Here's a political riddle: Our side understands and
practices "it," the opposition has no clue. But because the
Republicans claimed a monopoly on "it," moderate and conservative
Americans cast their vote in 2004 to keep Republicans in office. The voting
public thought that elephants were better at "it" than donkeys. So
what is "it"?
Moral values, of course.
Except that apparently for elephants the meaning of "it"
depends on how one defines "it." Good ole boys and girls who run for
political office often have a rather elastic definition of "it." The
rest of us tactfully wink, sigh, and whisper the weary refrain, "Good ole
boys and girls, will be good ole boys and girls up on the Hill." After
all, we factor in the heavy burdens of their jobs, the constant exposure
to the floodlights, the temptations of the flesh, the scent of greenbacks . . .
Not just politicians, of course.
There is a long-standing class of public figures in America
who are close relatives of Republican politicians. These are the right-wing
preachers/wanna-be politicians. These men (and token women) of God do have an
advantage in the morality war. They enter the public fray armed with holy books
and divinity degrees. Still, men and women of the cloth also slip on the
morning dew from time to time. Their pleas for compassion have entertained
Americans for decades. Evangelist Pat Robertson would have us overlook his call
for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez or his recent warning
to the people of Dover, Pennsylvania, not to plan on God's help.
Then there are the distant cousins of right wing politicians
and preachers, the starched-and-pressed military saints/wanna-be-preachers.
Three-star Lt. Gen. William G. "Jerry" Boykin, who served as a deputy
undersecretary of defense under Donald Rumsfeld, serves as a worthy sample. He
once told Muslims in Somalia that "my God is bigger than your god, which
is an idol." As a sentinel of the Lord, Boykin also proclaimed that "President
Bush is in the White House because God put him there. . . . We in the army of
God . . . have been raised for such a time as this."
Add to the menu a Libby and Rove, sprinkle with generous
portions of Frist and DeLay, and top off the meal with a little Cheney torture
and an Abramoff payoff, and one has to wonder why public officials live in
glass houses. Do they actually believe that nobody is watching? Do they really
think that sticks and stones won't break their floor-to-ceiling windows?
The American public puts up with an enormous amount of
Beltway baloney, but polls suggest that the public wants an end to smoke and
By believing they can alter at will the definition of the
word "it," the Bush administration insults Americans' moral
intelligence. Exhibiting no shame for their Machiavellian principles, the White
House exploits the public's willingness to overlook human frailty.
For their own liberation, the Bush White House needs to
institute a follow up course to its recently completed Ethics 101 classes. All
staff members -- from humble juniors to exalted seniors -- should be required
to enroll in Morality 101. This course would include lectures and workshops on
such time-honored virtues as accountability, compassion, and honesty. And the
greatest of these is honesty.
To be eligible for contract renewals and/or promotions, all
students would be required to demonstrate mastery of these virtues by
completing three of the following activities: (1) make a public confession on
the Dr. Phil Show, (2) write humor
for Air America Radio hosts, (3) file a written apology for past behavior with
Judge Judy, (4) appear on 60 Minutes
and 20/20 and promise never to run
for public office.
Coda: Those who can
validate twelve consecutive months of successfully practicing "it"
would then be entitled to apply for membership in the Democratic Party.
Tony Zurlo is a writer/educator living in
Arlington, Texas. Currently, he teaches writing and African/Asian culture at
Tarrant County College. He has also taught in schools in Nigeria, China,
and many parts of the U.S. His op-eds, essays, and reviews have appeared in the
Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Democrats.US, OpEdNews, Peace Corps Writers, Writers
Against War, and other journals and newspapers. He also has
published nonfiction books on Vietnam, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Japanese
Americans, West Africa, Algeria, and soon Syria. His poetry and short
fiction have appeared in more than 65 journals, magazines, and anthologies.