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For the week of July 30 - August 5, 2003

Opinion Columns

I dream of Genie

Commentary by Betty Bell

What a heavy task the bio-folk shouldered when they took on the responsibility of passing on a specific group of genetically identical cells from a single donor, i.e. cloning. Only blind faith could give them the courage to choose one person superior enough to stymie good old evolution right in its tracks. And imagine the poor clone when she’s old enough to find out what it means to have pre-determined genes. Even if she’s the replica of the 2004 Olympic gold-medallist free-style swimmer, what a bummer when she realizes that her chance for the gold will last only until some ordinary mortal with ordinary still-evolving genes kick-sprays in her face as she powers past. How’d you like to be saddled with status quo genes?

And think of all of the scary people who might be cloned. I’m not talking Osama and Saddam here—think how scary it’d be if suddenly there were two Newt Gingrichs, or two Tom Delays. In fact, you have to wonder if these two think-alike guys haven’t already been transplanted with matching far-right genes. And wonder whether we have the security to guard against such shenanigans. It doesn’t inspire confidence to remember that it was beyond the capability of the entire intelligence community to keep just 16 words out of that speech with the still galloping legs.

Just off the top of my head I can think of others I’d hate to see cloned: Ann Coulter … Grover Norquist … Henry Kissinger … Phyllis Schafly. And, oh yes, Ken Lay—the first corporate crook to pull the rip-cord on his golden parachute and land we still know not where. But I’m not vindictive, I wouldn’t simply write-off folks that shouldn’t be cloned. There’s a better solution in a startling dream I had about morphogenesis that made me see that by perfecting morphongenesis, everyone stuck in an icky pod could turn into the homo sapien version of a butterfly. Morphing—that’s what the bio-folks should work on. The world will be a better place with morphing instead of cloning.

In my dream, the lab-folks perfected the "recipe" for morphing after one of them, George, wore himself to a frazzle mountain biking too much in his exuberance on a rare day off. The day after, he hurt so bad when he got out of bed that he didn’t just stagger to the bathroom and pop a couple of ibuprofen as you and I would have done. No, he liquefied an absurdly high dose and injected himself. And it worked. And worked fast. When he showed up at the shop that morning his face radiated a beaming smile (rare), and he had a friendly slap on the back for his assistant (first time that ever happened), and was in such a state of super-mellow that his colleagues gaped.

In the dream, the next day George was back to normal—grumpy. But one colleague was curious enough to try to find out what had brought about that magic day. And to make a long dream short, the curious one coaxed his colleagues to help, and with their considerable talents they perfected an ibuprofen injection that not only worked fast, it lasted a lifetime. It was a great moment, and they bought champagne, and they toasted George, and in his honor they called the recipe Geo-morph.

Think about the patriotic gifts we can give to our country if we can Geo-morph, and let’s start with "he’s back again" Newt. We coax him to Walter Reed hospital where he has government life-time free privileges—and we tell him that among the nation’s movers and shakers he’s the first to be chosen to receive a top-secret inoculation guaranteed to protect him from every biological hazard known to man. Newt, who doesn’t need to be convinced he’s worthy of such an honor, quickly rolls up his shirtsleeve and we plunge the needle in his arm. The normal side-effect of the Geo-morph shot is overwhelming drowsiness, so Newt falls fast asleep. And when he wakes up, he’s in the very monastery where Thomas Merton had his digs. There, praise the Lord, he spends the rest of his days blissfully translating sacred scrolls.

Tom DeLay, the used-to-be bug exterminator, awakens as a bird-watcher, and with his over-achiever trait still intact he’s soon a renowned one. Of course he writes a book, and of course it goes right to the top of the nonfiction list where it beats the reign of Stupid White Men.

Poor Anne Coulter awakens with badly botched Botox and thus is never again the darling of the talk-shows, where she had fetchingly gushed political versions of Harry Potter yarns. But let’s not feel sorry for her, for in her quiet penthouse she now writes Mary Topper yarns that threaten Harry’s supremacy. A main-line publisher signs her on and she drops Regnery, her former publisher who cared not a whit whether what she wrote was true or not as long as it was far-far-right.

The anti-tax, anti-government man Grover Norquist wakes up in an unmapped corner of the Australian outback surrounded by a tribe of old-fashioned headhunters. The Chief figures the gods sent him and makes him an honorary member of the tribe. But Grover had been careless about what he wished for, because on the bit of planet he now calls home, his wish came true. There are no taxes, and the tribal government is small enough to drown in a bathtub—if only he had one.

Go ahead—it’s your turn. Geo-morph a never-again devious Henry … a forever shrill-less Phyllis … a philanthropic Ken. But when the recipe is fine-tuned enough so that more than one can person can have the same morph, there’s a certain three-some I’m keeping for myself: George and Dick and Rummy. I’ve saved the best for them—when they wake up they’ll be The Three Wise Men. And if they think the garb is too dramatic, it’s OK to keep their own clothes.



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