Osama: The Most Wanted Mask

Hard to imagine, but Osama Bin Laden is making the rounds as a choice for a Halloween mask this year. One has to wonder about the tinkering in someone's brain to make such a decision. If nothing else, I'm sure there won't be many would-be bin Ladens trick or treating about Manhattan.

Most retailers are caught up in the patriotic fervor, pushing costumes of firemen and policemen, Uncle Sam and Wonder Woman. Costume sellers say there is not much demand for a bin Laden mask, and if there were they wouldn't sell them anyway. International demand is another story.

In many places, the mask has arrived, which is only natural in a commercial age. If the demand is there for Osama bin Laden masks, the supply will inevitably be there also. The looming question, though, is what does it mean, if anything, that there would be a demand for an Osama bin Laden Halloween mask in the first place?

To compare, it's almost impossible to picture a suburban mother opening the front door on Halloween night and gleefully being greeted by six little Adolph Hitler's holding out their orange plastic bags for goodies. Perhaps, the atrocities of World War II have faded from the conscience of the latest generation.

A more contemporary example is Timothy McVeigh. A kid dressing up on Halloween as the Oklahoma City bomber -- maybe that would be acceptable. After all, it was an isolated act of devastation confined to one geographical location, one city, one building, life moves on, with no anthrax aftermath, and McVeigh is no longer around.

Yes, some misguided, insensitive person might think wearing a mask of Timothy McVeigh was okay. Just not in Oklahoma City.

Of course, there is natural conflict between the mask of terrorism and patriotism. Masks of George W. Bush and Uncle Sam vie with bin Laden and gas masks.

One costume shop owner in a television interview admitted that he would be selling Osama bin Laden masks, but was quick to add, only to those who were "buying them for the right reason." Good, a noble gesture. But what in God's name is the right reason to buy a Osama bin Laden mask?

A dispatch on the Internet from Rio de Janeiro reports that Brazilians are flocking to stores to purchase masks of the turbened and bearded Osama bin Laden, with masks of President Bush remaining mostly unconsidered on shelves.

At a toy fair in Hong Kong this month, bin Laden and President Bush squared off in a contest to see who would become the world's most wanted mask. One assistant sales manager noted that the industry foresaw a big market for bin Laden masks, with many people buying them for Halloween parties.

The horrific event of September 11 -- especially the plane hitting the second tower of the World Trade Center, gliding in one side, followed by an explosive orange blast coming out the other -- has been ingrained in everyone's consciousness. The stunned disbelief has still not settled in for many; the terrifying realization that the continental United States is no longer safe and, in essence, all civilians, regardless of race, creed or religion, sexual preference or position on abortion, are potential victims. But, then again, that's what terrorism is all about, not heightened consciousness and awareness of the populace regarding others and differing positions, but random, free floating anxiety and fear.

With no specific enemy in sight, and no specific means to fight back, many have fallen back on humor in an attempt to cope with the unforeseen landscape ahead in these uncertain times. It can be seen on the Internet, as jokes about Osama bin Laden zip back and forth through cyberspace and are quickly added to mailing lists. Collective humor as weapon, striking back at incomprehensible evil.

But it is no joke. If nothing else, whether one wears a mask of bin Laden or President Bush on Halloween, everyone is facing the same future; one in which a hidden enemy is all too willing to kill the infidel, whether one is red, white, or blue.

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