Keep calm and question authority

Are the voices in your head arguing with each other?

Have you been blaming the heat for a growing sense of confusion? Do the headlines in the paper, on TV, across the Internet make you question the difference between right and wrong and left?

Could something else be behind the haze?

Has the revelation that the government possibly has followed your every move along the Information Superhighway made you shift into reverse to try to remember which off-ramps might become too embarrassing if they should fall into the wrong hands?

Was it that moment you Googled an old friend and wound up on a site that offered prescriptions? Could it be when you found yourself in a locked room in search of eight puzzle pieces to escape, yet you could not decipher the clues needed to obtain the necessary screwdriver? Or was it when you realized several awkward photos from your past were now there for Eric Holder — not to mention the entire world — to see?

Or was that just me?

We live in a time where free Wi-Fi is available in coffee shops and libraries (while we still have them) and even the Ashland Plaza, so why are we disturbed to discover that someone has been tracking our thoughts?

Is it because we think of ourselves as innocuous humanoids without skeletons worth rattling?

Are we really that naïve? Is it something in the water?

Do you wonder why there's such an outcry over genetically modified organisms taking root in Oregon, while inspections of naturally grown produce continue at the California border? If we have decided that the purported benefits of GMOs are minor in relation to the risks to the natural order and — theoretically — to our health, should we stop allowing genetically modified Californians to cross state lines?

What's the difference between eating a vegetable that has been artificially enhanced and having bipedal organisms filled with Botox, saline implants and elective cosmetic surgery infiltrate our sidewalks, infiltrate our culture?

It's bad enough that they bring their architectural flourishes to our landscape, what happens if they breed?

If the government says that there's been no evidence that GMOs are potentially harmful, shouldn't we believe them? Aren't these the same lawmakers who are fighting a war on medical marijuana?

Can't we all agree that folks legitimately prescribed marijuana for afflictions for which it has proven effective should be able to receive it? And while we're at it, isn't it fair to question why as of the beginning of April there are 6,489 medical marijuana cardholders in Jackson County — far more per capita than anywhere else in the state?

is it the munchies made without GMOs?

After all these years, after all the scientific studies, doesn't it really just come down to marijuana being one of those societal touchstones — think abortion or gun control or stem-cell research or prayer in school — for which the arguments go beyond the data?

Or should that be datum?

Speaking of societal touchstones, if the Medford City Council is sending a delegation across country to present Congress with reasons why the Coquille tribe shouldn't build a casino here, should they while they're at it try to get federal backing to eliminate the state lottery?

Are we more comfortable with 84-year-old women winning $590 million Powerball jackpots than we are with them sitting at one-arm bandits for hours beneath artificial lighting breathing recirculated air and hearing the mind-numbing peals and whistles and beeps and clinks of gaming machines while they wait for the musical stylings of a Wayne Newton impersonator?

Should we have stopped the "Wheel of Fortune" contestant wranglers from seducing would-be spinners before their hopes were dashed and they become addicted to trying out for whatever game show sends its traveling circus into town?

Can we really be expected to protect ourselves from the c-mp-ls-v- n—d

t- b-y - v-w-l?

If Oregon Lottery funds are supposed to help education, can't they be used to purchase the flags that will soon be required in all public classrooms? Or will some offshoot of civil libertarians file suit that the government shouldn't be in the business of promoting symbols of patriotism?

Which reminds me: If the patriots truly fought for the freedoms we all enjoy, shouldn't one of those freedoms be the choice not to be required to recite the Pledge of Allegiance "¦ even once a week?

Do you recite it at work? Do you wake up in the morning, do your morning calisthenics, practice duck-and-cover under the dining room table, then say the Pledge?

Kids are still kids, right? Aren't they just as likely to mumble through the words, or just mouth them, or change them to a set of sarcastic, sardonic sing-song verses making fun of the principal's preference for wearing purple and the teacher's receding hairline?

Or was that just me?

Why do we keep getting caught up in the minutiae? Or should that be minutia? Isn't the reason the whining is so loud because the stakes have become so small?

Is it all that important that the restoration of "downtown" Medford is starting out at The Commons? Or is that just a convenient strawman for critics to cite before projects such as One West Main get built?

Although, shouldn't the first thing, the VERY first thing, the Lithia folks do at the soon-to-be-purchased Red Lion is take down the sign "¦ before we wind up spending $30,000 to preserve it as a historical artifact?

An historical artifact?

Aren't small things easier to argue over because the big things seem completely beyond our control? Are there actually Wayne Newton impersonators? Isn't that why we have Neapolitan ice cream — because, really, who can decide between vanilla and chocolate and strawberry?

Why does the government need to know I just Googled Neapolitan to find out whether it was an "a" or an "o" after the "e"? What are they going to do with all the data they store away on billions of disks hidden in centers across the country?

If this is truly about national security, will we soon have to take off our belts and shoes before checking online for the baseball scores? Will our devices perform full-body scans and not allow us to have shampoo bottles with us as we look at cat tricks on Facebook?

If it's all about national security, how did a "top-secret" memo on how to use the Internet to attack our enemies get published in a British newspaper? Is this a follow-up to last year's report about the top-secret strategy to map the Internet and develop Web tactics that was called Plan X for cyberspace?

Will they play out any better than Plan IX, which was from outerspace?

In church we learned that God is everywhere, so wouldn't the government monitoring everything we do be a violation of rules of separation of church and state?

But, just in case they're listening: Is my grandmother's recipe for Lobster Newberg stored on a disk somewhere in a warehouse in West Virginia? If I ask nicely to the federal agent reading my thoughts, will they send it to me?

Mail Tribune news editor Robert Galvin can be reached at rgalvin@mailtribune.com. Apologies to, and admiration for, Padgett Powell.


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