By Ciro Scotti On Wednesday night, Sept. 2, shortly after lame-duck Democratic Senator Zell Miller of Georgia fired off a keynote speech at the Republican Convention that lavished praise on President Bush and all but questioned the patriotism of fellow Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, Ma and Pa Mettle turned off their satellite-dish TV and went out on the porch of their home in a remote Appalachian valley similar to the one from which Miller hails.
Ma: That Zell Miller sure is an angry fella, Pa.
Pa: Sure is. You'd think he's got an ant hill in his britches.
Ma: But he made a lot of sense, didn't he, worryin' about keepin' his kin safe and all from the terrorists?
Pa: He's gets your blood pressure up, that's a fact. But when you stop to chew on what he's sayin', it don't seem so clear.
Ma: Stop beatin' around the bush and spit it out, Pa.
Pa: Well, first off he starts talkin' about Wendell Wilkie -- 'member that ol' Republican boy -- and how when he was a runnin' agin' FDR in 1940 he said he'd rather not be President than have a public spat about national sea-curity. Things ain't like that no more, Zell said, what with the politicians at each others' throats over the war in I-raq. Then dang if he don't go after Kerry like he was some sort of terrorist his dang self.
Ma: No, he just said Kerry wouldn't defend the country lessen he got the go-ahead from every fereign Tom, Dick, and Harry.
Pa: That's what I mean. Sounds right -- but we didn't win WWI and WWII singlehanded. Everybody was on board on D-Day. Ol' Zell didn't say diddley about how we had the whole world standin' behind us after 9/11, ready to hunt down that Bin Laden SOB to the ends of the earth. Then young Bush goes off half-cocked after Saddam because a bunch of eggheads -- those durn neocons, or whatever they call 'em -- got him thinkin' that was the right thing to do. He already was itchin' to get Saddam because that I-raqi tried to kill his daddy, so it didn't take a lot of arm-twistin'
Way I see it, what Bush done is like if one of them McGees from the next Holler come over her and killed one of our people, so we go over there and blast the bejesus outta the McGees' neighbor. Maybe the neighbor was a no-good so-and-so, too, but he didn't need killin' -- at least not right away. That's when the world went AWOL on us, and all that good will went out the window.
Ma: Keep talkin', Pa, you're makin' sense for once.
Pa: Like I said, Miller's got up a head of steam, and in a lot of ways, I don't blame him But if you think the commander-in-chief done messed up the job and sent our boys and girls to get their arms and legs blown off bringing the wrath of the Almighty down on the McGees' neighbors 'stead of hunting down the McGees, you'd be a fool to keep your mouth shut. And not much of a patriot, neither.
Ma: I see what you're sayin', Pa. And McGee -- I mean Bin Laden -- he's still scot-free and causin' trouble.
Pa: 'Nother thing stuck in my craw, too.
Ma: Don't hold back now.
Pa: Miller said it's the soldier, not the agitator, who went and gave us the freedom to protest.
Ma: Sounds right to me. Our kids dyin' while those hooligans are out runnin' around raisin' Cain.
Pa: You think? I say it's a sorry day when a senator of the United States of America is so durn ignorant that he don't know that if there weren't no agitators, there wouldn't be no United States and there wouldn't be no freedom. In 1764, one of the first agitators was James Otis, a fella from Massachusetts who helped get things goin' by gripin' at a town meeting in Boston about the English taxin' the Colonists.
Then you had a mob harrassin' British soldiers in New York in 1765 and burnin' a dummy made to look like the royal governor. Then, next year in New York -- in August matter of fact -- things got violent when the Colonists, including a ragtag bunch called the Son of Liberty, took after the British soldiers. Fact of the matter is the agitators and them followin' them were the first American fighters.
Might be time for ol' Zell to go back to Georgia and set a spell. Maybe pick up a history book now and agin' and read about what happened in this country before 1940. Scotti is senior editor for government and sports business for BusinessWeek and offers offers his views in A Not-So-Neutral Corner, only on BW Online