"No nation ever had an army large enough to guarantee it against attack in time of peace or insure it victory in time of war."
-- President Calvin Coolidge (1872-1933).
What? You mean something could go wrong? With a war? “Holy Rumsfeld, Batman!” Let’s give everyone the Medal of Freedom, since the worst people already have theirs -- George Tenet, Paul Bremer, General Tommy Franks, even Barbara and Jenna, for all I know. Just wait: Bush’s disgraced nominee for Homeland Security director, Bernard Kerik, will be next on the list.
Why not? Time magazine has just named Ding-Dong its Man of the Year, for ''reshaping the rules of politics to fit his 10-gallon-hat leadership style, for sharpening the debate until the choices bled, for reframing reality to match his design, for gambling his fortunes — and ours — on his faith in the power of leadership.'' This criminal incompetent, this thief of democracy and authentic American values, this mass killer of both people and ideas, is actually described as “a straight-shooter.” But, for all of that, he seems to get an awful lot of other people to do his shooting for him.
Please, don’t ask me to be “orderly” or “coherent” about the year just past, 2004, because I can’t do it. I wouldn’t try. A worse or more bizarre 12 months never passed in my lifetime, and that’s saying something. As Paul Harris wrote not long ago on MONUC -- which stands, should you care, for “Mission de l'Organisation des Nations-Unies en République Démocratique du Congo” – George W. Bush “poses the familiar problem of the optimist/pessimist conundrum … is [his] head half empty, or is he half full of it?”
Love that, Paul! Love that
"And Jabez called on the God of
This is a simple prayer, sitting innocently in the middle of a lot of begettings and begats. Millions of lives have been changed by it -- would I make that up? It’s just one short verse and you should memorize it, if you can, because, if you do, you're assured of making a pot of money. Just repeat after me: “Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast.”
Welcome to the Christian "prosperity gospel.” Bruce H. Wilkinson’s ridiculous book, The Prayer of Jabez: Breaking Through to the Blessed Life, has already sold nearly 6 million copies. A slim volume, little more than a sermon, it goes for $9.99 or less, depending on where you buy it. And it can be read at one sitting, which makes it easy for the gullible to cope with. "People are praying this prayer because they are seeing God work in their lives,” Mr. Wilkinson asserts (on the front page of the New York Times, no less, where money counts for a lot).
Here’s some more Bible for you: DEUTERONOMY 28:
1) And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt
hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do
all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God
will set thee on high above all nations of the earth. (Take that,
2) And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God. (Put differently, He knows if you’ve been naughty or nice.)
3) Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed shalt thou be in the field. (Provided, of course, you can still find a field that doesn’t have a Wal-Mart on it, or a nuclear silo, or a busted oil well. And good luck!)
4 Blessed shall be the fruit of thy body …
Well, we’d better stop right there, because the fruit of the body is the one thing these people don’t want you thinking about. I, for one, as “a homosexual” in good standing, was happy – delighted, in fact – that the initiative for “gay marriage” went down to defeat in all 11 states that put it on the ballot in November. No self-respecting “homosexual” needs to register his relationships with the state, as though he were, you know, “just like everybody else,” which he isn’t. And the only reason we’re going through this rubbish is because Andrew Sullivan and the lesbians want it.
Go ahead, girls – sue me. I refer you to Dr. Germaine Greer, a veritable saint of legitimate feminism, who declared in 1972, before most of you were born, “Please don’t talk about `the children!’ Because the children `come up’ whether they’re `brought’ or not. Marriage is no guarantee of domestic stability.”
Duh! Germaine is now, of course, a bitter old woman. Who wouldn’t be on this idiot planet? I’ll give you as much of her as I gave you of the Bible:
1) "Women over fifty already form one of the largest groups in the population structure of the western world. As long as they like themselves, they will not be an oppressed minority."
2) "The essence of pleasure is spontaneity."
3) "Is it too much to ask that women be spared the daily struggle for superhuman beauty in order to offer it to the caresses of a subhumanly ugly mate?"
4) "Evolution is what it is. The upper classes have always died out; it's one of the most charming things about them."
But “Blessed shall be thy basket and thy store,” anyhow (DEUTERONOMY 28:5). Your basket, especially, I should think. Just don't quote me.
Here’s a question that really got people hot
under the collar in 2004, second only to the burning issue of disappearing
flu shots: “How old is the
“Now, however, a book in the park's bookstores
tells another story. On sale since last summer, Grand Canyon: A Different
View, by veteran
Uh-huh. This is what they’re now calling “intelligent design,” rather than “creationism,” but if you’ve been around as long as I have, you’ll know it’s not very intelligent at all. Really not. The LAT goes on:
“The book, which sells for $16.99, includes
essays from creationists and theologians. Vail wrote in the introduction,
"For years, as a
Calvin? Calvin Coolidge! Where are you when we need you? "After all, the chief business of the American people is business,” this Vermont-born Republican once said, although he did go on to clarify his position: "Of course the accumulation of wealth cannot be justified as the chief end of existence."
Right. At a “presidential prayer breakfast” in the White House not long after Noah’s flood – this past February, in fact – Washington Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs gave a most inspiring speech. Gibbs is a man who takes the Jabez Prayer very seriously indeed, as his five-year contract with the Redskins guarantees him a whopping $25 million. According to Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council (brother, you don’t want to know!), Gibbs “spoke about the choice he made while sitting in his 3rd grade science class between believing he evolved from two amoebas, and believing he was created by a Divine Creator who loved him, and made him for a relationship with Jesus Christ. Coach Gibbs wisely chose the latter.”
What, just two amoebas? This comment not only displays a complete ignorance of science – which, incidentally, you’ll need in order to light up those night games – but takes the cake for religious tomfoolery. Obviously, we need a Constitutional amendment prohibiting any cellular entity from dividing into two unless those two are, respectively, male and female. This would put an end, among other things, to identical twins and penicillin, but what the hell? God knows what He wants.
And so does Hollywood. “It's clear that, as far as the culture goes, this year belonged to Mel Gibson's mammoth hit,” The Passion of the Christ, says Frank Rich in The New York Times. “Its prurient and interminable wallow in the Crucifixion, to the point where Jesus' actual teachings become mere passing footnotes to the sumptuously depicted mutilation of his flesh, is as representative of our time as "Godspell" was of terminal-stage hippiedom 30 years ago. The Gibson conflation of religion with violence reflects the universal order of the day.” To which I say, Amen.
OK, how about
What’s really ironic is that the only people
we want to see installed as our puppets in
Except for the killing, Tony. Don’t forget
the killing. “They were ugly images,” said Ahmad Taher, 24, a student at
Don’t worry, kid. They don’t respect it here, either. A witness at the destruction of Fallujah reported that “they are bombing civilians. When I was about to leave there were two ladies trying to get out. American snipers shot them dead. Their bodies are still lying out on the street in al-Jumhuriya. The roads are deserted. All the area is bombarded. We are hearing shelling, artillery, and always the sirens of ambulances." And all the time our military leaders speak of “laser-guided” and “precision” weapons, which are as reliable, obviously, as touch-pad voting machines.
A reader of this paper wrote me recently to ask why I don’t spend more time talking about the late, lamented presidential election of 2004, which he believes, as do I, was fraudulent in its results – jiggered in some way that was a bit more subtle than the charade of four years ago. I answered that I’d tried that already, and had had such a raft of angry mail that I’ll never touch it again.
And what’s the difference, anyway? There was
never a chance that we’d see Bush’s backside as they ran him out of
“They don't come any more squalid than the crew now steering the American boat straight into the shoals of disaster,” writes Chris Floyd in The Moscow Times: “Deep down, these guys are nothing but cheap hoods, two-bit chiselers hustling for loot, thug-brained goons with no more grandeur about them than the meanest pack of Mafia knee-breakers. For them, statecraft is just a crowbar for bashing heads and jimmying open lockboxes.”
Wow! This is “Bush-bashing,” a big no-no, I
think. Obviously Mr. Floyd “hates
Well, actually he already has. And what he says about the Bushmen sounds like the Care Bears next to the invective heaped on, say, President Abraham Lincoln, to whom a disgruntled voter wrote in 1860: "God damn your God damned old hellfired God damned soul to hell. God damn you and God damn your damned family's God damned hellfired God damned soul to hell and Good damnation God damn them and God damn your God damned friends to hell."
Not long after, Harpers magazine offered its own take on Mr. Lincoln: "Filthy story teller, despot, liar, thief, braggart, buffoon, usurper, monster, ignoramus … perjurer, swindler, tyrant, field-butcher, land-pirate." So you see there’s a precedent for this sort of thing. Let’s just agree to disagree, if you know what I mean. We can “revisit” it later.
"The big elephant sitting in the corner is that George W. Bush is simply unqualified for the job," says no less a son of Republican politics than Ron Reagan, Jr. "He's probably the least qualified person ever to be nominated by a major party. Yes, he was elected Governor of Texas, and before that he ran a baseball team and lost a lot of other people's money in the oil business. But what has happened [since] to make people believe he'd be a good President? What is his accomplishment? That he's no longer an obnoxious drunk?"
Now, Ron – all drunks are obnoxious, and
“recovering” drunks are even more obnoxious, as a rule. As Kevin Phillips
writes in his searing exposé, American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune,
and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush (Viking, $25.95, less on
Amazon.com), “All in all, if presidential family connections were theme
parks, Bush World would be a sight to behold.
I would add to this only that it wouldn’t surprise anyone to know that these cigars are probably Cuban, illegally imported. Chris Floyd again: “All the earnest disquisitions about Bush's …`ideology’ entirely miss the point. … For the heart of this slouching beast is neither left-wing nor right-wing; it's strictly Bush-wing. Anyone even slightly acquainted with the history of the Bush dynasty knows what makes these preppy puppies run -- and it has nothing to do with conservative principles or moral values or national security or world freedom. It's not ideology, but investments -- the gobbling up of unearned, risk-free lucre on the grandest scale imaginable.”
You’ll be glad to know that I’m going to leave
the Pope alone this time, since he’s plainly senile. I’ll admit I’m a
little tired of people writing me to say how fiercely His Holiness opposed
the Iraqi war, especially since, as the London Daily Telegraph
informed us in October, the Vatican has now “buried the hatchet” with Bush
and Blair, agreeing that the violence in Iraq needs to be “controlled” in
some way (other than having the “Coalition” get the hell out). Cardinal
Angelo Sodano, the Vatican secretary of state, “has announced a newly
hawkish line on
“The child has been born,” says Cardinal
Sodano. “It may be illegitimate, but it's here, and it must be reared and
educated. … There is a feeling that there really is no going back.” And if
I carry on too much about the
I’m referring to Janet Jackson’s nickel-plated nipple, the split-second sight of which at the Super Bowl’s half-time follies was so disturbing to so many patriotic Americans that one outraged TV viewer – no doubt having read the Jabez Prayer -- sued CBS for damages (he lost, definitely proving the existence of Almighty God). The use of the word “fuck” was permissible for Vice-President Cheney in his altercation with Patrick Leahy on the Senate floor, but not for Howard Stern and a variety of “rappers” who employed it on television and the radio. It just goes to show ya: the US of A is and always was the most ridiculous country on earth when it comes to phony morality.
Calvin! Calvin! Where the hell are you!?
I leave you with William Shakespeare, who’s been having a wonderful year. All kinds of new books are being published about him. No, I won’t be quoting Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” speech – although I do ask myself that question a lot of the time – but rather Paulina, the oracle of Sicilia, in the third act of The Winter’s Tale:
What's gone and what's past help
Should be past grief: do not receive affliction
At my petition; I beseech you, rather
Let me be punish'd, that have minded you
Of what you should forget. …
Take your patience to you,
And I'll say nothing.
Yeah, I know – that’ll be the day. A young man who saw me working on this column downtown the other night, after I’d explained to him what it was, asked me boldly, “Will you be talking about Rumsfeld?”
“Oh, yes,” I replied.
“Will you be saying anything good about him?” he asked.
“Oh, no,” I said.
“Good,” came the answer. “Good. Very, very good.”
Peter Kurth is the author of international bestselling books including Anastasia: The Riddle of Anna Anderson, Isadora: A Sensational Life, and a biography of the anti-fascist journalist Dorothy Thompson, American Cassandra: The Life of Dorothy Thompson. His essays have appeared in Salon, Vanity Fair, New York Times Book Review, and many others. Peter lives in Burlington, Vermont. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit his website at: http://www.peterkurth.com/
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