Okay, it’s confession time. We’re assembling this
fine new issue of keepgoing around the theme "Fight",
and… okay, well here’s the thing. I haven’t
been in a fight since I was in approximately the sixth grade.
And when I say "in a fight", I mean, in fact, that
I got my ass kicked. Now, by "got my ass kicked",
I think it’s only fair to put that in the proper context
and note that, as far as I remember it, I was basically shoved
around for a minute or so between two or three guys who were
maybe a month or two older than me yet still about twice my
size, and then dumped on the ground and forgotten about once
the clarion call "Who wants to play kick ball?" came
echoing across the playground like
a guardian angel. I’d like to be able to say I stood up
to a couple of bullies and held my ground despite overwhelming
odds. I’d like to be able to say, "Well, at least
I got one good face-saving shot in there." I’d like
to be able to come off as having been a miniature Hemingway,
slugging it out with a few bruisers and then swaggering off
to the cafeteria for a stiff, bracing double shot of private
stock chocolate milk and regaling my friends with tales of my
own pre-pubescent bravado.
I’d like to, but I can’t. I was roughly
the size and weight of a ventriloquist’s dummy back then,
and there was simply no getting around the fact that I was not
going to be kicking anyone’s ass anytime soon. With junior
high school looming large in my future, I fished about for alternatives
to full-on fisticuffs which would obviously end up at some point
with the greater portion of my anatomy being hosed off of a
sidewalk somewhere. I briefly tried the "strength in numbers"
approach by encircling myself with a small, hand-picked group
of friends. Problem was, they were "hand-picked" more
for their interest in Dungeons and Dragons and their willingness
to hang out with me in the first place than they were for any
real fighting ability. Suffice to say, this created more of
a lightning rod effect for hostility than a buffering effect
against it. Luckily, I had the speed and nimbleness of a first-class
coward and always managed to haul ass out of harm’s way.
I found at that point that a good, honest, self-deprecating
sense of humor would likely be my only hope to make it through
junior high school with a minimum of time spent in traction.
"You’re gonna kick MY ass? Wow, that oughtta take
all of about two seconds. What the hell is THAT gonna prove?"
Of course, sliding enough answers to a rather large lab partner
in science class make him look good on tests certainly tended
to keep my ass covered on those occasions when my rapier wit
failed me. When all else fails, never underestimate the value
of a good bodyguard!
By the time high school rolled around and I started doing school
plays and basically being a shameless idiot on stage at any
given opportunity, I began to get to the point where I began
to get at least a little credit for being an okay sort
of a fella, and for whatever reason (probably the fact that
I was just cool enough to have a bit of social acceptance but
not quite cool enough to actually get chicks and thereby threaten
anyone’s manhood) those who dealt in the coin of ass-kickings
basically looked elsewhere.
The upshot of which is, I’ve not really had much truck
with actual physical fighting throughout most of my life, and
so I tend to take a pretty dim view of it (unless it’s
in a movie, then I’m laying in an extra supply of Milk
Duds and staying for the second showing!). Now, verbal tussles
are a whole ‘nother animal, basically because I find that
they tend to result in fewer disfiguring injuries and cost a
lot less in property damage overall than actual physical
brawls. That and I’m not as abysmally bad at arguing as
I am at fist-fighting, let’s be blunt here. But actual
pummeling of flesh and bone seems to me to be a serious last-resort
sort of action. First of all, unless you’re Jackie Chan
or Curly Howard, physical fights don’t tend to be imbued
with an awful lot of potential comedic value.
Verbal scuffles, however, can be (to use the scientific terminology)
A recent example of this in the news was the vast amount of
material that came out of the Congressional hearings to expel
Ohio representative James "What Toupee?" Traficant.
Traficant was a real character. The guy had been a small-town
Ohio sheriff who got nailed on various corruption charges back
in the early ‘80s. I’m not sure who his legal representation
was, but reportedly Traficant saw fit at that time to adopt
the Raving Loon defense, by which he made sweeping, theatrical
statements to the basic effect that he was being framed, railroaded,
hornswoggled, bushwhacked, and otherwise zamfoozled by his enemies,
and that by God whatever it was he didn’t do it!
This not only managed to get him out of the jam he’d gotten
himself into, but the accompanying local notoriety was enough
for him to parlay into a successful political career. After
all, where better for a small-time scam artist to flourish than
Thereafter, it only took Traficant about 20 years to become
the second person in history to actually be kicked out of Congress.
(The last person to be booted from Congress was ousted during
the Civil War!) Yes folks, Traficant got busted for pulling
basically the same sorts of scams that he almost got nailed
for back in Ohio, and at that point Congress actually expelled
him for "ethics violations". Now, this kinda reminds
me of Guns N Roses kicking their drummer out of the band for
doing too many drugs, but that's as may be. The bottom line
is, Traficant was apparently too big a scumbag for CONGRESS!!
Now aside from being the foremost con-artist in Congress (no
small feat, mind you!) Traficant always managed to project a,
shall we say, "colorful" personality during his tenure.
He’d wear vintage ‘70s leisure suits and a possum-like
rug on his head that was about as inconspicuous as John Ashcroft’s
contempt for the Constitution, and he’d treat his time
at the podium as if it were amateur night at Zanies. He seemed
to revel in making the most outlandish statements possible at
any given moment, often wrapping up his speeches with the immortal
phrase, "Beam me up, Scotty!"
It was a cinch, of course, that when Congress decided to eject
him permanently in the wake of his indictment (and eventual
conviction) on corruption charges, Traficant would not be going
softly into that dark night.
The guy was pissed off, of course. He knew he was nailed, and
he knew he was going to be kicked out of Congress by a bunch
of politicians, many of whom played just as fast and loose with
the rules as he did, but who knew how to keep a low profile
and not get caught… something which Traficant was clearly
incapable of doing himself. So he was pissed, and he showed
it. In doing so, Traficant provided the nation with some of
his best, most potentially enduring material to date. Into the
Congressional Record like a Slurpee down the dashboard of an
El Camino went such chestnuts as:
"…I will break out of prison and I'll make a neck
tie out of some these bureaucrats."
Now, I don’t know exactly what this means, but I like
it! When in doubt, always go with an indecipherable non-sequitur,
I always say!
"I would ask the committee not to ask me any questions,
because I've got to go to the bathroom. I'm disgusted, busted,
can't be trusted."
Rule number 768 of the Congressional Book of Etiquette…
when you have to go take a squeege in the middle of proceedings,
it’s best to distract the room in order to make your break
by launching into an impromptu Jesse Jackson impression and
threatening to piss on everyone.
And, of course, the pièce de résistance…
what Traficant said about the possibility of his incarceration:
"I will take with me a file, a chisel, a knife, I will
try and get some major explosives, try to fight my way out.
And then when I get out I will grab a sword like Maximus Meridius
Demidius and as a gladiator I will stab people in the crotch."
That’s got to be the most brilliantly psychotic public
statement from an outgoing representative that I’ve ever
heard! I just get this image of him tunneling out of prison,
bursting up out of the ground outside the gates, his toupee
even more askew than usual, reaching out and grabbing a sword
that happens to be dangling from a nearby bush, as swords are
wont to do, and then stalking about the area looking for people
to stab in the crotch. I mean, since he’s a gladiator
Ya just gotta love this asshole! I mean, whereas most people
in Traficant’s position would have made some dry, face-saving
prepared statement, this guy's coming off like Chuckie Manson
after sitting through a Rambo marathon... twice! But the beauty
of it is, he’s channeling his psychosis into outlandish,
ridiculous, fucking hilarious statements. Oh sure, he talks
about becoming a gladiator and creeping around looking for unsuspecting
crotches to lance with his sword, but he’s not actually
out there applying to gladiator schools. It kinda reminds me
of Ralphie Wiggum’s classic line "Oh boy, sleep!
That’s when I get to be a Viking!"
Lose your shit, dream up some bizarre fantasy world, speak of
it as if it were real, enjoy the Thorazine. Seems like a fairly
wise rule to be guided by for those who have waved bye-bye to
any relative state of sanity.
Could be worse… he could have run for president!
Actually, a wing-nut like Traficant would probably be a healthier
choice for president than the war addict we’ve currently
got in there. He’d sit in the Oval Office dreaming of
life as a scrotum-stabbing gladiator, say bizarre shit at press
conferences, spend weekends at Camp David teaching his toupee
to fetch sticks… and nobody would get hurt. Contrast this
to George W. Bush, who is currently flipping the bird to 99%
of the international community and preparing to go to war with
Iraq (how original!) based almost solely on a hunch and a grudge…
and more grudge than hunch at that. Mean ol’ Saddam made
Daddy look bad by not turning the entire country over to the
U.S. after the Gulf War, and the Shrublet is gonna make him
pay dearly for it. Of course, his stated justification for all
this is that Saddam may, at some point in the future, create
or obtain "the Bomb", and therefore we need to engage
him in a lengthy and costly armed conflict, and after it’s
over the U.S. will assist the half dozen or so Iraqis left alive
in setting up a "democratic" election (read: the U.S.
government chooses somebody and the Iraqis vote for him) and
thereby usher in a bright new era for the long-suffering citizens
of Iraq. (Long-suffering largely because of externally-imposed
trade sanctions, but that’s "nuancing", and
our fearless leader has decreed that "nuancing" is
un-American and must be avoided at all costs.)
Oh, but wait… Saddam MAY have chemical weapons. How silly
of me to forget. Of course, anyone who has any sort of expertise
in the matter will tell you that virtually all of Iraq’s
chemical weapons facilities were either destroyed in the Gulf
War or uncovered and shut down while the U.N. weapons inspectors
were still there, and that there has been no evidence from ongoing
satellite surveillance that any new plants have begun to function.
Former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter has made it pretty
clear that the most Saddam might still have would be mustard
gas, but strategic insertion of a more competent personal cooking
staff should take care of that.
The thing is, even if Saddam does somehow have weapons
of mass destruction at his disposal, he’s not going to
use them as long as we hold the threat of massive retaliation
over his head. Even a ball-busting chowderhead like Saddam is
possessed of a basic survival instinct. Hell, we kept the Soviets
at bay for decades before they folded… we can keep Saddam
contained as long as we want. The easiest way, however, to assure
that he uses whatever weapons he has is to invade Iraq and back
him into a corner. If he has nothing left to lose, he will almost
certainly use whatever he has.
But Shrubbie is gonna sell this lemon to us if he has to jump
through flaming hoops to do it. Actually, the current plan seems
to revolve not so much around flaming hoops as it does around
re-packaged boogie-men. It’s already sounding like these
four year-old "shocking new al Qaeda videos" obtained
by CNN are being pointed to by the Bushies as evidence that
we must support continued war against anyone who the president
decides we must wage war against. Bush’s head cheerleader
Ari Fleischer said of the video tapes: "This is a serious
reminder of the type of enemy we are up against, and the risks
the world faces from people who would use weapons that bring
harm to innocents. It vividly illustrates what terrorism means
and the threat it poses." The problem with all this alarmism
over these tapes, though, is that they really don’t show
us anything we don't already know... Benny Lardarse and al Qaeda
declared jihad on America a few years back, were probably responsible
for the embassy bombings in '98, and trained members to kidnap/hijack/hummus-fart
their way into our homes and hearts. It's not new information...
merely new, disturbing images of old information designed to
provoke an emotional reaction. "Look what they did to those
poor doggies! They tested nerve gas on them! Those bastards!"
Yeah, yeah… tell it to the Avon lady. It’s despicable,
but it’s no different than shit that our own government
and our own corporations do every day of the week. Al Qaeda
tests nerve gas on animals, we test cosmetics and food additives…
and nerve gas… on animals. Let’s at least set our
outrage in some sort of context here, eh? Perhaps if al Qaeda
had sacrificed some animals for the greater glory of their new
foray into the Botox business then we’d be cool with it,
Of course, just as al Qaeda was rhetorically equated to the
Taliban when Bush wanted to invade Afghanistan last year, he
and his cronies are now trying to conflate al Qaeda with Iraq
and Saddam Hussein in order to justify this new invasion. Obviously
we’ll hear much from them about these al Qaeda training
videos, the urban assault tactics being drilled, the animals
being gassed in chemical weapons tests, etc., when it comes
time to glass Baghdad. Or, to put it another way… "Look
at what this fucking orange did! Quick!! Smash the apples before
it’s too late!!"
What may perhaps be the funniest thing about this whole deal
is the fact that even Bush’s own father doesn’t
seem to support the idea of attacking Iraq. He’s certainly
not come out in glowing support of Dumbya’s efforts to
embroil us in a repeat of the Gulf War, now has he? More telling
still, Poppa Bush’s former national security advisor and
ideological siamese twin Brent Scowcroft has come flat out in
a Wall Street Journal editorial and said that attacking
Iraq at this point, without clear justification and without
the support of more than a couple foreign nations (and when
I say "a couple", I mean of course, Israel), is an
insanely BAD idea. It will be expensive, Scowcroft says, it
will be bloody, and most importantly, it will likely weaken
our overall international efforts to combat terrorism by not
only diverting our attention to Iraq, but also by destroying
our credibility in the international community. If Scowcroft
is being this blunt, then there is little doubt that his close
personal friend Poppa Bush feels pretty much the same. After
all, he’s basically saying "Hey pal, your son is
acting like a fucking idiot here. Mind if I write a scathing
editorial in the Wall Street Journal to that effect?"