Wrapping Up Terrorism
Can you wrap up Terrorism?   Can you give it away?   How about Vigilance?   Is it a gift that can be given?   Yesterday, America's Most Gifted Wrapper was crowned.   She gave a gift of Vigilance to the world, and won $10,000 to boot.  See how you can become America's Most Gifted Wrapper

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Saturday--November 23, 2002óGround Zero Plus 437
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Wrapping Up Terrorism &
Tying A Pretty Bow On Top

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by
Cliff McKenzie
   Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

       GROUND ZERO, New York City, Nov. 23 --I wrapped up Terrorism yesterday at Rockefeller Center.   I even tied a pretty bow on it and placed it under George W. Bush's Christmas Tree.  Well, not really.  But I'm sure he'd like it if someone gave it to him.  For that matter, so would the world.

       Some days, you wish you could wrap your arms around all the Terrorism in the world and squeeze it all into in a pretty wrapped box and give it to head of Terrorism Garbage Disposal.   Then, the world could get on with evolving rather than hobbling about with one foot in the fertile soil of human prosperity and the other stuck in the poverty-wracked quagmire of indiscriminate, senseless human violence.  

Winner, Christine Fritsch

        Yesterday morning, I give myself a respite from the yoke of my daily Terror Hunting.  I went to the Sixth Annual "Americas Most Gifted Wrapper" contest sponsored by Scotch tape, a 3M company.  The contest was held in the concourse of world famous Rockefeller Center.  
          Believe it or not, the winner was given $10,000 for her skill in wrapping Christmas gifts.  
           Christine Fritsch, a gift wrapping guru from Kate's Paperie who lives in Madison, N.J., competed against a bevy of world class gift-wrapping competitors from Macy's, Bloomingdale's and Nordstrom's to capture the top prize. The first runner-up, Shamiran David from Morton Grove, IL, received a $2,500 cash prize.

First Runner-up, Shamiran David's wrapped telescope

       In elimination rounds, contenders navigated challenging wrapping courses that included a pair of boxing gloves, a telescope and a swing set.  
       Three expert judges strolled contestant row after each wrapping bout, examining the handiwork for maximum professionalism.   Robin Cohen, producer of "Wrap Magic" and president of Bow Jest Enterprises in San Andreas, Calif.; Juanita Lewis, producer of "Beautiful Bows" and president of Picture Perfect Productions in Los Angeles; and John Saxtan, editor-in-chief of Giftware News formed the judging committee.
      Yup, it was a big time event.  I only wished they had Osama and Hussein to wrap.
     I had a little Terror Trouble getting a front row seat with my Kodak 3400 digital.   When I entered the "Press Corps Entrance" I showed the young lady monitoring the camera clogged gateway my VigilanceVoice business card.   She let me pass.  Then a young gentleman took me aside and wanted to make sure I wasn't there to write about Terrorism and Scotch tape.   He noticed the words "Terrorism" and "Vigilance" on my card..  I assured him I was there to promote Vigilance not Terrorism.  I also told him I had done a story on the world's largest flag made of Duct Tape when it was constructed in Union Square on the anniversary of the U.S. Army.  He seemed pleased I wasn't going to beam the contest to Osama bin Laden hidden lair.

World's Largest Duct Tape Flag, June 14, 2002 Union Square, NYC.

       I did, however, think of Terrorism versus Vigilance as I watched the world's greatest package wrappers spin paper around gifts, deftly snap pieces of Scotch tape from wrist dispensers to secure them, and appoint their handicraft with ribbons and bows in a flurry of creative energy monitored by a time clock.  Contestants were judged on speed, as well as art..
       While snapping pictures, I thought about how wrapping packages can be a frightening experience if you're a last-minute shopper as I am.  Amy Coles of Hunter Public Relations issued a fact sheet with the press kits handed out that day.   It included the following facts from a 3M survey commissioned in September 2001.  Its data represented 944 respondents:

--Sixty-seven percent of Americans wrap at least a dozen gifts during the
        holiday season.
--About one-quarter of Americans (26 percent) wait until at least the day
        before the gift-giving occasion to wrap presents.  (yes, that's me...how
         about   until the 11th hour???)
--
Eighty-six percent of women report that they are the primary gift wrapper in the
        home, compared to just 36 percent of men. Although men are less likely
        to take scissors and tape to paper, nearly 75 percent of men claim to be
        at least somewhat skilled at gift wrapping.
--Who needs wrapping paper?  When people run out, they use whatever is
        lying around the house to finish the job, including:  tissue paper
       (44 percent),  newspaper (29 percent), paper or plastic bags (10 percent)
        and tin foil (7 percent.)
--Six out of 10 Americans line pieces of tape along table edges for easy
        access when gift wrapping
.

         I'm one of those ingenious wrappers who will use whatever leftovers I can find to wrap a package.  My theory is since people are going to "rip" it open anyway, who really cares?    And, I'm big on Scotch tape since I'm not into ribbons.  I'll cinch up a package as though it were a saddle on a wild bronco just to try and make it harder for the package to be opened.  I figure ninety-percent of the fun of presents is opening them, so why not make it challenging.  I compete for the "worst wrapped" package but the "most fun to rip apart." 

         I thought it also a bit ironic to me that America's Most Gifted Wrapper contest was held in the concourse of Rockefeller Center just a few feet away from where the controversial statue of the "Tumbling Woman" had raised so much clamor just a few weeks earlier.  That statue, by Eric Fischl, depicted a woman falling from the World Trade Center. 

Controversial "Tumbling Woman" Bronze by Eric Fischl

      It was, in my view, a tribute to the courage of those who died that day.  I remember watching those who leaped that day from Ground Zero and the hush when they did.   All of us who were standing beneath the flames and belching smoke knew why they were leaping.   We knew  it took great resolve and courage for one to chose their death rather than be consumed by the Terrorist's holocaust.  Personally, I also thought the artist had done a magnificent job in making the woman's stature most dignified in death, eliciting in me a sense of pride that human beings can die with pride and courage in the face of Terrorism.  But the public rancor drove the statue out and Rockefeller Center.  It was quickly draped and removed in the darkness of night amidst public protest.
         If Fischl's statue represented the worst of memories of September 11, the Christmas wrapping contest stood also as a symbol of what happened that day.   The attack by the Terrorists on the World Trade Center was an attack on commercialism of Western Society.  It was an assault not only on the innocent and helpless, but one designed to try and crush the symbols of wealth, democracy and capitalism.  The idea that the prosperity should rule the world was the target, and the twisted belief that poverty and despotism was more powerful than opportunity and democracy was the goal.  It didn't work.  The Terrorists only showed their hatred over the success of others, just as any bully might attempt when he smashes the toys of children who have things he doesn't.   

Angel of Vigilance at Rockefeller Center

         As a symbol of Vigilance in the face of Terrorism, the gift wrapping contest stood tall in the face of Terrorism.   It was all about the beauty of a gift, and the giving of life in a world far too embroiled in the taking of life.  Life's values comes alive when someone gives a gift to another, especially to a child.
          I can't imagine a child in Iraq or Afghanistan, not wanting a beautiful wrapped package as a gift on his or her spiritual holiday.   Gifts ultimately are for children.   Even the ones wrapped and packaged for adults bring out the child in us all.   When we open gifts, we return to that innocence of our childhood, eager to see the "magic" behind the paper and bows; gifts make our eyes widen and cause us to joyously sigh "Ohhhhhh" and "Ahhhhhh."
         Gifts are also signs of caring.   They can be simple or complex, but their job is to lift our spirits up and to remind us there are people who care about our "secret dreams."
         When a child drafts a letter to Santa for his or her "gift list" it's like revealing a deep secret, sharing it with the world in hopes it will come true.   Gifts represent the reality of dreams, the firmament of one's imagination, the rewards of hard work.
          Gifts are extended arms hugging children, making them light up like bulb on a tree, or, in places where there is no electricity, light a bright flame on a candle.  Gifts renew the beauty of life, its hope.
          The other day my wife, who is charge of putting photos in my daily stories and editing them, placed a picture of a little boy in a Terror Training Camp.  He was being taught how to be a suicide bomber.   The picture made me cringe to think the child's "present" was a belt filled with dynamite, and that his "gift" was a course on how to blow up himself and other innocent people.  

Bomber "in-training"

        That same child, I'm sure, would rather have the beautiful telescope the contenders for the "America's Most Gifted Wrapper" turned into a gleaming present, or, the boxing gloves that offer a peacefully "violent" way to resolve differences without "killing one another."  Or the swing set where he could learn to play peacefully with others and share his wealth rather than selfishly deny it to others.  Instead, he was learning how to wear a "package of TNT" into a crowd and ignite it.
          That evening, when I was relating my day to my older daughter, who is a peace activist with three young children, she wondered why I had gone to a "gift wrapping contest" when there were so many other subjects to write about regarding Terrorism versus Vigilance.        

        "You know," I said, "there's something incredibly powerful about America.  Someone who is gift wrapper, a good gift wrapper, who may not be able to speak our language very well, or may not have been born in this country, or may not have a degree from Yale or Harvard, can rise up and become America's Most Gifted Wrapper.  He or she can win $10,000 dollars by being the best at what she or he does.  Now, if that's not an incredible illustration of Liberty and a reason why Terrorism should be eliminated from endangering our children, and our children's children's children, I don't what is."
           I thought about what I said to her.  It just came out. 

         Suddenly, I saw the gift wrapping contest as a symbol of Vigilance rising above Terrorism's shadow.   Terrorism's goal is to breed Fear, Intimidation and Complacency.  It seeks to destroy the gift of life, to smash the presents of "peace" and "prosperity" as Dr. Seuss' Grinch Who Stole Christmas  tried to Terrorize the citizens of  the Land of Who-ville.
           In countries that breed Terrorism as a state of mind, there is much poverty, much repression of the people by warlords and monarchs or despotic rulers who steal the wealth of the people, never letting it trickle down, always raking it off in their pockets as though the citizens were slaves to quench their thirst for power.   And, to divert their attention, the despots point to others as the source of their repression, seeking to breed hate and discontent outside their borders.  
          In America, and other democracies, the opposite is true.  Individuals are charged with the responsibility to rise up, to become "their dreams," and not to blame others for anything they don't have because all the opportunity in the world exists for their taking. Yesterday was one small example of the Big Picture of Democracy and Capitalism.     

       A person whose job is to wrap packages can become the world's best at it.  He or she can be recognized by millions through news pictures and television sound bites and receive a big fat check for $10,000, which, for many developing nations represents two years worth of per capita income.   Christine Fritsch did.
          There was much more at stake to the America's Most Gifted Wrapper Contest than just flashy paper, sparkling red bows, and colorful holiday ribbons.   The contest symbolized the "right to achieve" in a democracy that rewards those who are willing to rise above the Complacency of being "average." 
         What also was at stake in the contest was another nail in the coffin of Terrorism.    Gifts are by their nature "offerings of Vigilance."   To give another a gift is to respect them as an individual. Gifts are signs of "peace."
         In many cultures, when two people first meet, they exchange gifts.   The idea is that friendship and community between people comes first, ahead of individuality.

Vigilant Soldier at Rockefeller Center

     "Gift giving" illustrates the victory of Vigilance over Terrorism.  It reminds us our goal as human beings is to find ways to respect the Courage, Conviction and Right Actions in us all rather than fertilize the Fear, Intimidation and Complacency that lurks in us all.  Instead of seeking ways to incite the Beast of Terror within us, gift giving is about resolving our issues, finding common grounds of respect for one another.
         During the holidays, we give gifts to our loved ones and friends as a symbol of Vigilance--reminders we can honor the good in us all..   Gifts represent the highest order of humanness.   They speak to our Vigilant nature, and tend to quiet our Beasts of Terror by bringing joy and happiness to those who receive them--especially the children..
          When we wrap a gift, we are giving over to another part of us.   We are telling that person we care about them in a special way.    We are building Courage, Conviction and taking Right Actions with another.  Denying gifts is an act of Terrorism, for it makes one feel the fangs of Fear, Intimidation and Complacency.    Parents who disallow a child to have gifts harden the child's soul.

          And there are simple, powerful gifts.   One of the great "gift-giving" stories--O'Henry's Gift of the Magi--is all about a woman who cut her long hair to buy her husband a gift, and a husband who bought a beautiful comb for his wife's lovely hair, which, unbeknownst to him, she had cut and sold to afford him a present.
         It is the gift's wrapping, not the gift itself that counts.
         It is the love and care of presenting the gift that truly matters.

        The Most Gifted Wrapper is the one who offers another Vigilance, for by giving Vigilance, one automatically tells Terrorism that love and peace will overpower hate and war.
         Perhaps one of the greatest gifts you can give this holiday is to wrap up the Pledge of Vigilance and give it to those you love the most.   It may be the Gift of the Magi.

Nov. 22--Assassinating Terrorism

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