You know what these sometimes United States really need? We need
more fresh-picked, home-grown, dead-ripe tomatoes. And before we ever
to war again, we need to hand deliver some of them to our perceived
That said, a question: Is it just me or is this the winter of our
discontent? How long's it been since we generated such cranky
toward one another?
I'm old enough to remember the ugly internecine war that grew out
of Sen. Joe McCarthy's insistence that there were real commies hiding
behind all the bushes. But that animosity seems pale in light of the
anger swirling about the war in Iraqwhich Secretary of State Rice
us last week might still be going on in 10 years, and that we may have
force in Syria and Iran as well.
Make your blood boil?
But the real vitriol seems to be directed at those who find fault
with the President's conduct of the warespecially the treatment of
In a piece by Nat Hentoff in the Oct. 14 issue of The Village
Voice, he quotes a letter written last month by U.S. Army Captain Ian
Fishback to Sen. John McCain (R. Ariz.).
"For 17 months," Capt. Fishback wrote, "
I have been unable to
get clear, consistent answers from my leadership about what
and humane treatment of detainees. I am certain that this confusion
contributed to a wide range of abuses including death threats,
broken bones, murder
and degrading treatment. I and troops under my
command witnessed some of these abuses in both Afghanistan and Iraq."
He's letting himself in for it.
Hentoff goes on to quote an Oct. 1 Wall Street Journal editorial
on the subject: "The suggestion
[of] some kind of whitewash [of POW
abuse] only reveals the
accusers for the crackpots they are."
Capt. Fishback wrote to Sen. McCain because earlier this month
McCain got 90 senators46 Republicans, 43 Democrats, and one
Independentto approve his amendment to the Senate's Defense
Appropriations bill. The amendment would prohibit "cruel, inhumane, or
degrading" punishment to any POWs the U.S. has in custody.
But the House version of the bill says nothing about POW
Sen. McCain is sensitive about torture because he was a POW in
North Vietnam for five and a half years. He says U.S. prisoners "were
subjected to very cruel, very inhumane and degrading treatment, a few
unto death. But every one of usevery single one of usknew and took
great strength from the belief that we were different from our
His implication is that such differences may no longer exist, that
those horrendous photos from Abu Ghraib show Americans as the torturers
rather than the tortured.
The Truth, Mainly
According to Hentoff, GOP leaders in the House oppose the McCain
amendment, and the White House has indicated the President will veto
bill if the amendment is included in it.
So it sounds like lots of animosity, lots of anger, between the
Senate, the House, and the Presidencyand they're all controlled by
We've become a nation that can't disagree without getting angry
and it's really ticking me off.
And that's where the fresh-picked, home-grown, dead-ripe tomatoes
I haven't grown any myself for the last five years because no
garden space came with the duplex we moved into. So I've letched after
such tomatoesimpossible to find in a grocery storefor a long time
Then I find some. I'm walking down the sidewalk in our
neighborhood and I see a guy messing about in a garden. There are huge
tomato plants with red tomatoes hanging all over them.
"Not interested in selling any of those tomatoes, are you?" I ask
"Not interested in selling," he says, "but come on in and pick
He gives me a grocery-store plastic bag that has never contained
anything like what I'm about to put in it.
"Are you sure?" I say. "Tomatoes cost a lot at the store."
"Pick what you'll eat," he says.
So I do. My wife and I eat them over the next four days, so a
week later I walk by the neighbor's garden again. He's in the midst of
"Still got tomatoes?" I say.
He gives me another grocery-store plastic bag. I pick tomatoes.
"Aren't you the guy that writes a column for the paper?" he says.
"I guess so," I cautiously admit.
"Every once in a while," he says, "I agree with you. But most of
the time I listen to Rush Limbaugh."
I grin a sickly sort of grin. He grins back.
"Come back," he says, "when you need more."
It could be the beginning of the end of the country's
Retired English Professor Leon Satterfield writes to salvage clarity
from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays. His e-mail