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My wife Amy and I, facing a gloomy day at the beach, decided to do what everybody else had decided to do that day and go to the Barnegat Lighthouse on the Central Jersey coast just a few miles southeast of Tom’s River, home of the 1998 Little League World Champions.
We are about to cross the noise bridge from Tom’s River to Seaside Heights (called “sleaze-side” by some of their hip New York neighbors).the bridge goes “BBRRRRRLLL” as you drive over it. So of course I’m just giggles away from vibrating out of my chair, but before I cross that bridge I’ve crossed hundreds of times for thirty years, I am blinded by the blinking lights in front of me, above my head, before my eyes, in amber flashes:
REPORT SUSPICIOUS ACTIVITY CALL 1-866-4 SAFE-NJ
Did I really see that.?
CEYLON: DID I JUST SEE THAT? AMY: Hey, we should call that. Yeah we should call that number.
We exit immediately, to backtrack via suburban NJ, then we jump back on Eastbound Route 37. And yes, we weren’t experiencing a Russian SVT flashback.
I pulled over, muttering expletives at a vacation disrupted by fearmongers. I decided to call at that moment.
OPERATOR: Yes, Suspicious Activity Hotline.
CEYLON: What is this?
OP: This is a hotline to report suspicious activity.
CEYLON: What does THAT mean?
OP: You know, anything suspicious
CEYLON: What does that mean?
OP: If you see any suspicious activity, you can call this number and report it. I can’t give you examples, but in fact, this phone call is very suspicious.
CEY: To me, it sounds like you’re asking me to spy on my neighbors. What do you mean, suspicious? If you’re asking me to spy on my neighbors, this sounds like some kind of Communist plot.
All the while, Amy is beside me laughing GOOD AND LOUD and I’m getting more and more irritated at American sensibilities and tax dollars gone awry.
OP: No, I assure you it’s not that. This is a hotline to report anything suspicious that could have something to do with terrorist activity.
CEY: OHHH! OP: Do you have a tip then?
CEY: YES! I have a tip. It has come to my attention that, before 9-11, top officials currently serving in this administration bribed the Taliban, giving them between 20 and 40 million dollars (it was actually $43, but I’m not a walking footnote) so UNOCAL could build an oil pipeline across Afghanistan.
OP: Oh my god. Let me transfer you to one of our investigators.
OP2: Yes, this is ____________, You have a tip for us?
CEY: I’m driving down Highway 37 to Seaside Heights, I see this flashing sign telling me to report suspicious activity, and I ask what does that mean? Because it sounds to me like you want me to spy on my neighbors. We shouldn’t be spying on our neighbors but looking in the backyards of Washington for terrorist activity.
OP2: You have a tip for us? CEY: Yes. As I told the previous operatorin researching the war against terror, I found out that top us officials serving in this administration were bribing the Taliban a few months before September 11. Look at the millions we were giving the Taliban; look at the billions we are giving Israel. That’s where we need to look to find something suspicious–not by encouraging Americans to spy on each other like in an Orwell novel.
OP2: Is that all?
CEY: So who woke up Senator Joe?
I finished this exchange left with a burning desire to encourage everyone to perform his or her civic dutyespecially those who reside in or drive through the Garden State. C’mon! Report suspicious activity. This is not a joke; this is not a prank. Be open, honest and frank. We must refuse to let democracy be demoted to free speech zones, to let fear be sold to us and our neighbors, and to find a voice outside of voting for which billionaire is best to wage war in our name.
We have a “speak truth to power” hotline now; operators and investigators are standing by. You can find terrorist activity all around us. If you live in Jersey, you already have the number.
CEYLON MOONEY is co-coordinator of Voices in the Wilderness, www.vitw.org, and the Wheels of Justice Tour www.justicewheels.org; he”borrowed” the title of this article from the hardcore band Bury the Living. Ceylon can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org