Break Out the Boilerplate

Break Out the Boilerplate

Break Out the Boilerplate
An email conversation about the news of the day.
Sept. 10 2002 7:36 PM

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Dear Ron,

You don't really think you can trap an old fox like me that way, do you? Actually, I have a programmed key on my computer that will spit out a boilerplate paragraph about how I would never, never suggest that the US of A is in any way morally equivalent to … you know, and about how I'm not such a dummy that I'd as soon live under the Taliban as under the Bush administration. If you really think I should cover my ass, I'll press the button and we can insert it right here. But Sontag already has something of the sort in her op-ed—I assume to cover her ass in view of the guff she got for that piece in The New Yorker shortly after 9/11—and we don't want to bore our public, do we?

So let's stipulate that Islamist cranks outcrank our homegrown pests, and that we're lucky doggies to live here under the crass and the sanctimonious—even on orange alert—and not in some hellhole where they chop your ears off for listening to James Brown or whatever they do. [Insert video clip of Old Glory waving.] All I'm saying is, I held my nose to vote for Al Gore; now I have to hold my nose and stand united with "President" Bush?  [Insert video clip of me loving it or leaving it.] If regime change is good enough for Iraq, it's good enough for us; 2004 can't get here fast enough. You must've seen the Ashcroft-Ridge news conference, with Ashcroft saying we Americans should be "alert, but defiant." Sir yes sir. (I read the transcript on the CNN website.) At least I can do the defiant part.

All this year I've been reading about what E.J. Dionne in today's Washington Post calls the "end of the Vietnam divide." He says "the millions of flags on millions of bumpers represent a shared commitment not just to 'homeland' but to the ideas of tolerance, liberty and mutual assistance that animate it." As Uncle Ernie would say, isn't it pretty to think so. I certainly agree with your pessimistic, tragic view of history—and I'm grateful to be serving out my life sentence in what's comparatively a country-club prison. With the best music ever. But doesn't that view imply that you've got to watch your back even here, and that some son of a gun who likes to mind other people's business or hog 85 times his share of the GDP is apt to get Hobbesian on you if you give him half a chance? Seems to me such sons of guns appropriated the flag around the time of Vietnam and that they still run the place. The one bright spot I see is that, like Dickens characters—bet you thought I was never coming back to this thread—they just can't help exposing who and what they are. That lovely line of Andrew Card's: "From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August." You couldn't make this up.

So what, if anything, are you doing tomorrow? You're going to get bedsores if you don't quit watching that TV.

Under God,
David

Ron Rosenbaum is the author most recently of Explaining Hitler and The Secret Parts of Fortune; he writes a column for the New York Observer and was co-writer of the PBS/Frontline documentary "Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero." David Gates' most recent book is the short-story collection The Wonders of the Invisible World. He's a senior writer at Newsweek.