Friday, March 25, 2005

Political Wedgies and Voluntary Grimaces

I've lost track of the original photograph, but you don't have to be a doctor to understand this one, even after cursory examination: Clearly a voluntary grimace, a non-random expression of emotion.

The man is compact and tightly wound, with close-cropped Marine hair — the shaved sides and little top patch they let you keep after you make it through boot camp. His face is too red for this time of year, but he's in Florida, and they have more sun and more emotion down there right now. The veins in his neck stand out like cables trying to restrain a zeppelin. A zeppelin ready to burst and wipe out the surrounding humanity.

Or at least wipe out the big pony-tailed guy facing him who raises a placating palm in the international sign for "chill dude." In the background a woman holds a red sign, its message obscured.

Is this American, 2005? Again?

No, this is not about the Schiavo case. It's about trying to figure out the disease from the symptoms, and more important, determining a course of treatment.

You could imagine the photo with the expressions and political polarities reversed. Bush lied about Iraq! Chill, dude, we're there now and taking out a tyrant. Or both faces screaming. Bush skipped out on his National Guard duty! Kerry betrayed his fellow soldiers!

But not two dudes chillin' across the divide. Not much news value there.

It's not in the spirit that I am striving hard to maintain to say who started this, and both parties are guilty of giving political wedgies. But we know who the bullies are, and we know how a few of them can take over the school unless we stand up to them. It would be nice if the grownups could manage the situation, but the bullies know how to work around the system, and the authorities too often step in after the fact.

It's not the cops or other bullies who stop the war of wedgies before it goes nuclear. It's the decent kids.

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