- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 12, 2002

Washington remains as resilient as ever, unbowed and undaunted, one year after September 11, the day a nut case by the name of Osama bin Laden became a fixture in the national vocabulary.

Bin Laden is either dead or hiding under a rock, a sick joke dead or alive, who urged others to be in a rush to meet 72 virgins in the afterlife, just not his cowardly self. He would be a very funny guy if weren't for his evil handiwork.

Washington is in a hurry, too, in a hurry to live and see what's up, to be the city it aspires to be, to be better and better, the eternal quest of the American people.

Washington mourned the dead of September 11, patched up the hole at the Pentagon and returned to its business a long time ago. It is a fun place that suffers from a terminal case of inadvertent self-mockery.

You can't beat the entertainment value of the talking heads lurking on every street corner in town. They long ago resumed their noisy self-parodies, a good sign.

You have to love James Carville, one of the luxuries of a free society. He is a Washington person, by way of Louisiana, who plays the token funny-looking guy on television. He is not serious. He is just one of official Washington's permission slips to laugh and enjoy yourself following a long day of work.

Washington also has taken up the cause of Steve Spurrier, and the cause of the local NFL team, the region's rallying entity. We can agree to cheer the victories and lament the losses. How about that Fun 'n' Gun offense? The Islamists with a warped attitude probably don't know the difference between a 3-yard gain and a touchdown strike, although they knew where to find the topless bars before perpetrating their horrors. They probably counted the latter as an introductory course to the 72 virgins awaiting their arrival.

Washington has rediscovered its sense of humor in the past year, and it must be killing the surviving clowns in their hideaways. They aren't merely frightened by the presence of America's smart bombs. They break out in a cold sweat if someone flies a kite in their vicinity.

They are easy targets in either case. The Taliban talked a tough game in front of Washington. Remember the Taliban? As it turned out, when the going got tough, the Taliban ran for the hills before reaching for their shaving kits to remove their incriminating beards.

Washington is not apt to stop now after clearing its throat. You have Dudley Moore's word on that and possibly the word of the mayor, whoever it is today. The two are not unconnected, the one dead funnyman and the one dead petition drive, hard as it was for Anthony A. Williams to accept.

The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics is counting the write-in ballots from the Democratic mayoral primary today, one by one, interpreting voter intent when necessary, promising to have the results one of these months. This is us. This is what we do. Another cup of coffee, anyone?

Washington barely notices the changes, slight as they really are. There are a few more concrete barriers around town, a few more officers in place, and a number of steely eyed personnel sitting behind guns mounted on armored vehicles at the Pentagon. There also is a renewed sense of patriotism. You can tell by the increasing number of American flags hanging over the overpasses on Interstate 66 to mark the one-year anniversary.

Mostly, though, Washington is permanently stuck in traffic, focused on the task ahead. This is how it is, as it should be, September 11 notwithstanding.

The woman in the lane ahead is applying eyeliner with one hand, talking on the cell phone with the other, working a laptop computer with her toes and driving at the same time. Does she appear unnerved by the code orange security alert? In a way, bin Laden's kooks barely made a mark on Washington.

No, the terrorists have not won, one of the year's cliches inspired by the talk shows. The terrorists are not even in the game. They lost; they lost big. They hate us so, the why is immaterial. They hate our symbols. That is too bad. Wait until we get done resolving the details of what goes up in place of the World Trade Center in New York.

One year later, Washington is better than ever, and just as absurd as ever, which is reassuring.

Let's try to stay out of the range of those speed cameras. They are sneaky little things.

Before Washington forgets, a last word to bin Laden, who is either dead or going to be dead: "Say hi to the 72 virgins for Washington."

Now if only Michael Jordan can get his knees to behave long enough to play another season with the Wizards.


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