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Holinger: The droning of the United States of America

Baby boomers will remember 1970’s “The Greening of America,” Charles Reich’s bestseller praising small family farms, a helping central government, and a countercultural movement hippies could stand behind, if not too stoned.

Today’s government collects cell phone data and uses airborne drones to spy on bad guys. Not that I have trouble with that; it’s just unfortunate the world turned out more malevolent than green.

Any new invention can be used for good or evil; a can opener opens scrumptious black olives and bitter sauerkraut with equal conviction. Cell phones, originally bought to phone 911 when stuck in a snow ditch, now function as guilt machines for teens required to check in when getting to the party, when at the party and when leaving the party.

With our children in college, my wife, Tia, checked the weather over Ames, Iowa, and Champaign. It put me in mind of drones, weather.com her personal spy. Able to survey conditions from weather balloon height, she owned the land.

“It’s 67 and partly cloudy with a 30 percent chance of rain in Ames,” she’d announce from her laptop as I poured cereal.

“That’s great,” I’d mumble, as interested as Bruce Willis in his fifth Die Hard movie.

Tia is like many mothers – and fathers, but not, I suspect, to the same degree – who’d love her own drone.

Imagine this: After dropping off Junior and Missy, Mom drives back home or to work and pours a second cup of coffee. While it cools, from the cabinet above the stove or inside the filing cabinet, she lifts out her Satellite Exacted Co-operative Universal Regally Exceptional Log-on Ocular Operating Kingdom – or SECURELOOK – device.

Complete with gear shift, throttle and steering wheel, it resembles the Indy 500 game her husband and son play. When Mom switches hers on, however, she not only dominates a racetrack, but the entire planet.

Big Mother is watching.

With SECURELOOK’s X-ray vision, the loving voyeur hovers over Missy’s grade school, enjoying her precious choose Rustic Red from her 128-count crayon box to enflame her campfire drawing.

Next, Mom jets to Junior’s middle school where she catches seventh-graders milling about their lockers. Suddenly, that smarmy creep, on whom she’s been keeping her aerospace eye, races up behind Junior and delivers a bruising punch between his shoulder blades.

“Gotchyer back!” the bully screams.

Mom recoils. She should have gone into debt and bought SECURELOOK DLX, armed with 40 Bully-Repelling Anti-social Terminating – or BRAT – darts. Now, all she can do is report the incident to the counselors and wish she were blithe as her husband.

“Let ’em work it out on their own,” Removed Dad would say. “Junior’s gotta learn to fend for himself. It’s a parent’s job to push their kids into living independently.”

Most parents find a middle ground between drone and ignore. Something like a blinking red bike light embedded into the back of their children’s heads to make them stand out in a crowd of trick-or-treaters.

Nothing embarrassing. Just a precaution.

• Rick Holinger lives in the Fox Valley where he’s taught high school since 1979. His poetry, fiction, essays, criticism and book reviews have appeared in numerous national literary journals. He founded and facilitates the St. Charles Writers Group, and has a Ph.D. in creative writing from UIC. Contact him at editorial@kcchronicle.com.

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