Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Stillwater: Coach Thole Shares An Inspiring Anecdote

In a recent piece Gazette columnist local School Board official George Thole “blew everybody’s mind” with a strange Internet anecdote that purports to convey the essence of Republican Party philosophy. The skinny version: A Republican conservative has a haughty, snooty, arrogant liberal kid at college, and goes to visit her. “I’m a little depressed,” says the kid. “I’m working so hard. I’ve got a 4.0 GPA--but my roommate is really popular because she never does her schoolwork and parties all the time—of course, she has a 2.0 GPA and she’s just barely getting by.” “Well,” says the father, “Why don’t you just shave a point off your GPA and give it to your roommate so things will be more fair.” “What!” says his daughter. “It’s my GPA, I worked hard for it! I’m not giving it away to anyone else.” Her father “slowly smiled” and said “Welcome to the Republican Party.”

Boy, that’s a good one, isn’t it? One criticism: I’m not sure which is correct, but I think it should have read “smiled slowly;” not “slowly smiled.” Perhaps it doesn’t matter whether the dad in the story “smiled slowly” or “smiled quickly”—“smiled triumphantly” or “smiled smugly” would give you a better sense of what the story’s about. But it’s probably not even a true story; people with a 4.0 GPAs aren’t usually welcome in the Republican Party.

Anyway, here’s a more realistic version of the same anecdote. A Republican conservative has a haughty, snooty arrogant kid (is there any other kind of kid, in these anecdotes?) at college, and visits him. “I’m a little depressed,” says the kid. “My roommate’s in the army reserve. He’s not wealthy like us—he’s from a blue-collar family and needed to join the army to get money for school. He just got called up to go and fight in Iraq.” “Well,” says the father, “Why don’t you volunteer to go in his place so life would be more fair?” “What!” say the kid. “We’re rich, I don’t have to join the army. I’m not taking any chances on getting killed or maimed for the United States of America.” His father “slowly smiled/smiled slowly” again, and said “Welcome to the Republican Party--and now that you’ve refused to do combat, we can ask the college Dean to shave TWO points off your GPA--and then you’ll be eligible to be the Republican Presidential nominee! Whoopee!”

Or how about this one: A Republican conservative goes to visit his hoity-toity, haughty daughter at some Communist liberal college, and she starts in with a diatribe questioning all his core beliefs. “Well,” says the father, “Why don’t you just take your 4.0 GPA and put it where the sun doesn’t shine?” And then he “slowly smiled” and cut off all her financial support. Two weeks later his daughter came crawling back to him, got down on her knees and sobbed: “I’m sorry, daddy--I’ll believe whatever you want me to believe from now on, because you’ve got the money.” Her father “smiled slowly” (he had always dreamed of degrading his daughter like this and robbing her any illusions about the value of self-sacrifice for the sake of others) and said, “Welcome to the Republican Party.” But just then--a big monster came in and ate them both!

And here’s another fictional anecdote I came up with: young George Thole’s dad came to visit him at some fancy-schmancy leftist liberal college and George started delivering a heart-felt diatribe and challenging all his father’s core beliefs, and all that stuff that kids usually do in these inspiring anecdotes. His father told him to go out into the real world and get a job in the private sector, if he was so smart. “No thanks, Dad!” said young George. “I’d rather coach for some high school and make my living off other people’s taxes. That way, even the people who don’t have kids in school will have to pony up for my sports budget—and pay me to coach OTHER people’s kids! Ha! But that won’t stop me from moaning about how no one should have to give up anything to help out anyone else—no sir, I don’t see any logical contradictions or hypocrisy there!” George’s father either smiled slowly or slowly smiled, and said: “Welcome to the Republican Party.” Just then, Campus Security came into the dorm room and demanded to know what George and his father were doing there, since neither of them had any affiliation with the college. Then there was an ugly scene, which I will not go into here.

Well--Thole and I could kick these inspiring yarns around all day, I bet. But the Gazette pays Thole to pad his column with resentment-filled anecdotes he pulls off the Internet—I, on the other hand, don’t get a dime for this (as my editor pointed out to the world last week) even though I come up with original content each week. So the hell with this anecdote jazz, I say.

By the way: in a column that appeared in this newspaper on July 15, 2004, Mr. Thole told Gazette readers that I was “far to the left of Ted Kennedy, Al Franken and Michael Moore.”

Mr. Thole was lying to you.

William Prendergast is the author of the crime thriller “Forbidden Hollywood” and enjoys visiting young people on college campuses and making smug, cutting remarks that expose their youthful compassion and idealism as a pretentious sham and completely destroy it forever so they can become good Republicans.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Draft Chicken Hawks To Serve As Iraq Hostage Replacements

Draft Chicken Hawks To Serve As Hostage Replacements

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld says he “can’t imagine” a circumstance under which a draft would be initiated. He doesn’t have to imagine it. This year American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan whose terms of service were about to end were simply ordered to stay and to continue to serve in war zones. The Bush government just tore up America’s promise to them and refused to let them go home.

If the word “draft” means a government order of involuntary military service—you’ve already initiated a draft, Mr. Rumsfeld; you don’t have to imagine a thing.

There is little these American kids can do to prevent their own assassination, because the terrorists pose as innocent civilians. And now, a new source of danger: kidnapping. An American Marine was taken hostage last week and threatened with death. His captors finally released him. Not because they were trying to show the world that they are merciful--they were demonstrating that they are so powerful in Iraq that they can kidnap and release American soldiers with impunity.

We must assume that other American troops will be abducted in the future, and that many of these will face execution. Our government must do something to save their lives. I propose that Mr. Rumsfeld initiate a civilian “hostage exchange draft.” Under this initiative, whenever an American or coalition soldier is taken captive and threatened with death, our government would offer the terrorists a more famous pro-war civilian hostage in exchange for that soldier.

Terrorists would be very hot for such a deal. Put yourself in the place of a publicity-seeking terrorist for a moment: wouldn’t you rather behead a famous pro-war columnist like Michael Reagan than some no-name soldier? Wouldn’t that make a bigger media splash?

The life of a youthful and courageous captive soldier would be saved. True, the life of Michael Reagan would be lost--but how much of a loss is that? Michael Reagan is a “chicken hawk”: an American who refused to join up when his country needed him (in his particular case, during the Viet Nam conflict), but is remarkably pro-war now that he is too old to be drafted or volunteer for combat duty.

Who would miss a chicken hawk, if we could exchange his life for that of a real soldier? I am absolutely serious about this. Substitute hostages would be drawn from the innumerable ranks of our pro-war conservative pundits and celebrities; they would be our “first round draft picks.”

Any public statements supporting a pre-emptive war on Iraq made prior to that war would make them candidates for this special draft. There would be no exemptions for age, gender or physical condition. These used to be barriers to serving one’s country abroad in wartime--but the War on Terror, everyone acknowledges, is a different kind of war. A chicken hawk doesn’t have to be young and strong to save the life of an American soldier by taking his place as a hostage. All he needs is a heartbeat and the ability to get his head sawed off on camera.

Conservative moralist William Bennett, who was urging President Clinton to invade Iraq long before the September 11th tragedy, would make a fine hostage. The bump on his behind that kept Rush Limbaugh from serving in Viet Nam would not prevent him from serving as a substitute hostage. Conservatives Ann Coulter and Michael Medved almost never turn down a chance to appear on television; they could save American lives and demonstrate American resolve to the world with their first (and last) appearance on the Al Jazeera network.

To paraphrase the hero of Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities,” it would be a far, far better thing to do than any conservative chicken hawk has ever done before: offering their own lives to save the lives of American servicemen, instead of sitting around television and radio studios on their fat behinds, aiming half-assed accusations of treason and cowardice at critics of Bush’s “endless war” policy.

Remember: no conservative who did military service during wartime would ever be drafted as a replacement hostage. Only the pro-war types who declined to fight in previous wars (when they were young and strong) could be drafted. We’d still have plenty of right-wing armchair warriors to trade for the lives of brave soldiers facing a horrible death at the hands of terrorists.

It’s only fair that the chicken hawks be drafted first, right? They’re all talking as if they’re Pattons and MacArthurs, these days. Here is their opportunity to “walk that talk.” (We can start drafting kids and anti-war peaceniks as hostage substitutes after we run out of chicken hawks.)

There is another benefit—if the chicken hawks believe that their own yellow bellies are in any kind of danger, this might induce them to reflect more deeply and to reappraise their current stands on the desirability of the Iraq war and occupation. A true public dialogue would begin. Can you imagine what kind of opinions they’d be spouting in the newspapers and on the radio a week after the life of Joe Soucheray was exchanged for that of a captured Marine?

Come on, let’s do it; it’ll be a riot.

Unfortunately, legislation is necessary to obtain the cooperation of the pro-war pundits in this scheme. It pains me to say it, but I do not think that we can count on the chicken hawks to volunteer.

William Prendergast is the author of the crime thriller “Forbidden Hollywood,” and would volunteer to serve on the local hostage replacement draft board.