This business about almanacs being viewed as suspicious is quite surreal. I don't know whether to laugh at the stupidity of the idea or cry because they actually seem to be serious abut it.
I'm post-modern enough to know that there's no such thing as purely neutral and objective information, but if there were such a thing, almanacs would be closer to that than anything else I could think of. They try to be just a collection of facts.
My former boss always had an almanac around him. In his job he often used it to get basic information about the various Federal Reserve banking districts. But more importantly, he used it to satisfy his curiosity about any topic which might arise. Should a question about consumer trends come up in a conversation, rather than waste time conjecturing what he thought the answer might be, he'd just look up the answer.
OK, so an almanac is now suspicious because although there are millions of ways in which its information can be used for good or neutral purposes, some twisted people may use it for evil. Well all knowledge, and all books, can be used for both good or evil. Holy and good books such as the Bible and the Qu'rán have sometimes been used to justify evil. It's possible that good could come out of reading an evil book such as Mein Kampf, by being able to learn from the mistakes of the past. What's true for these two extremes of books is also true for the vast middle, occupied by volumes such as almanacs. It makes me wonder, is the War Against Terror becoming a war against knowledge?
John Ashcroft and other Department of Justice staffers have been telling librarians for over a year that the FBI isn't interested in ordinary people's reading habits. Then it is revealed that something as commonplace and as neutral as an almanac is viewed with suspicion. What will come next - warnings about people who need a phone book?
I'm blowing this out of proportion, they would probably say. Things like the possession of an almanac is only one of many factors which are taken into account. Well I guess it depends who you are, doesn't it? I'm sure that an older white Republican like my former boss would be safe. But if you're Middle Eastern, or even if you just look Middle Eastern, it may be that having an almanac with you might be just enough to get you into trouble. Even if you were only using it to look up the names of your Senators.