On the day the President decides to send another 200,000 Americans to
Saudi Arabia, a disc jockey on the radio says now we're ready "to kick
some butt" to get the Iraqis out of Kuwait.
"Yeah," I say. "Let's kick some butt."
"The old testosterone rising?" my wife asks. "Sounds like it might be
interfering with your thought processes. Better have the doctor check
that out when you go in for the cholesterol test."
"I suppose you've got other smart-alecky and unpatriotic things to say."
She smiles like the Mona Lisa.
“OH NO," she says. "I’m thrilled. It makes me all quivery with manifest
"Good,” I say. "People who criticize the President in times like these
are just lending aid and comfort to the enemy. I’m glad you've come aboard."
"There's only one thing, " she says. "I think it’s time we had a military
"Wait a minute," I say. "What about our kids? You want them to go off to
the desert to get shot at?"
"Don't worry," she says. "Under my plan, our kids wouldn’t be eligible.
Only the sons and daughters of government officials would be drafted."
“Silliest thing I ever heard of," I say. "Why do you think they'd make
better soldiers than the sons and daughters of the rest of us?"
"Oh I don't," she says. "They'd probably make worse soldiers. But that’s
not my point."
I FURROW MY brow. I don't get it. "You're furrowing your brow again. You
don't get it, do you? Listen carefully: If an the sons and daughters of
government officials were in the military, how often do you think they'd
get sent to some desert where they might have to fight against tanks planes
and anthrax and botulism toxins?"
"Hah?" I say.
"Suppose, " she says. "You were President and you knew that our three kids
would be in the first wave of soldiers you were sending into Kuwait. Would
that change anything?"
"Golly," I say. “I wouldn't send my kids there."
"But you'd send other people's kids where you wouldn't send your own?" she asks.
"WELL, WE CANT be a helpless giant," I say. "We've got to have a military
posture astride the oil fields."
"Only if you'd be willing to send your own kids,” she says. "I’d make it a
constitutional requirement: If you don't have draft-age kids you're not
eligible to run for office."
The Truth, Mainly
I scratch my head. I furrow my brow.
"But that wouldn't be patriotic," I say. "Would it?"
"What could be more patriotic?" she says. "What could be more in the
national interest than to ask no more of any citizen than you'd ask of
your own kids? We might really be a kinder, gentler nation then."
"But I thought patriotism was the disc jockey," I say. "The guy that's ready
to kick some butt."
"Wanting to kick butt is what gives patriotism a bad name," she says. "And
when I hear that kind of talk I begin to understand what Thoreau meant when
he said patriotism is a maggot in our heads."
“BUT HAVEN'T YOU had it with Saddam Hussein?" I ask. "Aren't you fed up?"
"I'm fed up with anyone who uses other people's kids, to act out their own
frustrations," she says. "I've had it with the guy who wants to put other
people's kids, where his mouth is."
"When you talk that way," I say, "you’re giving aid and comfort to the enemy.
"When you talk that way," she says. "You’ve got a maggot in your head. Don’t you?"
"Hah?" I say. I put my finger in my ear. She’s wrong again. There’s nothing there.
"You don't understand patriotic sacrifice," I say, putting on my Ollie North
face; it's important to get the last word in these arguments. “After all you
can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs.
"Whose omelet?" she says. "Whose eggs?"
Satterfield is a college professor and writes as a means of discovery.