15 December 2008

I Might Have To Take My Shoes Off

My buddy calls me yesterday, during the game.

I don’t answer the phone.

He calls back later.

S. comes looking for me. “Can you call him back? That’s the second time he’s woken me up looking for you.”

I pretty much only talk to my parents and my brother on Sundays – years of working on the phone during the week have resulted in my designating Sunday as a day without talking on the phone unnecessarily.

I call my buddy back during a commercial. He is spitting fire as he tells me “somebody threw a shoe at the president.” My mind is elsewhere – the Atlanta Falcons had already won their game, and I was dozing off during the one-sided mismatch between the lackluster Denver Broncos and the highly motivated Carolina Panthers.

“What shoes?”

“Didn’t you hear about this? It’s got to be all over the news.”

‘Didn’t I tell you I was watching the game?”

My lack of interest in any details ratchets my buddy’s level of exasperation up. His impatience is literally dripping from his voice as he tells me “an Iraqi reporter at a press conference in Iraq threw his shoes at President Bush! Can you believe that? This shit is crazy.”

There is silence, because I am trying, while I am listening to him, to see what happened on the last play. I move to pick up my remote to rewind the action, but realize it will be a waste of time until I hang up the phone.

“So the president got hit with a shoe.”

“Man,” my buddy yelled, YOU DON”T THROW STUFF AT THE PRESIDENT! He’s the president. He’s a head of state. I’m not talking about people off the street – this guy was a member of the press!”

In the middle of a nice, quiet, relaxing Sunday afternoon, I’m supposed to be worried about George Bush? And after I think about it for a minute, I add Barack Obama to the list – I can’t worry about him all the time either.

I don’t know what triggers my response, but it is sudden and unrestrained. “WE BLEW UP THEIR ENTIRE COUNTRY AND WE EXPECT TO BE GREETED WITH OPEN ARMS? What did we liberate? I’ve been following this closer than you have, I guess.

We blow up everything. We wipe out a big chunk of their economy. We kill people by the thousands.

THEN we show up and tell them we will help them rebuild everything we just blew up. Waste a HUNDRED BILLION DOLLARS – do you hear me – A HUNDRED BILLION DOLLARS doing a half-assed job of that, and now we’re leaving. Oh yeah, and we had no business doing any of this in the first place. I’d be feeling real good about America right now if I was that reporter.”

“But it’s the PRESIDENT, man. The PRESIDENT of the United States. You just can’t do that.”

“Why not? He wasn’t in the United States. That’s their country. We don’t run shit over there.”

“Man, you’re crazy. You DO NOT do that to the president of the United States.”

Our American government plays at a kindergarten-level of diplomacy, a kind of posturing at international relations pomp and circumstance we revere as if we really mean the things we say, while we are very, very likely to be killing someone, somewhere, in secret, at this very second.

Our rhetoric speaks of spreading justice and democracy around the world when what we practice is a doctrine of control of sovereign nations and what we perpetuate is the continued existence of global inequality. If even one tenth of what has gone on in Iraq had happened here, millions of us would have choked to death by now on our own rage at the inhumanity and barbarism of our attackers.

Thank God my buddy didn’t call me back during the Dallas Cowboys-New York Giants game.

I might have had to take MY shoes off – and I wear size 15.

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