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Standard Unbearable 

Crank Call

Just as my column deadline loomed, I had an e-mail from someone who claimed to be my mother. That, at least, was what the return address said. "From: Mother. Subject: Please call me!"

Before I had time to wonder why my mother hadn't called me if something was so damned important, I opened the message and saw the words, "Enjoy new incest orgies," followed by the URL of a "home orgy" Web site and the promise: "You will be shocked!"

Well, if it were my mother I would be. But I knew it wasn't. It's true that she signs herself "Mother" and not "Mom" - this was very clever of the orgy people - but the only thing that could get her to send an e-mail would be death. My mother is so far off the communications highway that she's even stopped telephoning C-SPAN to shoot Repub-licans for sport, waiting, as we all are, for the end we know is nigh.

No, it's not the Rapture. Call it the "Capture" and name your target: Iraq, Congress, the courts, health care, the environment, the Internet, the military, your grandmother's nickels and dimes - the Bushmen are well on their way to dismant-ling the federal government as we know it, and if they seem a little hasty these days it's because Dubya's numbers are falling faster than anyone expected. Everyone agrees that a war will raise his ratings, at least temporarily, "until the body bags start coming home."

What's with the "body bags," anyway? Do we never get to see the face of war? You'd think "after 9-11" - a phrase now appearing in nine out of 10 news stories every day - that Americans might have a lingering memory of the real thing. But you'd also think that an independent investigation of the slaughter would have been ordered - and completed - at once, and that Americans would rise in anger if it wasn't.

Where are all the "special prosecutors?" Abolished after the Clinton impeachment plot, that's where - it won't do to have everyone poking around this president's affairs.

If nothing else, Bush's drop in the polls has left him feeling grouchy. "Time is running out on Saddam Hussein," he warned last week. It's been running out for so long now that people are beginning to notice it can keep running nicely as it is, without a war. "I am sick and tired of games and deception," Dubya stamps, "and that is my view on timetables." Asked again about his "inevitable" invasion of Iraq, he snapped at a reporter, "I'm the person who gets to decide, and not you." Bush is also alleged to bark at his staff and advisers, "Sit!" when he struts into a room and they all leap to their feet.

On Capitol Hill, the Nation's Physician, good, caring, heroic, honest Dr. Frist, will be steering the Senate wherever the White House wants it to go. And in the House, former Texas pest exterminator Tom DeLay, as evil a creature as ever infested Congress, has been out-Bushing Bush in his role as Republican "policy maker." This will make Bush himself seem "moderate" by comparison.

These boys have it covered, make no mistake. The New York Times quotes "a senior White House official" on the ouster of Trent Lott: "The future of the party is defined by the president and the policies that he proposes and by the actions that he takes. The party is defined by its standard-bearer, not by events that swirl around somebody else who may be important to the party but is not the standard-bearer."

The standard-bearer, God help us, is "Prince Valiant" W. Bush, heir to a great American "dynasty" whose record of corruption is rivaled only by the Duke and Duchess of Windsor's efforts to cozy up to Hitler in World War II. For this oil-stained pack of jackals we should go to war? The late Richard Nixon once dismissed Prince Valiant's father, George H.W. "Not a Wimp" Bush, as "someone you appoint to things." Not, in other words, a mighty brain, and without a triumph to his name or legacy - ask any "Gulf War" veteran.

It's all being done now through the son and heir - the standard-bearer. During his Christmas radio address, Valiant reminded us that the holidays were a time of hope and a sign that God was with us. "The world we live in is very different from the world of ancient Bethlehem," said the Yale-educated prince. But "our need for that hope is still unchanged. In all the challenges and dangers of our day, we still seek the promise of peace on Earth." The White House Christmas card also featured the word "Peace" in prominent letters.

Meantime, U.S. troops are being sent to the Gulf with copies of Shakespeare's Henry V - "Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more ... Follow your spirit, and upon this charge / Cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!'"

America's "all-volunteer" army might also want to take a look at the instructions issued to Japanese kamikaze pilots in World War II, recently translated and published in English: "Transcend life and death. When you eliminate all thoughts about life and death, you will be able to totally disregard your earthly life. This will also enable you to concentrate your attention on eradicating the enemy with unwavering determination, meanwhile reinforcing your excellence in flight skills."

Quoting a Henry V exit line: "Alarum, and chambers go off." Better get ready; they won't be all that does.

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