etc. 

In the week before a presidential election, you could probably find political innuendo in a potato chip if you wanted. So when a giant red ribbon appeared on Mount Sentinel next to the “M” on Monday, curiosity piqued; just a few days prior, National Public Radio had aired a segment in which citizens nationwide voiced their different perceptions of the yellow “Support Our Troops” ribbons. Some said they saw the yellow ribbons as straightforward support for U.S. troops, while others saw them as support for Bush.

So what’s the red ribbon?

Refreshingly, it has nothing to do with Republicans or Democrats—though its symbol does reach nationwide.

This is national Red Ribbon Week, says Hellgate High School Project Success Coordinator Kevin Mays, which is a time to celebrate drug- and alcohol-free lifestyles. Five members of Hellgate’s Red Ribbon committee placed the ribbon on Sentinel Monday afternoon, he says, after purchasing more than 680 square feet of fabric on sale from Jo-Ann Fabrics & Crafts for about $80. The group sewed the fabric together and twisted it into a ribbon about 50 feet tall and 25 feet wide; then they searched the Internet long enough to safely call their creation “the world’s largest ribbon.”

Red Ribbon Week first started nationally back in 1998, says Mays, and was inspired by the memory of Texan Kiki Camarena, who was murdered in 1985 while working for the Drug Enforcement Agency.

On Thursday, Oct. 28, Hellgate students will have a dramatized brush with death during Red Ribbon Week’s “ghost-out”; Mays says some students will be taken out of their study halls and have their faces painted white, with each white face representing 100,000 of the drug- and alcohol-related deaths that occur each year.

So if you see a bunch of spooky kids wandering around on Thursday, don’t fear; that’s not the death of Democracy on parade—it’s just Red Ribbon Week.

•••

We hate to invoke Hunter S. Thompson during an election season (okay, we don’t hate it, we’re just a little scared of embarrassing ourselves in the master’s shadow), but there sure does seem to be a good amount of fear and loathing on the Nov. 2 ballot. And we’re not even talking about the top of a certain ticket that seems hell-bent on trying to convince the American public that a certain Democrat, if elected, will personally bring terrorist wrath raining down upon the nation. But Dick, the terrorists don’t hate John Kerry, they hate freedom, remember?

No, we’re talking about fear and loathing closer to home, as evidenced by the proposed amendments and initiatives on this year’s ballot that seem to skip right over actual issues in favor of fear-mongering about what might happen.

For one, there’s the little-discussed Constitutional Amendment 41, which would recognize and preserve the heritage of Montanans’ opportunity to harvest wild game and fish. Not that it’s a bad idea or anything, but at the risk of sounding stupid, why do we need to enshrine the “recognition” and “preservation” of an “opportunity”? Well, because hunting and fishing are integral parts of “Montana’s cherished way of life.” Okay, but who’s trying to take that opportunity away? According to proponents’ arguments in the 2004 Voter Information Pamphlet, that’d be “anti-hunting, anti-fishing, ‘animal rights’ extremists.” More frighteningly, such extremists could be represented by “one Massachusetts animal rights lawyer armed with a clever lawsuit and a large budget.” (Italics in original.) To ward off that fearsome threat, supporters say, “we must give future generations legal ammunition now to defend our heritage against outside attacks.” Wouldn’t it be easier to just declare open season on Massachusetts animal rights lawyers?

My, we had no idea what a scary, oppressive world was standing on our doorstep. Next thing you know, out-of-state extremists will be forcing us to marry our dogs…no, wait, we think we’ve got that covered, too.

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