ROUND AND ROUND
An entry for the On Display
11 March 2003
This is going to be very disjointed because my thoughts are very disjointed, so bear
There has been no official topic chosen for the On Display collaboration for March, but a couple
of suggestions were "perfect circle" and "new again." I think that
this entry fits into both of those.
Olivia was here on Sunday. We finally celebrated our mutual birthdays, a celebration
that we've been trying to find time to have for a month now. She brought with her a CD
made by George Carlin in 1991 and played for us his comments on the Gulf War. Knowing that
it's George Carlin--in a live performance--you can imagine that it's not something that
I'm going to quote from, but the striking thing is that it was impossible to tell that
this was not a recording made last week. The situation is the same. The cast of
characters is the same (except it's a different Bush). The premise is based on the phallic
shape of bombs and how war is an extension of the adolescent "mine is bigger than
yours" game, with the added humor in combining the first names of both Cheney and
Powell (who had different job titles during the Gulf War, but who are still in the same
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting
different results. So here we are again, our young men firing up their guns, ready to set
out to kill the enemy.
When our kids were the age of most of the soldiers who will be fighting this war for
us, they were running around with a video camera making movies with fight scenes and chase
scenes, where the deaths were pretend and the blood was catsup. Maybe that's what 18-25
year olds do--chase and fight. Only this time the blood will be real and the deaths--on
both sides--won't be cleanly pretend.
I was thinking about all this in the shower this morning and the words of an old Tom
Lehrer song came back to me. When did Tom write this?
First we got the bomb and that was good,
'Cause we love peace and motherhood.
Then Russia got the bomb, but that's O.K.,
'Cause the balance of power's maintained that way!
Egypt's gonna get one, too,
Just to use on you know who.
So Israel's getting tense,
Wants one in self defense.
"The Lord's our shepherd," says the psalm,
But just in case, we better get a bomb!
...and so it goes.
Back even further there was the "Merry Minuet" recorded by the Kingston
...This whole world is festering with unhappy souls
The French hate the Germans, The Germans hate the Poles
Italians hate Yugoslavs, South Africans hate the Dutch
And I don't like anybody very much
But we can be tranquil and thankful and proud
For Man's been endowed with a mushroom-shaped cloud
And we can be certain that some lovely day
Someone will set the spark off...and we will all be blown away
So it just seems that we're doing what Carlin points out--keeping up our ratio of one
major war every 20 years or so. It's one big vicious circle--and each time the stakes get
a little higher and doomsday gets a little bit closer. We might actually make it this
Things have gotten serious enough that I'm doing something I have never done
before--not even when living in Berkeley in the 60s. I'm going to a war protest in San
Francisco over the weekend. I feel the need to stand up and be counted, however
ineffectual that is.
We received a very belated "Christmas" letter from a friend today. She was
born in Germany and perhaps has a different perspective on war protests than the rest of
us. She writes, "For the last 50 years, the German people have been blamed for not
standing up and speaking out, even those not yet born in pre-Nazi times. Now, I am
speaking out--while I still can. Only three people have told me not to speak to them about
loss of freedom and a brewing WW III. Some have told me I should be afraid, that it's
dangerous to speak out. Well, I may be in danger, but I am not afraid. I will speak out. I
do not support the idiocy of pursuing peace by fighting in a war. Peace is not a goal,
peace must be our way. I want PEACE ON EARTH for ALL people (not only Americans.)"
I certainly can't improve on that. I will only point out that she was told that
she might be in danger for speaking out. Last time I looked this was still
"the land of the free," but maybe I missed the part about putting your life in
danger by speaking your mind.