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The Truth, Mainly - 01/05/2004

The growing threat of Mad Cow Disease

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 sponges—soggy 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-restraint—and that can be very dangerous.

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 angry—that is, when he comes down with Mad President Disease—you 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 been killed.

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 commander—let alone the commander in chief—invite 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 less.

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 them—those suffering from Mad Republican Disease—get mad at me instead of the President. And so I get nasty e-mail and sob myself to sleep at night.

Politics does that to people.

In his Washington Post piece last Tuesday, Robert Samuelson reported that three percent of Americans—that comes to about 8 million of us—admitted that they'd succumbed to Mad Electorate Disease and actually "hated" President Bush. The same poll showed that even more—five percent of Americans—said 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 now?


Retired English Professor Leon Satterfield writes to salvage clarity from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays. His e-mail address is: leonsatterfield@earthlink.net.


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