Everybody was in for the reunion, and a bunch of us were at the local watering hole, wetting our throats for the Alumni Sing that evening. The crew at the next table were older guys, in their sixties maybe. They were pretty boisterous, and the more the beer went down, the more their volume rose. They were reliving the glory years of their youth at the top of their voices, and their conversation eventually dropped from sports to politics.
“Remember when it was the commies who would invade countries on some phony excuse, the way we did Iraq and Panama, and we’d just go ballistic?” asked one guy nostalgically, a big beefy fellow wearing a huge straw hat.
Everyone at the table fell silent as they reminisced about that for a minute, and then the bald guy to his right chimed in. “Remember when the Soviets would go to the U.N. and tell these transparent lies, and the rest of the world would just sit there, arms folded, waiting for the lies to end? And the Soviets didn’t care! Those were the good old days. When I was watching Colin Powell’s speech making the case for war against Iraq, and saw those delegates watching him, arms folded, it all came back to me.”
“I thought Powell had a lot more class. At least he didn’t take his shoe off and pound it on the podium,” said the big guy. Everybody laughed.
The skinny little guy sitting across the table from him piped up. “Remember when magazines like the Reader’s Digest were always carrying stories about how people were being picked up by the Soviet police and held with no charges being filed and no lawyer and no contact with their family? We always said, ‘That’s the way they do things in a police state, not in America, God bless her.’ And, hey, now we’ve got guys who’ve been in Guantanamo for two and a half years, and they have still never been charged with anything or allowed contact with their families.”
The big guy nodded his head. “And remember when the commies were the ones who were torturing people in their prisons, or kidnapping people off the streets in other countries? Now the U.S. has secret prisons around the globe, prisoners being tortured to death, and CIA agents being indicted in Italy for kidnapping, with cell phone records and everything.”
The bald guy said, “Sure, I remember that. And do you remember how we used to hear about the Roosky secret police invading people’s private lives? And we’d say, that’s the way it is in a totalitarian society. Now somehow we have this so-called Patriot Act, and the FBI is reading your e-mail and checking to see what library books you’ve been reading!”
The fourth guy, who’d been silent up till then, said, “Remember when we used to laugh at the way the Soviet newspapers and the other media just took whatever handout the Kremlin gave them, and that was their news? And we thought it was a hoot when some big news items got blacked out completely, the way the Downing Street memos were this spring?”
The skinny guy came back with, “Remember how there were always those stories of massive corruption, with the big guys in the Kremlin tied in to companies supplying the Red Army, and the big guys got rich while the poor suckers in the army got lousy food, low pay, and equipment shortages?”
“Yeah, I thought of that when I read about Cheney and Halliburton and all those no-bid contracts they were awarded,” said the big beefy guy, shaking his head.
“Remember the blatant hypocrisy, when the Russians would take over some country and claim they had ‘liberated’ it, and then install a puppet government in the name of a ‘people’s democracy’?”
“Oh sure,” said the fourth guy. “If you followed what we’ve done in Iraq and Afghanistan, you couldn’t help but think about it.”
“Speaking of Afghanistan,” said the skinny guy, “do you remember how the Soviets thought they had that place whipped? They installed a puppet government just like we have. I can’t remember how long it took—ten years or so—but the Taliban finally bled ‘em dry and ran the commies out of there. With our help! We trained the guys we’re fighting now. Wonder how long it will take ‘em to boot us out of their country?”
I’d had about all I could take. I sidled up to the bar, and in a low tone asked Eddie, “Who are those guys? A bunch of leftover radicals from some old SDS chapter in the sixties?”
Eddie glanced at the table and gave a snort. “Those guys in SDS? No way. They’re just a bunch of Republicans with loose tongues and long memories.”
© Tony Russell, 2005