Thursday, August 11, 2005

“Uncle Sam’s Black Eyes”

“Have you seen Uncle Sam lately?” I asked.

Denzil looked glum. “I ran into him down in front of the drug store last week,” he said. “Lord, the old fella was a mess.”

“How’s that?” I said.

“Can you believe it?” he said. “The old man had two black eyes. The right one was almost swelled shut.”

“Jeez o Pete! What happened to him?”

“That’s what I wanted to know. I said, ‘Uncle Sam, how did you get those black eyes?’ He just looked at me and said, ‘What black eyes, Sonnyboy?’”

“I’ll bet that threw you for a loop. How do you answer a question like that?”

“Beats the heck out of me. I said, ‘Uncle Sam, have you looked in the polls lately?’ And he said, ‘Sonnyboy, I know my hair is combed straight. I don’t need to look in the polls before I walk out the door.’”

“What’s with the polls?”

“The international polls show that after that illegal invasion of Iraq, with all those phony excuses he made to justify the war, Uncle Sam got a real black eye. The other one got blackened when the prison abuse scandals broke, and it turned out the U.S. was torturing prisoners all over the globe, and jailing people without following any civilized, democratic procedures. While claiming to be waging a war to ‘spread democracy.’”


“And the polls show that internationally, people’s opinion of the United States as a country that stands for freedom, truth, justice, and tolerance has dropped like a bowling ball thrown into an elevator shaft. The same polls show, though, that the people of the U.S. still rank themselves #1 in all those categories!”

“That’s quite a disconnect. So Uncle Sam refuses to look at the polls?”

“He just walks around with those black eyes and claims that everything’s hunky-dory. He insists he can see just fine, thank you.”

“Hasn’t anybody tried to talk some sense into him?”

“Aunt Francie tried. She told him before he even got started that he didn’t have any business invading Iraq. He got all huffy and stopped going to visit her. Started making fun of her cooking. Called her potatoes ‘freedom fries.’”

“Boy, that sounds really juvenile. You’d think somebody his age would know better than to act like that. I’ll bet she was ticked off.”

“Wouldn’t you be? I mean, you try to talk some sense into somebody, and they insult you and go ahead with something wrongheaded like that. Shoot, not only wrongheaded. It’s just plain wrong. And it’s been hard on his family—his sons and daughters have been getting killed and losing their arms and legs. And instead of making things better, Iraq is breeding new terrorists, while Iraq itself is going to hell in a handbasket.”

“Do you think he’s unaware of what’s going on, or in denial, or what? He’s always been an independent cuss, sure, but he used to be a really good nation—decent, fair, a good neighbor. Now he’s acting like a tyrant.”

“I don’t know. Maybe it’s just old age. Maybe he’s had a stroke and it’s messed up his brain. All I know is, he’s just not the same Uncle Sam I’ve known all these years. Polls aren’t the be-all and end-all. But if you’re walking around with a pair of puffed-up, bloodshot, black-and-blue eyes, it’s time to admit you’ve got a problem, and think a little bit about what other people are saying.”

“What’s that old line Mrs. Hardman used to preach at us in school? ‘Experience is a dear school, but a fool will learn in no other.’”

“I was thinking more of that Robert Burns poem she used to quote:

Oh wad some power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us!
It wad frae monie a blunder free us,
An’ foolish notion.”

© Tony Russell, 2005

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