Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Fighting the wars

We Americans love war. We're always fighting a war or two. Or three.

We've been in Afghanistan since 2001, going into our tenth year. Looks like we're really in for the long haul. I wouldn't doubt we'll be there ten years from now, in one capacity or another. Oh well, we're out of the war in Iraq. Ha-ha. That's a joke, folks. We're "out" in name only. Something happens then we send troops back in, we're right back in it. As long as you declare a war over then you can do anything you want. It's just that after action stuff, mopping up, you know. Call a war by another name, because we like to use the word "war" for other things.

Like the War on Cancer. Didn't know about that war, did you? That was Richard Nixon's deal, back in about 1970, when he pledged massive amounts of federal dollars to help eliminate cancer. Gee, we'd done it with smallpox, polio, measles, mumps...but we've never really won against cancer. Maybe one of these days we'll win, but right now cancer continues its insurgency, guerrilla tactics, hiding out, striking when we least expect it to attack. As far as I know the War on Cancer is still being waged, with no armistice ever called.

How about the War on Crime? That was instituted in the sixties because half of the population was under the age of 25. As someone once said, "If you lock up all the young men between the ages of 15 and 23 crime will come to a halt." So why didn't we just do that? Americans have more people in prison per capita than any other country in the world. We could have just made it a national policy: put all the guys into prison for about 8 years when they turned 15, then turn them loose at 23. War's over! It's time for dancing in the streets. "We got no crime, 'cause all the boys doin' time!" I haven't seen any soldiers in the War on Crime marching in any victory parades lately.

And as a corollary to the War on Crime we have the ever popular War on Drugs. We still haven't won that war and never will. Americans love drugs. We love legal drugs, we love illegal drugs. We love drugs that make us high and drugs that make us hard. We love drugs that speed us up and slow us down. We love drugs that wake us up and drugs that put us to sleep. It's hard to fight a war when everyone loves the enemy. I admit, drug kingpins and drug wars in Mexico are problematic, but after all, it's on their side of the border, so sleep well, you drug warriors on this side of the Rio Grande. Just pop another Valium and forget all about those awful drug pushers.

How about that War on Poverty? Did that one get won yet? Do you remember, going back to the early '70s, and Richard Nixon again, when there was talk of a guaranteed annual income? At the time they were bandying around figures like a minimum of $10,000 a year for a family of four. Sounded good to me! I was making about $5,000 a year at the time. Some damn killjoys started hollering "socialism" and everyone backed off.

Then of course we have the War on Terror. That's not even a war; it was over on September 11, 2001 when some Saudi Arabians flew three planes into our buildings. Right then the terrorists won. They took away our security, they made us place ridiculous rules on travel. My wife and I are grandparents, sixty-somethings. OK, so I look kind of sinister, but my wife doesn't fit any profile of any terror group in the world. Still, we all go by the same rules to get on an airplane. We take off our shoes, our watches, stick our laptops into a plastic bin to go through an x-ray machine. Sometimes they make us go into a booth and stick our hands in the air like a game of stick-em-up. That's so they can look at us through our clothes.

If you want to opt out of that, then they get to feel you up, make sure you're not carrying a gun or weapon in your naughty bits. So just who are the current terrorists? The people who let you on airplanes as long as you follow their rules. Believe me, there would be no worse terror than being hustled off by security because you got balky about a major invasion of your privacy and personal space.

War is an overused word that has almost lost its meaning. It really means armed conflict between enemy nations. Edwin Starr feels strongly about it, and has a song he wants to sing about that kind of war. Take it away, Edwin!

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