Around 10:30 Friday morning, the snow began to fall. All the official and media voices immediately started shrieking.
It tickles me to watch TV shows like NCIS and the old Stargate series, which depict US government personnel as obsessive about avoiding “panic” in the population. “Do you really want to reveal the alien invasion? People can’t handle it,” they say solemnly. Or, “If we tell the media about the dirty bomb which will incinerate the city of Washington, people will run around waving their arms and bumping into each other before they get incinerated.”
In reality, it’s our public servants who panic. Even before the first snowflake hit the ground, NOAA was running around and waving its arms, crying that conditions were going to be “EXTREMELY DANGEROUS AND LIFE THREATENING.” The weather service warned about downed powerlines and intimated that anyone leaving his home would fry like bacon. The governor of Maryland, bless his soul, called this “the biggest snow in Maryland history” – surpassing, at least in his fevered mind, even the Ice Ages.
Two feet of snow later, the population remains calm. The stuff – I’ve long noticed – has that effect on people. Rain makes us recall our worst moments, so that we walk in it, shoulders hunched, growling at the world. Snow is attended by a sacred silence which purifies the heart of malice. Even in two feet of whiteness, we look up and at each other, and invariably smile.
For the instrument of doomsday, Robert Frost foolishly – he was a poet, after all – chose fire. Still, he understood the redemptive power of the light side of the force:
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.