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(Sept. 29, 2004)

I've been called a lot of names, I suppose. I recall someone referring to me once as an "exposed nerve," which I rather liked, and I remember the marginally literate editor who (behind my back) enjoyed labelling me with a commonly employed vulgarism for the nethermost exit point in the body. Coming from her, I wore it like a badge.
        But "coward"?
        Yes, a reader has branded me such. Now, it's true I chickened out decades ago on those offers from the New York Daily News and CNN, but how did he know that? No, no---wait, I'm accused of cowardice for my viewpoints---expressed right here in The Rip Post!
        I didn't know I was significant enough to merit such denunciation. I had no idea that anyone took The Post so seriously. And while I find this kind of frightening, I don't plan to stop writing. That would be um, cowardly.
        Here's the scoop: a friend kindly referred this site to a number of friends, and one wrote back to him, going on about the "war on terror" and naming various American "cowards." This is part of what the friend of a friend (let's call him Xavier Onassis---say it fast) wrote: (Please excuse his capricious employment of capital letters.)
        "another one is your buddy rip rense, his cowardice being very charming and clever."
        (Charming and clever? Evidence alone of how vastly this fellow has misjudged me.)
       "they appease the islamic-nazis by opposing the u.s. rather than supporting it. they oppose it by trying to spread doubt and confusion about our purpose in this war via peace protests and in this specific case a website. They try to make our government look like the bad guys."
        Wow. Wow-weeeee! To quote Peter Pan at the beginning of the Disneyland ride, "Okay, everybody, here. . .we. . .gooooooooooo!" Quick, wind up the cuckoo clocks! Calling all cars! Calling all cars!
        Where do you even begin?
        Let's see. . .I "oppose the U.S." because I disagree with the administration's policies? Since when is any administration synonymous with the U.S.? Doesn't Congress often oppose the policies of an administration? By Xavier's "logic," Congress must  occasionally be anti-American! Dirty commie senators!
         You wonder: does Xavier imagine that there is a fundamentalist Muslim force out there equivalent to Hitler's army? Hell-bent on blitzkrieging the U.S.?
         The fact is that there are terrorists in the world, as there have been for decades (forever, if you want to get technical), and that they finally managed to strike the United States at home (of course, Timothy McVeigh beat 'em to it)---just as a myriad of experts had predicted to an unheeding Washington since oh, the dawn of time. There is no nation that declared war on the United States. There are raging, murdering criminals on the loose. Thousands of 'em! Why, nineteen or twenty alone pulled off 9/11!
        And 9/11 wasn't really a first. Foreign terrorism, you'll recall, struck the U.S. way back in 1968, when one Sirhan Sirhan killed the next president of the United States, Robert F. Kennedy. Funny, but neither LBJ or Nixon declared a "war on terror" after that. (Maybe they should have.)
       But back to Xavier:
        . . . by opposing the u.s. rather than supporting it. they oppose it by trying to spread doubt and confusion about our purpose in this war via peace protests. . .
        Think about it: Xavier says that if you support   peace on earth, you therefore oppose the U.S.(!) Come to think of it, most of Europe might agree with him. . .
        It's simple: Xavier equates freedom of speech, and concern for the country, with treason. That is, if said free speech and concern for the country express views contrary to his. This is significant, for Bush has aroused vast legions of Xaviers. These are citizens who, quite without guilt and wholly in the name of gawdandcountree, would ultimately imprison or put to death those with opposing viewpoints. Doubt it? Check your history books. Look under "Auschwitz," "Cultural Revolution," "Idi Amin," "Cambodia". . .
        The so-called "PATRIOT" Act is a first step in this direction. It empowers the government to grab you and hold you indefinitely if you happen to get drunk in a bar and make a joke about a "burning Bush." Or to infiltrate your weekly coffee klatch where you and your pudgy middle-aged neighbors plan candlelight vigils for peace. Laughing, are you? These things have already happened.
        Xavier is so wildly paranoid that he believes that this website, the mighty Rip Post, which is read by at least 23.7 persons every week (and possibly some members of the animal kingdom) is not only subverting the "war on terror"---it has an impact on the entire course of human events! You know, like Oprah! Well, okay, let's say it did. Would that therefore negate freedom of speech? Xavier, would-be fascist, thinks so. Here is still more of his capital-letter-challenged declamation:
       "Our government can be bad but nothing like the enemies we're fighting. compare our nation with any arab nation and it's obvious that charlatans like rip tell it all backwards."
        (Now I'm a charlatan. Darn. And I thought I at least had the integrity of being a "coward.")
        It's interesting that Xavier believes that "all Arab nations" are "bad." Now that's sophisticated thinking; definitely a step up from grunting. And---hold on to your guttrahs---Xavier's way of standing up for the good ol' USA is to compare it to, say, Syria or Saudi Arabia. Talk about damning with faint praise! Perhaps Xavier never studied World War II, or the scientific/ technological/humanitarian/sociological marvels pulled off by Uncle Sam in the 20th century. . .
        Xavier is correct on one point, though: "our government" is "nothing like the enemies we're fighting." Right. Our government is building new nuclear weapons for use in "pre-emptive" wars. The terrorists only dream of such things. Xaiver reminds me of the American-on- the-street who told a TV reporter, "at least we don't behead people." No, we just accidentally blow up children and mothers with big bombs and call it "collateral damage."
       "islamic-nazis are attacking all over the world."
       Really! I'll be sure and check under my bed every night.
       "the islamic-nazis want the u.s. especially to be divided."
       That old saw. Here's some news for Xavier: the United States has always been divided. This is what happens in a free society. Why, it was once so divided that it split apart into two whole countries, Xavier. That was called the Civil War.
        As for the current schism in the country, Xavier credits terrorists. Free will, intellect and concern for the future of humankind can't possibly have anything to do with the widespread disagreement with administration policy. Xavier thinks U.S. citizens aren't capable of thinking for themselves; that they are hapless dupes being manipulated by terrorists.
        In his case, he might be right.
       "the islamic-nazis want us doubtful and confused in hopes that we would elect a weak government who (sic) won't fight them back or at least wont' (sic) fight back properly."
        Actually, if pronoun-challenged Xavier did any reading, he would know that the opposite is true. Osama bin-Laden and his copycat minions want nothing more than for the U.S. to engage them. This legitimizes their power, and affords them respect among the ignorant and impoverished so easily seduced by ugly religion and the politics of death. The best thing the Bush administration could have done for Al-Qaeda was to rile up all the Xaviers, proclaim the current endless "war on terror," and implement the "doctrine of pre-emption" with the invasion of Iraq.
        "Fighting back properly?" here's how: treat terrorists as the criminals they are; hunt them down with international cooperative law enforcement. It's in every civilized nation's interests. Even semi-civilized ones. Remember that just after 9/11, the free world was united enough to have dramatically undertaken such an effort. Instead came Bush's Iraq invasion and the ensuing alienation---and villification---of the United States. An invasion carried out not to fight terrorists, but to (check the Project for a New American Century) permanently occupy the Middle East in the name of controlling oil, protecting Israel, and magically prompting all Arab nations to---presto-change-o--- become democracies.
       "Look at what happened in spain after the train bombing just before their election. the terror attack worked just as planned: the spanish people got scared and suddenly decided to elect a weak government which right away stopped fighting the war. the message they gave the terrorists was: terrorism works, we give up, come take us over."
        No, the Spanish people got smart and realized that the Iraq "war" is U.S. hegemony that has inspired and galvanized terrorists like nothing in human history. Spain took itself off the hit-list. And as far as I can tell, terrorists have not gone to Spain to "take over." Spain still appears to be a sovereign nation.
        Enough. I tried not to engage Xavier, but I can't help myself. I always have this stupid idea that something might somehow get through. Sad to say, his observations are important, for they represent the "thinking" of millions. A few years ago, there were other Xaviers with other enemies. Substitute the word, "commies," for "islamic-nazis" in the above rant, and voila! Joe McCarthy.
       Xavier is reacting to the propagandizing of the Bush administration, which hysterically warns that terrorists are about to attack our (apparently helpless!) nation again, at any moment. Especially if John Kerry is elected.
        In other words, Xavier is just plain scared. Scared sh---er, witless. He fails Fear Factor.
       Well, he's not alone. I'm scared of terrorists, too---exactly as I am of earthquakes, lightning, The Bachelor, and people using cell phones in SUVs. Terrorism has been a part of Europe's reality for decades; now it is part of ours.
        But I'm far more frightened of an administration that insists on endless world war, using as an excuse the heinous acts of a few madmen; a policy that is creating and emboldening more killers each day. A policy that was formulated long before 9/11 by Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, William Kristol, Paul Wolfowitz, and the rest of the so-called Neocons.
       If that makes me a coward, no problem.

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