"This meeting has been called to consider changing our alert status from orange to red," Chairman Ork Dorken announced to the Community Homeland Security Committee gathered in the unheated cavernous town hall.
"Why?" asked Holger Danske bluntly.
"Didn't you see the president?" Chief Alert Officer Garvey Erfald answered with his own question.
"Was he in town?" Einar Torvald inquired. "He was probably checking on our grant application to pave the back street with stimulus money."
"He was not in town," an irritated chairman responded. "He was on television to tell us that he was sending more troops to Afghanistan."
"I must have been busy watching Desperate Housewives," Einar explained.
"As the only anti-terrorism organization protecting this city," Dorken explained with an air of pride, "it is our duty to support the president when he is fighting a war on terrorism."
"I s'pose we'll have to plant Victory gardens again," Holger speculated. "I didn't see how raising carrots helped win World War II but I did it because Roosevelt ordered it." He paused, thought briefly, and then continued. "It must have helped because we won."
"Will we have war bonds again?" asked Einar. "What did the president say about paying for it?"
"Well, he didn't really say anything except that he and Congress would work out the minor details later," Garvey reported.
"We don't need war bonds as long as we have a Visa card from the Bank of Beijing," Holger observed.
"It seems that if we're going to spend billions to keep terrorists at bay that we ought to pay for it with taxes, or fees, or bake sales or whatever," Madeleine Morgan fretted. "Security isn't free, you know. It isn't fair that the troops are doing it all while we sit in toasty comfort."
Holger whispered across Orville Jordan to Einar. "See! She's one of those Montana tax-and-spend liberals. First thing she suggests is taxes to pay for what we get from the government." Holger considered her an interloper who came from Billings just 10 years ago and was already mouthing off at men's meetings like a native citizen.
"The question today is about changing our alert flag from orange to red," Ork reminded the committee.
"I have a hard time worrying about a war over in Afghanistan when my toilet is leaking right here at home," Einar grumbled.
"I have the solution," Josh Dvorcheck announced. "Let's fly flags at each end of town - one red and one orange - and let the people decide how scared they want to be. Besides, it'll confuse the terrorists."
At this point, the freezing committee members were ready for anything, even compromise. Hurriedly, they tightened their coats and headed out the door into the cold northwest wind, feeling victorious about solving a major security question.
Lloyd Omdahl served as North Dakota's 34th Lieutenant of the state from 1987 to 1992. Previously he was a professor of political science at the University of North Dakota. He continues to write columns for newspapers across N.D.