Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Suspect Also Rises

Hemingway's biographer and friend, A. E. Hotchner, has an op-ed piece in yesterday's New York Times chronicling the depression and paranoia of the writer's final year. Hemingway was convinced, against his friends' remonstrances and assurances, that he was being watched by FBI agents, that his home and hospital rooms were bugged, his telephones wiretapped, his movements followed. Decades after his death in 1961, the FBI released his file to public scrutiny, revealing that "beginning in the 1940s J. Edgar Hoover had placed Ernest under surveillance because he was suspicious of Ernest’s activities in Cuba. Over the following years, agents filed reports on him and tapped his phones. The surveillance continued all through his [final] confinement at St. Mary’s Hospital. It is likely that the phone outside his [hospital] room was tapped after all."

Hotchner was wrong, a depressed and paranoid Hemingway was right. Nor must we suppose that it is only name recognition, celebrity, notoriety that can get you a black sedan and a mug with a walkie talkie parked at your curb. It can happen to the meanest of His children. Which raises a question: what might I be doing that would warrant my surveillance by the FBI? Or is it just a lottery, like being hassled by the TSA when you're flying from Wichita to Hamtramck? (Which I believe involves layovers in Lodz, Poland and Christchurch, NZ.)

Don't get me wrong - I don't think I'm being watched by the FBI. (And how would I know if I were?) No, this is more in the way of self-exploration, an inventory of my "lifestyle indicators" to suggest that I might be worth watching, might somehow register on their radar, make a tic on their barometer, blow the agency's organizational skirt up like a floosie on a steam grate. After all, what am I, chopped liver?

(Miguel de Montaigne, second from left)

For starters, I ride a bicycle as a means of transport whenever feasible. It just seems to make sense to travel this way as much as possible, although it does entail that I buy less than my annual allotment of fuel.

 (I'll admit - I'm nuts about alternative transportation.)

Not that I don't enjoy riding bicycles, but I regard them as more than mere instruments of entertainment . . .

 (Don't call it 'croquet.' It's 'dicks on bikes.')

. . . death wish fulfillment . . .

(Has most of her teeth.)
. . . or just another item of conspicuous consumption.

Bicycling, as one political genius has been forward to bring to the national attention, is but one pincer movement in the worldwide jihad of Islamofascist socialism that was conceived in the basement offices of the United Nations and predictably spread its sick agenda to the manacled fist of power in Denver. Any measure private or public that results in the conservation of resources such as fuel is collectivism naked and unvarnished - in a word, socialism - and you don't need Glenn Beck to spell that out on his squeaky chalkboard. (Whatever happened to him, anyway? I guess your "Andy Warhol 15 Minutes" is up when circumstances force you to get your own TV station.)

Anyway, I could be placed under surveillance on suspicion of "collectivist sympathies" and "evincing socialist tendencies in selection of mobility options." I'm starting to feel the rosy glow of perp-hood. Anything else that might be laid at my clay feet?

One other thing comes to mind: I've never owned an American flag. I guess I wouldn't know what to do with it if I did own one. In fact, owning one would probably have already recommended me to the agency's attentions for malfeasance and desecration of the flag - purely out of ignorance rather than malevolence, mind you, since the protocols for flag management are pret-ty strict and pret-ty complex. (Did you know, for example, that "the flag should never be used as a covering for a ceiling"? It is a singular instance in which 'flogging the janitor' is not a euphemism for anything else.)

Find the janitor!

In my own defense I would hasten to point out that I am a patriot in refusing to own a flag, since I have instituted a one-person, private embargo and domestic blockade of all Chinese goods. 

(Never owned a single one.)
Apparently my lonely fervor is hitting the wily Asian floggers of Old Glory right where it hurts, since sales of Chinese flag imports have fallen from a record $51 million in 2001 to mid-decade sales in the $5 millions, to the current low of $3 million in annual flag revenues for the Chinese.

A final count against me would be that I do not have a regular place of worship. Not my fault, and not entirely true - I had been attending worship at a congregation where faith and practice took an unexpected turn . . .

I tend to be more conservative than not in theological matters . . . 

. . . and felt constrained to find fellowship in a group with views that were more congenial to my beliefs and where I felt the Holy Spirit ministered better to my needs:

But I had to face the fact that attending evangelical services was clearly getting me nowhere nearer a coveted spot on the FBI's "Not Wanted (Yet)" list. So I found a little out of the way chapel that I felt should garner me wider notice and recommend me as a proper candidate for surveillance, along with the frisson that comes from being in good company. First service at 4 a.m., five services daily, Friday Nite Fatwa and a Saturday sharia refresher.

And failing all else, a good keyword search should bring the ghost of J. Edgar Hoover to my curbside in about a week.

"Have we been a naughty boy?"

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