Twice in a month, Phoenix, Arizona has experienced a rare kind of dust storm so sudden and severe that it caused traffic accidents, disrupted airline operations and generally scared people silly. Not hard to understand: the dust cloud created by the storm surge from a group of thunderstorms was 3,000 feet high, propelled by 40-mile-per-hour winds, and dropped visibility in moments to mere feet. The Arizona chattering class, predictably, is in an uproar.
Are people clamorously accepting the vicious storms as further evidence of climate change? Nope. Demanding action to moderate human contributions to the greenhouse effect? Naw. They are upset, the New York Times reports today, because the unique storms are being identified with an Arabic word: haboob. One writer of letters to the editor framed his argument this way: “How do they think our soldiers feel coming back to Arizona and hearing some Middle Eastern term?” Really? We are at war with the Middle East? We hate Arabs so much we cannot bear to hear a word that comes from their language?
“Excuse me, Mr. Weatherman!” said another scribe, “Who gave you the right to use the word ‘haboob’ in describing our recent dust storm?”
Indeed. Just because it is what meteorologists have always called such storms, how dare they? And this is just the tip of the sand dune, when it comes to meteorologists (I’m sorry. Too big a word for Arizonites? Try Weather Man.) providing aid and comfort to the enemy by using the enemy’s language. They are constantly talking about temperatures being above and below — zero. They have been caught using algebra. They often appear, when covering extreme weather events by standing in them, wearing khaki. And if you surprise them at their home at night, you may find them secretly wearing pajamas.
They must hate us because we’re free.
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