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The Truth, Mainly - 11/19/1990

Send sons, daughters of government officials as deterrent to war

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 destiny."

"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 draft again."

"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. Aren't you?"

"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.


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