If you do something crazy, don't blame me

The Baltimore Sun

They put Jose Padilla away for having filled out an application form to attend an al-Qaida training camp, a milestone in criminal-conspiracy law that makes me wonder about you readers and what you might do that some ambitious prosecutor could trace back to something I wrote 16 months ago.

I'm serious. Here we are, consorting on the page, in the old conspiracy between Author and Unnamed Others, my hand on your shoulder, whispering stuff, speaking freely - so let me just say this: I accept no liability for whatever you may or may not do after reading my column. It has nothing to do with me. Zero. Zilch.

You readers know me and I don't know you. This now makes me nervous. We are invisibly linked through words I have written, and yet the meaning of those words, as determined by a jury of 12 men and women good and true, could be far, far from what I intended, and as I sit there at the defense table in the Miami courtroom, as the linguistics expert for the State, a tall, bunheaded woman with a Ph.D. in literary deconstruction, testifies that the subtext of my column in question was a command that you plant an explosive device in the heel of your cowboy boot and try to run through airport security hollering "I'm a-comin', Mama!" I am going to think back on my life and wish I had become a gardener. Nobody was ever indicted for watering plants.

I know people who went to prison for protesting the war in Vietnam, and it is nothing to be taken lightly. It can mess with a person's mind, and not every mind survives the message. You'd like to imagine that you'd be heroic, like Nelson Mandela or Voltaire, but I am not looking for opportunities to be heroic. I am 65 years old, thank you very much, and very, very uninterested in spending time in prison.

So whatever weirdness you are plotting, stop it right now. Put those liquids or gels away. Stop going to the airport and asking strangers to carry packages aboard the aircraft. Stop offering to pack their bags for them. Whatever suspicious things you are doing, stop it right now. Don't look away as if I were talking to somebody else. I am talking to YOU. Yes. You.

I don't know you. I never knew you. I never asked you to read this column. Isn't that right?

If so, sign here:

Garrison Keillor's column appears Thursdays in The Sun. His e-mail is oldscout@prairiehome.us.

Kathleen Parker's column will return next week.

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