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Episode Insane: Revenge of the Pith 

Crank Call

All right -- I'm through pretending that I or anyone or anything makes sense. "All this sanity is killing us," says columnist Joe Bageant in Winchester, Virginia, and I agree. The burden of mental health is rapidly becoming too great to be endured.

So, I'm going to say some crazy things this week. Anyone who doesn't like it can toddle off to Episode Umpteen: Revenge of the Sick, or whatever the latest Star Wars installment is called. If this over-hyped, overblown exercise in money and computer technology really did "rake in $158.5 million in the first four days of its release," as reported by CNN, George Lucas should give it all back to the U. S. Treasury to shore up Social Security.

Taking some other derangements, let's start with Laura Bush, my favorite librarian, who on Sunday, winding up a dangerous and grotesquely conceived "good-will mission" to the Middle East, was virtually chased from a mosque in Jerusalem by angry female worshippers. And not just any mosque, either, but the Dome of the Rock, known to the Muslim world as Haram al Sharif.

"How dare you come in here?" somebody shouted as Laura fled with her guards.

Go, Islam! And go Israel, too -- for no sooner had Mrs. Bush escaped the wrath of Sheherazade than "dozens of [Jewish] protesters" on the Temple Mount began to heckle her with cries of "Free Pollard now!" -- "a reference to Jonathan Pollard," The New York Times explains, "who is serving a life sentence in an American prison for spying for Israel" (which is sort of like locking up the sheriff for doing his job). Laura, of course, was completely unfazed.

"These are very, very emotional places," she remarked, sounding every bit as smart as her husband. "They're sacred places to religions." Slowly -- very slowly -- she seemed to get it: "We've had terrible happenings that have really, really hurt our image . . . Abu Ghraib, for instance. And people in the United States are sick about it."

No, they aren't, Laura. They really aren't. If they were, Ding-Dong would be first in line for the guillotine, or at least impeachment. And all these "terrible happenings" -- war, torture, murder, theft, 9/11 and the desecration of faiths -- well, they aren't just "happening," Laura. We are part of them. Right now, we are causing them. But, as mentioned above, too many people are apparently watching Revenge of the Stink to do anything about it.

Of course, we know that Laura Bush isn't "personally responsible" for her husband's foreign and domestic policies. Rather, she's responsible for them only in the way we all are, if she isn't protesting them with every bone and breath in her body. Which is to say, she is responsible (and quite a bit closer to the throne).

And how about those pictures of Saddam Hussein in his underwear? He's not hard on the eyes, really, for "a modern Hitler" and a man his age, now that he's had a haircut and a shower. Judging by the fit of his tighty-whities, Saddam must be pretty well hung.

What, are you shocked? Really shocked? But how could you be? You've seen the pictures -- the piles of bodies, the snarling dogs, the naked men and grinning girls. Don't tell me you haven't. And don't blame Newsweek, either.

In the same week that Laura Bush got her reward in Jerusalem, the Times reported on the torture and murder of two "detainees" in Afghanistan and "the poorly trained American soldiers" who are now charged with their deaths. I suppose we should be grateful that any paper still reports such things, but let's not be fooled. Had these soldiers not been indicted, had someone not "leaked" a Pentagon report, we'd never have heard a word about it. The Times isn't as brave as all that.

And if the United Nations, the Red Cross, Amnesty International and even the president of Afghanistan -- are now holding us, "America," to a higher standard of conduct than they seem to do anyone else, it's because we still pretend that we have standards. Indeed, we set the standards. And if they go, we go.

Incidentally, according to an item in Harper's magazine, a new technique in "spectral imaging" now makes it possible "to decipher previously illegible ink" on ancient and degraded papyrus fragments. At Oxford University, scholars have discovered a 4th-century manuscript of the Revelation of Saint John. It turns out that "the number of the Beast," whom so many "Christians" so anxiously await as we verge on Apocalypse, isn't "666," after all, but "616." So much for the literal Word of God.

"616" also happens to be the telephone area code of Grand Rapids, Michigan, where Ding-Dong himself, just as his wife was being threatened with sticks in Jerusalem, and knowing that his henchmen in Congress were poised to strike down 200 years of minority protection with the "nuclear option," told an audience of graduating seniors at Calvin College -- where was I?

Oh, yes, this is what Dubya told the crowd: "As your generation takes its place in the world, all of you must make this decision: Will you be a spectator or a citizen?"

You heard the man -- which is it going to be?

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