Ryan Hume:Resolutions for concerned patriots

Ahh, the new year: a time for reflection upon our lives and a socially invented chance to begin anew.

The new year is much more than just an arbitrary date on the calendar in our society. It is a time for rebirth. The only time of year when personal change is not only acceptable, but expected.

There is supposedly a moment somewhere between the decline of carnivalesque drunkenness and the rise of blurry-eyed hangovers where we decide to better ourselves. To lose those last five pounds from a failed diet. To spend more time at the orphanage and the soup kitchen volunteering. To finally stop drinking. And while that moment may ring true against a head full of Cook’s sparkling wine, in all honesty, these are the resolutions that fizzle along with the last drop from the bottle. By the end of January, normalcy has returned and all remnants of change have been captured and imprisoned for another 11 months.

Before 1752, England and its colonies celebrated the new year on the 25th of March. Almost two centuries before, most of Europe had adapted the Gregorian calendar, which Pope Gregory XIII proposed would mend the accumulating error of the previous solar calendar and realign our watches with the sun. Prior to Gregory’s reconstruction, the length of a year was the result of a faulty calculation in the previous calendar instituted into western use by Julius Caesar in 46 B.C.

So, basically, the new year is an arbitrary time where we all agree to think about change, about the betterment of ourselves. Traditionally, the accompaniment of change, in our society, is fear. This is why many feel that the apocalypse will help bring in the new year, whether it will be the rapture or the revenge of computers all bent out of shape over having to use Windows 98 as an operating system. This new year was not without its tactics of fear, brought to you via satellite from the mainstream media.

Al-Qaida supposedly was at work over the holiday trying to ruin what did turn out as a very raucous party, sailing the seas and contemplating ways to keep Americans from obtaining a bit of the bubbly. And while fortunately nothing did happen, I have to begin to question the urgency of the warnings from the Bush administration and its cohorts.

I believe there is a difference between informing the public on matters of safety and maintaining a status quo while elevating tension in a culture of fear. For a fearful public is a complacent public, is it not? It is as long as what you are afraid of is known as the enemy. Once a public is afraid of its own leaders, a fearful public can become quite dangerous to those who are in charge.

So that about brings us up to date: We are still afraid. And as a fearful culture, we should do what we do best: consume! So in lieu of closure, I will propose a few last-minute resolutions for those concerned patriots out there. Maybe you are one or know one and have returned a few unwanted Christmas presents and have accumulated some store credit at an army surplus of a sporting goods store. Either way these items are sure to be fashionable in 2003:

* Tactical Body Armor: Need a reason to lose those five extra holiday pounds? Nothing says diet like a bulletproof vest. $149.88-$192.99. S-M-L-XL.

* Gas Masks: Military issue, guaranteed to prevent the spread of chemical weapons, are also very effective at filtering out those bad city smells. $189.00. Sizes range from youth to adult. Comes with one U.S. Surplus NBC filter, a drinking straw attachment and a carrying case.

* Smallpox Vaccinations: Due to be the premiere form of body modification in 2003. “They’re totally retro,” one insider observed, alluding to the fact that routine vaccinations stopped in the United States in 1972. Anthrax is so last season.

* Armor Plating: For the auto enthusiast. A level-3 plating, which would sustain a close range shot from a high powered rifle, would run you about $38,000 to plate a VW Jetta; the Ford Explorer is more in the price range of $98,000. Although, does safety really have a price tag?