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Wednesday, April 14, 2004

instapunk041404 ONE CURMUDGEON TO ANOTHER. About 10 years ago, back in the days when airports could still be terrorized by mere passengers, I was standing in line waiting to go through customs in Nassau. A steel band was playing ‘Guantanamera,’ the only Portuguese song known by steel bands the world over, and the people in line had that frolicsome impatience you see mostly in pure tourist destinations before noon: “We’re trying to be understanding here, but there’s a spot on the beach waiting for us, just under that casually crooked palm tree, and we’d appreciate a bit more hustle from the bureaucracy, thank you.”  That’s when they burst onto the scene, a gang of four old ladies who marched to the head of the line and cut right into the empty space in front of the white floor marker we were all supposed to stand behind, astonishing the polite family of four who had been there first. Their leader was a bronze-voiced octegenarian, approximately four-feet-ten in height, and I remember she was wearing a stretchy two-piece thing that looked like children’s pajamas, with bright yellow elastic bands at the cuffs, ankles, and waist. The top featured a squiggly-eyed portrait of Tweety Bird. Her hair was blue and so was her vocabulary. Did anyone stop her or scold her? No. She knew the power of extreme old age and had long ago dispensed with the courtesy and consideration for others that must always have seemed to her like an unnecessary tax on her convenience. We all let her get away with it, even as she screeched her demand for immediate passage to her luggage, a taxi, and the hotel we all knew wouldn’t be good enough to suit her.

As I say, this was 10 years ago. But I am 50 now and if I saw such an exhibition today, I would not let it pass. Mortality is not the stranger it used to be and I am no longer cowed by those who lounge in its company, certainly not those who exploit its acquaintance to excuse their own bad behavior. That’s why I’m prepared to weigh in finally on the uncomfortable subject of Andy Rooney. Was he ever funny? Possibly. As funny as you have to be to outstrip the sparkling wit of Mike Wallace, Leslie Stahl, and the rest of the stonefaces at CBS News. Was he ever wise? No. He wasn’t. He was always a pseudo-folksy pseudo-intellectual New York City snob, pretending to be one of the unpretentious people pretentious people pretend to revere and secretly look down on. He got away with it because he affected the simple language of Mark Twain armed with a Selectric typewriter and an unpressed gray suit. Effective camouflage. But now he’s become the old crone at the Nassau airport, and it’s time to send him to the back of the line. A few days ago, he began his newspaper column with this:
 

Treating soldiers fighting their war as brave heroes is an old civilian trick designed to keep the soldiers at it. But you can be sure our soldiers in Iraq are not all brave heroes gladly risking their lives for us sitting comfortably back here at home.


“Huh?” you say. “Well, I’m sure he doesn’t mean to be disrespectful. Maybe he’ll clear it up later.” He does:
 

We must support our soldiers in Iraq because it's our fault they're risking their lives there. However, we should not bestow the mantle of heroism on all of them for simply being where we sent them. Most are victims, not heroes.


Is there a purpose to this casual slander? Of course. He works for CBS News. If they're to be viewed as victims, we know who’s really to blame, don’t we?
 

President Bush's intentions were honorable when he took us into Iraq. They were not well thought out but honorable. Bush's determination to make the evidence fit the action he took, which it does not, has made things look worse.


So the purpose of slandering our volunteer soldiers is to launch yet another backhanded assault on the president. According to Andy, he made a mistake and we should all look down on the denizens of our military as if they were helpless pedestrians lost in the wrong part of town. We're supposed to trust his flat statements about Bush without a scintilla of supporting evidence because... why? Because Andy is old and wouldn't lie to us?  This kind of bilge isn’t Mark Twain, and it isn’t wisdom. It’s the usual, narrow, bitterly partisan politics of the mainstream media sneakily outfitted in the camouflage of sagacious old age. And so I’ll say what few people have the guts to say. Andy Rooney is a graceless, juvenile lout, prepared to defame anyone or anything that stands in the way of his lunk-headed political agenda. We don’t owe him respect, toleration, or forgiveness just because his hands shake when he plays with props in his disingenuous TV skits.

Why not? Because it’s part of essential human courtesy to speak of those who wear our country’s uniform as if they were heroes, because any of them might be heroes and all of them are aware they may be called upon to perform as heroes. It’s a challenge they accept when they put on the uniform, and they know it. They deserve our admiration, all of them. It does them no honor and no service to view them as less than their duty might very well require of them. Andy Rooney should be ashamed of himself. I’m certainly ashamed of him. And I’d be happy to tell him to his peevish half-smart face, “Retire. You’re an old political hack, and we’re tired of you. Get the hell off my TV set. Go home. And don’t ever let me catch you cutting in line at the airport or I’ll take your damn head off.”

INSTAPLAUDIT. A warm thank you to Glenn Reynolds for linking to yesterday's fisking of John Kerry. We can explain the "derivative" format he noticed, but we'll do that some other time. For those of you who are new to InstaPunk and its companion sites, boomerbible.com and glovesoff.blogspot.com, we offer a warm welcome. If you liked the Kerry piece, you may also enjoy our analysis of the new star of the O'Franken Factor, as well as the 2001 version of Shuteye Nation's Amerian Glossary, our treatment of the relationship between The Boomer Bible and 9/11, plus this fairly sensational bit of prophecy. And if you're trying to figure out what the heck The Boomer Bible is, this might help.
 







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