Sunday, February 06, 2005

When The Word "Terror" Actually Meant Something

(Reposted from my LiveJournal)

These past few weeks, I've seemed to cry at the drop of a hat. Not just because something struck me as sad, but because of good and happy things as well. I am not usually this... emotional? Well, I don't just cry continuously. Not like this.

Whatever the case may be, it happened again today. I'd found the Charlie Daniels CD, and was playing it. It always reminds me of being a kid in Oklahoma City, before we moved to Elgin, because that's when most of those songs were being played on the radio. It was the heyday of Smokey and the Bandit, of BJ and the Bear, and of Convoy. Still waving our flags from the Bicentennial, we welcomed the Iranian hostages home, and finally retired our yellow ribbons. (Yes, I do still have the one Mom tied in my hair the day they came home.) There was something about America back then... we'd beat the USSR in hockey at the Olympics; disco, country, and good old rock-and-roll were just really beginning to take notice of punk and the new romantics and all; and hell, I was just about to become a teenager within the next few years and life was damn good. (If I ignored personal realities, that is.)

With this in my head, I realized I don't seem to have a "country-type" icon for my LiveJournal. Damn. I need to go hunt one down, don't I? But first, let me put this Garth Brooks CD on. Track six, that's right. The Change.

I should have known better. I also should have known better than to allow sentiment to guide my browser window to the Oklahoma City Memorial website. Has it been ten years? How the hell can it be ten years, and I still find my eyes filling up when I see it, or when I hear that song? For pete's sake, my cheeks are wet as I type this, and the keyboard blurs in front of me.

Now, why that title for this entry? Because back when I was scaring my sister and myself with my own version of The Legend Of Wooley Swamp, and we were busy playing "Convoy", and pretending to be pretty ladies that BJ comes to rescue (along with the Bear, of course; can't leave out the Bear!), and imagining we were helping the Dukes foil Boss Hogg and Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane..... Back then, the word "terror" meant something almost incomprehensible to us. I'm old enough to remember news footage of Viet-Nam on television, but Mom and Dad had taught me already that what you see on television "isn't real". (I don't think it occured to them I was associating this with the news, too. Probably a good thing I did.) I'd seen scary movies and read plenty of ghost stories. (Yes, my ghost fascination was born at a young age.)

But as for "terror"? Even the letters themselves strung together brought an uneasy feeling, as though something more dangerous and ultimately much scarier than anything I'd read in books or seen in movies was lurking just out of my peripheral vision. I knew it was there, but didn't dare move to see what it was.

Then one lovely April morning I got to watch it unfold in my hometown while I was half a continent away. And the headlines of the paper the next day showed me I was correct in identifying the name of my around-the-corner monster:

Nearly six and a half years later, the monster came around again, even bigger this time. But in the aftermath, something happened. The name of the monster was made into a rallying cry for some. It was made into the name of a war, and became a political buzzword. Terror was no longer a terrifying word, because it was flashed across countless television screens, and every paper in the country, and broadcast on radio stations repeatedly. It became watered down in its overuse. Where it once was worse than all the boogeymen of my childhood, the word is now nothing more than an irritant to my mind.

The concept is still there; but the word is lying slovenly in the raingutter of American English.

No comments:

Professional Web Design