Once the Department of Homeland Security felt compelled to raise the political-gasbag threat level to “IMMINENT.” The decision to take this ultimate step was not made lightly out of a concern to avoid spreading panic throughout the land by acting in too precipitous a manner. Much time was devoted to painstaking assessments of the gasbag threat from every angle imaginable and even from some that were, quite frankly, beyond anyone’s wish to know about. Comprehensive public risk assessments were carried out, as per usual. Once conducted, these had then to be exhaustively reassessed before discussions could begin about what was actually to be done to safeguard the public from potential disaster. Meanwhile, congressional committees and subcommittees called one hearing after another, and irate party leaders marched in and out of the media spotlights to announce it was their solemn duty “to get to the bottom of the gasbag menace.” This combination of factors dragged out the process until much of the public turned its attention elsewhere. In the opinion of those still paying attention, however, the “imminent threat” was officially recognized far too late: long after the need for swift action should have been obvious to all those with eyes to see the gathering danger or a nose to smell it out. As was common knowledge, at times of national stagnation, hot air rapidly grew too dense and dark for one to be certain of what was right in front of one, to say nothing of becoming nearly unbreathable given the elevated levels of toxic fumes given off by gasbags large and small as they overstretched their limits and split a seam or two in the process. Concerns regarding the health of the young and the old were understandable, but so too were worries about all those who might be strong enough to survive heart disease, cancer, or stroke but were absolute goners when it came to the cumulative effects of gasbag exposure. Plainly put, this danger represented a level of threat all its own. Meanwhile, in the absence of decisive anti-gasbag measures taken by those in authority, rumors and debunked conspiracy theories abounded. What came to be known as “gasbag threat deniers” pointed here, there, and everywhere at those they alleged were behind a nefarious plot to hoodwink the public. There were no real gasbags, they derisively proclaimed, or, if there were any real gasbags, well then their very existence should be viewed as a stirring tribute to the constitutional right of every individual to soar aloft and thus was fundamental to both the soul and success of the nation, regardless of any supposedly deleterious consequences for those directly beneath one. Observers less convinced of the benefit to the nation of a sky filled with errant gasbags bumping up against one another pointed in their turn to the near mathematical certainty that at some time in the not-too-distant future, enough gasbags could become wedged together overhead to block out the sun, bringing on a new ice age. While to rely upon the well-documented tendency for overheated gasbags to float “up, up, and away” and ultimately vanish harmlessly beyond the stratosphere was proving to be a false hope. For every great gasbag gone, it was increasingly plain, a multitude of up-and-coming gasbags awaited their own turn to rise. Viewed realistically, then, elevating the threat level to “IMMINENT” or even “CATASTROPHIC” or even “CATACLYSMIC” or even “APOCALYPTIC” would do nothing to render the ominous reality confronting the nation any more alarming than it had already become.
Copyright © 2020 by Geoffrey Grosshans