Whither Our Goddess of Homeland Security?

With Martha Stewart behind bars, who will champion our over-consuming American way of life?
The Attorney General insists that thanks to the Patriot Act, our house is being put in order. But that must be cold comfort to those of us who watch his Justice Department haul Martha Stewart to prison.

What better symbol of an America in disarray than the sight of the maven of home orderliness, Martha Stewart, behind bars?

Her imprisonment shakes the very foundations of my American dream. Martha symbolized all that we immigrants envied about America. My mother, back in India, saved American magazines from the 50s. We would look at the recipes for the perfect cocktail party in my mother's stash of magazines and wonder what our lives would be like if only our neighborhood store stocked pie crusts and cocktail franks.

So why did Goddess of Domesticity fall from grace? Did she commit the cardinal sin of straying outside of the world of cookies and linens and into the arena reserved for cigar-smoking men in well-tailored suits? Or is this her just dessert for practically patenting a Stepford way of life?

Admittedly, it‚s hard to feel sorry for Martha – the woman who destroyed our confidence in our cooking and color coordination skills. No need to pity Ms Terminator who declared with Arnie-like assurance, "I'll be back," after losing her latest appeal. It's no surprise that jokes about her new line of prison outfits are already doing the rounds. (I personally hoped that she would get community service, perhaps helping immigrant women in sweatshops, not jail time in a "country club" prison.)

But it‚s one thing when shady immigrants with no papers or well-oiled CEOs in steakhouses are picked up by the cops. We‚ve learned to expect that. But Martha? She was the goddess of small things, preferably with lacy borders. Her downfall is an attack on Hallmark, Halloween pumpkins, warm freshly-baked chocolate cookies, no, the very soul of America. Truly, nothing is sacred anymore. Watch out, they could be coming for your Kitchen-Aid blender next. After all, over in California, the governor is already turning on the "girlie-men."

And what message does this shameful act send to the rest of the world at a time when U.S. troops are under siege in Iraq. Remember in the early days after 9/11 when the President was telling us to go shopping, to let the world know that the terrorists did not win?

President Bush didn‚t mention Martha when he ticked off the reasons why the evil ones hated us so. But we know there is no one else who better represents the American over-consuming way of life. Martha and her imitators were our shock troops against pain – the opiate that would help us forget orange alerts with a nifty recipe for an orange cooler (and matching doilies). It was good to know that as wars raged, Martha could still be counted on to make a soufflé with low fat milk. We could tune in and tune out, reassured that our American values were safe and sound.

And now she too is gone. Where will a population, rattled by constant barrage of orange, yellow and red alerts, turn to now for reassurance? Now we are anchor-less, not to mention color-blind.

The ACLU has been complaining about the intrusiveness of the Patriot Act. But who needs newly-minted draconian laws when the Justice Department can just step into millions of kitchens in one fell swoop and throw our chutneys into disarray. Dammit, Martha was our homeland security.

But wait, it's not too late to start a round-the-clock vigil to protect Julia Child.
Sandip Roy ([email protected]) is host of "Upfront," the Pacific News Service weekly radio program on KALW-FM, San Francisco.
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