Sunday, October 01, 2006

“You Make Me Ashamed of Myself”

I looked over the fence to see what all the hammering and sawing was about in my neighbor’s backyard. “Hey Tom!” I called. “What’re you up to?”

“Come on over and take a look!” he hollered.

I let myself through the gate and went to inspect his work. “Whadya think?” he said, with typical handyman’s pride.

“Looks like you’re remodeling the kid’s teeter-totter,” I offered.

“Come on, Ace,” he said with a grin. “You’ve got to do better than that. This is cutting edge stuff here. We’re ahead of the curve.”

I was baffled. It still looked like a teeter-totter, but he’d added some straps and hinged supports on the bottom of each end. “Why did you move the kids’ wading pool under this end, and mount a holder for your water hose over here?” I asked.

“It’s a waterboard,” he said impatiently. “Don’t you keep up with the news?”

“Guess not,” I admitted. “What’s a waterboard?”

“It’s one of the favorite tortures—I’m sorry, one of the favorite interrogation methods the CIA uses,” he said. “You just strap somebody to a board, cover his face with a thin plastic film, lower his head, and then flood him with water. It’s like drowning and suffocating at the same time! People can’t stand it. They’ll tell you anything after just a few minutes.”

“And you’ve been able to duplicate that with these simple materials you have in your own backyard!” I said admiringly.

“That’s the beauty of it,” he said. “I’m almost done. I’m anxious to have Timmy and Tina try it out on their friends.”

“Gosh, aren’t you afraid somebody will get hurt?” I worried.

He looked at me, dumbfounded. “Well duh! That’s the whole idea, Ace.”

“But they seem like such nice kids,” I said. “It’s hard to picture them waterboarding their friends.”

“Well, you have to work at it,” he admitted. “But I think they’ll come around. I promised Timmy a new video game if he got good at it, and Bev told Tina she’d send her to soccer camp if she mastered the waterboard.”

“What got you started on this anyway?” I asked.

“If you’d been following the debate in Congress, Ace, you’d know that the President insisted Congress had to give him the power to torture—I mean, combat terrorism with aggressive interrogation techniques. And Congress gave him the thumbs up. Isn’t that great!”

“So you’re going to teach Timmy and Tina how it’s done?”

“Right. We’ll start with the waterboard and then move on to some other techniques.”

“Such as?”

“Well, I’ve been reading up on this stuff. One thing that caught my eye was when right wingers overthrew the government of Chile. A favorite of theirs was just to smash somebody in the mouth with a hammer, splitting and breaking off a bunch of teeth.”

“That’s even simpler than a waterboard,” I said. “‘Do-it-yourself torture: Only tool required is a hammer.’ But don’t you think the other parents in the neighborhood would object?”

“I don’t know. It’s a heck of a lot cheaper than braces. But seriously, it’s my job as a parent to prepare my kids to serve their country, and if the neighbors have a patriotic bone in their body, they’ll be glad to see Timmy and Tina getting the practice.”

“You really take your duty as a parent seriously,” I said.

“My duty as a parent, and as a citizen,” he said. “I’ve talked with Timmy’s scoutmaster about getting the Boy Scouts to offer a Citizenship merit badge for aggressive interrogation techniques. He likes the idea. Not only would kids be learning new American values, but they’d be mastering skills their country can use when they become adults.”

“You make me ashamed of myself, Tom,” I said. “I wish I’d been following the news more closely. “

“Hey, it’s not too late to jump on the bandwagon,” he said.

© Tony Russell, 2006

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