Evidently Tom Ridge, U.S. Secretary of HomelandSecurity, isn’t any less susceptible to thecliché-laden rituals of New Year’s than the rest ofus. Ridge, who’s made a name for himself by makingyour business (Canadians included) his business has aNew Year’s resolution. In fact, true to style, he hasone for everybody.

It’s on the Homeland Security website, just to theleft of the ever-popular Threat Advisory and a fewclicks away from the year-end tally of confiscated boxcutters. The prescribed resolution isn’t much morefun than singing Auld Lang Syne under an “Elevated”terrorist threat (that’s code “yellow” for those whoprefer their fear colour-coded; or “Significant Riskof Terrorist Attacks” for those who need morespecified information when it comes to enemies).

Paranoia doesn’t take holidays, so until he steps downin February, Secretary Ridge can’t take a break fromfear either. Nor can you. Before worrying aboutlosing weight or tossing your cigarettes you areencouraged to worry about creating a family emergencyplan. Ready.gov provides the full guide: “biologicalthreat,” “nuclear blast,” “in a high-rise building,”“deciding to stay or go,” “additional survivalsupplies for people with disabilities.” Happy New Yearin the Homeland everybody!

Kids and box cutters

And since Tom doesn’t want anyone to miss out on thefear in 2005 there is even a link to FEMA for Kids (FEMA being the ever kid-friendly “Federal EmergencyManagement Agency”). The site includes elementarydefinitions of terrorism, a story aboutHerman-spokescrab for the site-finding a“disaster-proof shell”, and other stories with lineslike “’It’s weird to think about nationalemergencies,’ said Julia.” We can only hopeReady.gov’s very own kids section (“coming soon”) willbe a little more fun.

In the spirit of the season, the Homeland website alsohas its own year-end round-up. Of the 428 millionpeople processed at ports of entry, “over 643,000aliens were deemed inadmissible under U.S. law.” Threecheers for the home side!

The round-up also has info on automatedfingerprinting, container security initiatives,government/private partnerships, “Weapons of MassDestruction,” and more about the war on “aliens” (isBush’s fear of “aliens” linked to his need for weaponsin space?). And we can all rest easier in 2005 knowinglast year the authorities confiscated 1.9 millionknives and 20,509 box cutters from travelers/would-beterrorists.

Ridge a modern Noah

The church — or select parts of it — are never far behindthe Bush Administration, and Homeland Security is noexception. The Christian Emergency Network (CEN) preaches the gospel according to Secretary Ridge. Ifyou click on the prominent picture of Ridge on the CENhomepage you are offered a four-part series of sermons for your church (3 CDs for US$99.95). Below Tom’spicture, he says: “Terrorism forces us to make achoice: we can be afraid, or we can be ready!” So offto church you go (bring the FEMA colouring book so thekids can be occupied and edified during the sermon).

In a baffling mixture of messages the webpage hawkingthe sermons says, “Noah prepared. So didJoseph. Moses. Your church can also prepare.” ThrowRidge’s words and mug into the same mix (as the sitedoes) and the Secretary of Homeland Security emergesas a modern day Noah, preparing for Osama just likeNoah prepared for the flood — one used acacia wood, theother metal detectors and the Patriot Act.

Another year of fear

So welcome to a new year of elevated risk! That maynot sound very cheery but actually we have fared quitewell on this continent under various shades of threatover the past three years. Not a single person hasdied of terror in North America since 9/11 (Ridge’syear-end round-up doesn’t report zeros).

Alas, Tom’s emergency plan didn’t make it onto my listof resolutions. Perhaps if I lived in Iraq I wouldhave given it more serious consideration.