As we all know by now, Mad Cow Disease is scaring the bejeepers
out of a whole lot of us. Including me.
Don't get me wrong. I don't think the beef industry is in any
danger of going belly up. What's scaring me is this:
Mad Cow Disease is spreading to animals other than cows. It's
spreading to homo sapiens. That's us.
You know what happens to cows when they get Mad Cow Disease, don't
you? Their brains start looking like spongessoggy and full of holes
and thereby playing hell with their thought processes and bladder-control.
A cow whose brain has undergone spongeification isn't much more
dangerous than any other cow so long as you don't eat her. But a human
whose brain is spongeified loses all self-restraintand that can be very
This isn't getting too technical, is it?
Anyway, Mad Cow Disease is especially scary when the human who
contracts it happens to control a lot of power.
Like, say, the President of the United States.
Our present President rarely looks mad. Most of the time, he
merely looks a little befuddled (especially when he talks about "nucular"
weapons) and slightly amused by his own befuddlement. But when he gets
angrythat is, when he comes down with Mad President Diseaseyou can
almost see his brain being spongeified, filling up with soggy holes, playing
hell with his thought processes.
You know, like what happened last summer when he got mad about
Iraqi guerillas killing American soldiers who were killing them. Here's
what the President said:
"There are some who feel like that the conditions are such that
they can attack us there. My answer is bring them on."
So the Iraqis brought them on and killed lots more American
soldiers. In the four months leading up to Aug. 30, 147 American soldiers
were killed; in the four months since then, 193 American soldiers have
That's a lot more people than have died from Mad Cow Disease.
And that makes many in the opposition party come down with Mad
Democrat Disease. Like Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), who called the
President's "bring them on" language "irresponsible."
"I'm shaking my head in disbelief," he said. "When I served in
the Army in Europe during WW II, I never heard any military commanderlet
alone the commander in chiefinvite enemies to attack U.S. troops."
Well, the President probably didn't mean it that way. It might
have sounded like he meant it that way, but remember, his words, like
Humpty Dumpty's, mean just what he chooses them to mean, neither more nor
Anyway, Sen. Lautenberg thought the President was serious in his
"bring them on" statement. Which shows you just how badly Mad Democrat
Disease can screw up your perception.
The Truth, Mainly
But as I remember, I got a little ticked off myself. I was on the
verge of coming down with Mad Columnist Disease. And when that happens,
I sometimes infect others with Mad Reader Disease and about half of
themthose suffering from Mad Republican Diseaseget mad at me instead
of the President. And so I get nasty e-mail and sob myself to sleep at
Politics does that to people.
In his Washington Post piece last Tuesday, Robert Samuelson
reported that three percent of Americansthat comes to about 8 million of
usadmitted that they'd succumbed to Mad Electorate Disease and actually
"hated" President Bush. The same poll showed that even morefive
percent of Americanssaid they "hated" Sen. Hillary Clinton.
Somehow, that doesn't seem healthy to me.
I imagine that the best inoculation against the spread of Mad Cow
Disease to human beings is laughter. (So far as I know, cows can't laugh
and that makes them more susceptible.) Not the hateful kind of laughter
that arises from a desire to wound those we disagree with (OK, OK, I plead
guilty), but rather the kind that grows out of the inherently laughable
nature of our existence.
For example, many Nebraskans are quite angry about the football
coaching changes at UN-L . Mad Fan Disease can be really debilitating.
But a note from Con Henderson in Lawrence, Kansas, last month put
the case in comic perspective as he gets at the difference between
University of Kansas football mentality and that of University of
Nebraska. The difference: K.U. won half its games this past season and
appreciative fans are buying the coach a new car.
"Our guy goes 6-6 and gets a car," Con writes. "Your guy goes 9-3
and just gets a part of a car: the shaft. Go figure."
There. Doesn't your guffaw make your Mad Fan Disease all better
Retired English Professor Leon Satterfield writes to salvage clarity
from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays. His e-mail