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Looking out for the little guy

By Glenda Buya-ao Claborne
Arizona Daily Wildcat
August 24, 1998
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Arizona Daily Wildcat

Glenda Buya-ao Claborne

In the face of an almost unanimous approval of the U.S. strikes in Sudan and Afghanistan, there is a little guy at the fringe of the polls feeling stupid and ashamed of his own thoughts about patriotism, terrorism and testosteronism.

There he is, looking at a recent poll indicating the public's 66 percent approval rating of the strikes. Cringing, he raises his right hand to the right side of his forehead and executes a salute. It is clear that the guy is straining to exorcise any unpatriotic thoughts and feelings from his heart and mind.

Then he looks at the remaining 33 percent - minus the 1 percent who expressed no opinion - representing those who are not so much opposed to the strikes per se as they are only skeptical about the timing of the attacks. A frown, then a grimace alternates on the little guy's face. He tries to think substantive but the sexual prevails.

I cannot stand the sight of that cringing, bewildered little guy so I grab him by the neck and scream at him to squeak out his goddamn thoughts, for heaven's sake!

"What am I supposed to think with all these sophisticated bombs, scientific polls, dead diplomacy, poker-faced diplomats, polished politicians, charred corpses and buildings, slippery terrorists and raging testosterone?" the little guy wails.

"Oh, shut up!" I snap at the heaving heap. "Can we try to make sense of all these, please?" I implore wearily.

"Have you read George Will's essay in Newsweek about the movie 'Saving Private Ryan?' His essay says the movie is tapping a yearning for honor among the American public," I say to the Little Guy to get the sense-making rolling.

"Mr. Will recommends reading Bunting's book, An Education for Our Time, for those interested in a blueprint for educating men who value honor and courage in defending peace and democracy. Mr. Will writes that colleges nowadays are breeding grounds for ignorant and ungrateful minds about the horrific sacrifices of men of war like those men blown into smithereens on Omaha Beach during World War II."

"B-b-b-but... ," the little guy stammers, "There were no honorable and courageous men crouching and dying on a beach this time. All I can imagine are phallus-like missiles springing out of the seas and striking puny pharmaceutical factories and empty terrorist universities."

"That filthy, sex-scandal-addled brain of yours," I sneer at the smart aleck.

"Look," I say, persisting at sense-making, "We are told that the kinds of terrorism we now face these days call for new paradigms to combat them."

"Terrorism these days is described as amorphous and the new paradigm to combat it is in the form of an equation that spells speed plus secrecy equals success."

"Success? What success?" Little Guy suddenly stands up and wags his finger at me. "For all I know Osama bin Laden was not anywhere within a thousand-mile radius of that alleged Terrorist University and for all I know, he'll join the ranks of Saddam who, like strains of resistant bacteria, become even more evil with each strike of testosterone-laden missiles!"

"You must be with the Department of Microbiology," I try to humor Angry Little Guy.

But this is not funny and I keep my resolve to stay rational.

"Hey, didn't you hear Defense Secretary Cohen explain that the goal was not to eliminate the problem but to send a preemptive message. That the target was not individual terrorists but training and manufacturing facilities?"

Our guy, no longer bumbling but utterly contemptuous of my rationalizations, sneers at me: "Oh yeah? bin Laden understood the bluffing all right, and responded that the game has just begun. Do those Pentagon experts really think that they have incapacitated those terrorists by blowing up those buildings? As if the world was Sudan and Afghanistan! For all I can imagine, bin Laden's next message will tease the United States to catch him in Paris, Tokyo, New York perhaps. You name it, bin Laden is on a roll."

I start to mumble about what other choice there was but I give up. By now, the little guy is a raging, raving, mad man. I shake my head and think that now I understand why guys like him are better left at the fringes of the polls.

Glenda Buya-ao Claborne is a graduate student in the process of proving her commitment to communication. Her column, Sitting on the Fulcrum, appears every Monday.


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