The Rip Post                                                                                                                           




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 possible terrorist.
        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!

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       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 than terrorism.
       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 funny-sounding names.
        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 "Ba-Cha-No!"
        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 baseball.
        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 the item."
        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 envelope!
        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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