorts clandestine minions to light the fuses? Hey, Tom, it's just
about people's lives exploding, figuratively---not people.
More likely, the chapter,
"Ba-Cha-No!" shook somebody up. You know, maybe INS thought it was Mesopotamian
lingo for "Destroy All Tall Buildings!" Far-fetched? Tell it to thesecond
generation Armenian-Americans rounded up in L.A. recently, just because they had
Well, Tom and John, please rest easy.
"Ba-Cha-No!" is just an expression from the 1959 film, "Queen of Outer
Space," starring Zsa Zsa Gabor. In it, Zsa Zsa lives on an all-woman planet whose
fetching, leotard-clad monarch pokes male earthling interlopers with a stick, growling
Come to think of it, that's pretty scary.
But. . .nah. That wasn't the
problem. I confess that I found myself stifling newfound feelings of potency as I tried to
determine exactly why my beloved country now fears me. . .
Is it my website? The mighty Rip Post?
Well, it's true I have severely criticized administration policies in recent columns. In
fact, I have written unflatteringly of most of President Bush's decisions on all issues.
But gee whiz, I don't have anything against the guy, personally. He is widely reputed to
be folksy and genial; a good Joe to sit down with, have a few dozen beers, and talk
Of course, I do have at least 23.7 regular
readers, and that's nothing to sneeze at. I mean, 23.7 people are more than enough to
swing a presidential election these days, unless the fix is in by the Supreme Court.
Still. . .
I scoured my memory. When had
I ever actually menaced anyone? Um. . . I've told many "customer service
representatives" at corporations far and wide---from MCI to Wells Fargo Bank---to
"let me talk to a supervisor---now!" I've said this in a loud, steady
voice---sometimes embellishing it with the word, "damn."
And. . .there was the reporter long ago who
told me, "you're whole life is a joke." Although he was correct, I felt
compelled to call him a "fool." (I think this was an argument over deodorant, or
something.) Anyhow, he must have felt menaced, because he made a pre-emptive strike, and
tried to choke me to death over a a great big office dictionary. Fortunately, a couple of
little girls pulled him off, so I am still here to write for you, the lucky reader.
Oh, let's see. . .I once screamed bloody murder
at a veterinarian who refused to treat a critically ill cat because I couldn't pay him
cash on the spot. I don't think Homeland Security would really blame me. (Note to
Ashcroft, who believes black cats to be Satan's secret agents: the feline in question was
an orange tabby.) And uh. . .babies either cry or throw up when I smile at them, but then,
if I saw an ugly old coot flash big yellow choppers at me, I'd be disgusted, too.
None of it made sense,
so I pored over the big green sticker on the package again, for a clue:
"IMPORTANT CUSTOMER INFORMATION: We
regret that your mail is being returned to you because of heightened security measures.
All domestic mail weighing 16 ounces or over that bears (sic) stamps and all international
and military APO/FPO mail weighing 16 ounces or over MUST be presented to a retail clerk
at a post office. Postage that is affixed to the returned mail may be used for re-mailing
Re-use the stamps? Well, that was
sporting---but, hey! The rest wasn't true! Three days earlier, I had popped copies of my
book into corner mailboxes, and they reached their targets---I mean destinations---without
incident! What was different? Hmm. Well, those packages had been addressed by a friend
with exquisite feminine handwriting, and they contained exact postage!
My returned package, however, had
been mailed anonymously on a Sunday---with inexact postage, complimented by my inimitably
terrible, crabbed printing! Cursive shock and awe! Plus I had (gasp) used a recycled
That was it! Bad printing. . .used bubble-wrap
envelope. . .lots of stamps. . .Sunday. . .equals. . .possible terrorist!
Guess the post office figures that terrorists
aren't capable of good handwriting, purchasing new envelopes, and figuring out exact
postage! Sure glad they're on top of the situation!
On the other hand, the
intended recipient of my book was one Dave Lindorff, a founder of the National Writers Union, and a champion of what are popularly
termed leftist causes (I prefer "humanitarian")---and a well-known investigative
journalist who has written very critically of the Department of Homeland Security.
But I can't imagine that the person who
rejected my package could have possibly known that.
At least, I hope I can't imagine it.
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