I grew up with stories of “When Daddy was a little boy…”, tales of my father’s childhood lived across adventures from Nevada to DC to Afghanistan to Korea. The preferred setting for these narratives had to be the streets of Kabul, and no Kabul story was complete without some sort of reference to the Noon Gun.
The Noon Gun was a cannon that was (still is?) fired each day at noon, perhaps the atomic clock of its era, to help the residents of Kabul track their temporal progress through the hours. To the uninitiated, it must have caused quite a start to hear the cacophonous blast of gunpowder, an unheralded harbinger of the decades to come in Afghanistan. And there were reassurances and snickers from those who knew, or those who perhaps were just complacent in their noontide reminder.
I was walking to pick up a burrito just now, exploring a new route to a new Mexican (but not New Mexican) place gracing my slightly new location at my slightly new job. And it sounded, a howling wail tolling the end of the world, up, down, up, hold, down. “Take cover, take flight, take heed.” But then when do I go to lunch? And was I at work just yesterday?
It’s San Francisco’s own noon gun, of course, which sounds only on Tuesdays and precisely at noon. It’s a city-wide test of the Emergency Broadcast System, in case of question-marks, so that everyone can know to head for the hills as soon as question-marks happen. You fill in your own blanks, because no one’s really quite clear what it would be. And that fuels the effectiveness… anything can happen, everything is threatening.
But somehow, at the early onset of Tuesday afternoon, it sounds more like a cry for help. Of course it’s only on Tuesdays – when else could it be? And noon, the dawn of the difficult period, the advent of the slow decline into nothingness that is afternoon. Somehow the Tuesday Noon Siren calls out like an affirmation of one’s internal feelings rather than a particular call to action or safety. Why wouldn’t a forlorn, urgent wailing call out at just this particular moment?
But it’s really trying to warn us, like “Vantage Point”, a movie that should probably be protested and picketed when it comes down to it, that the Danger is Out There. “Vantage Point”, a waste of a dear couple hours over this already less-than-precious-weekend, offers an intricate plot that is fiction to its very core. Yes, there are Presidential conspiracies of body-doubles and the fact that no matter how many people came together to kill someone, they will be labeled as a “lone gunman”. But the picture of a terrorist threat, that for the pure power of violence seems to rail against nearly the whole world, that is collected, coordinated, and wants to fight some mysterious war for the sake of never ending it, is the height of American projection. The United States may stand unilaterally for bold, violent action and rogue “heroics”, thus fearing its own image more than any reality out there. But at least if one attacks a mirror with full force, one only gets bloodied by broken glass.
I’m not saying that nothing will change, nothing will happen, and certainly not that nothing will appear to happen. But jumping and running from the mirror is a little distracting when we should be realizing it’s what’s being reflected that should scare us.