Wonderful People

Scripps-Howard News Service 9.24.02
Balint Vazsonyi

Wonderful people abound all around us. The latest is Madelyne (Not Really) Toogood, who savagely beat and beat and beat her daughter, a girl no larger than the mother's handbag. Her attorney - oh, such wonderful attorneys we have now in America - hastened to tell us, before all else, that this "mother" was a wonderful person, held in the highest esteem by all who know her; that she was a wonderful sister, cousin, daughter and - mother.

OK, she had been given the wrong medication for some months; wouldn't we all beat the daylights out of toddlers if mismedicated?

I want to start a Toogood-to-be-true fan club. But wait. Am I perchance discriminating in her favor? The law permits discrimination in favor only of those whom the law orders us to discriminate in favor of. (Awkward sentence, isn't it?)

So I face a challenge with my fan club. To be even-handed, I have to consider a whole series of wonderful persons. When it comes to mothers, can anyone beat (no pun intended) Andrea Yates who drowned all five of her children? Even Susan Smith who killed only two of hers is but a distant second. Which of them was more wonderful? Well, if you ask their families and their lawyers, it's a toss-up.

Then there is John Walker, the "American Taliban." A more wonderful human being has rarely walked the Earth, say his parents - almost as wonderful themselves if the television images are anything to go on. We have not yet been told in detail how wonderful the five (six?) al Qaeda-trained Yemeni-Americans are, but that's only a matter of another few days, believe me.

What to do.

As always, The New York Times came to my rescue. On September 19, they ran a huge, full-page ad (A15), listing the Most Wonderful People of them all.

Above the roster of extraordinary length, the headline. "President Bush has declared: 'you're either with us or against us.' Here is our answer."

Although the answer is camouflaged in the phrase, "Not in our name," the specific question with which they lead calls for one of only two answers. Clearly, the signatories are against what President Bush calls "us." If they are not with the president and us, with whom are they?

Perhaps it is the happenstance of the alphabet, but dead center of the roster is, in raised capitals, the name of C. Clark Kissinger. My wife and I met the wonderful Mr. Kissinger in 1991 when he came to Bloomington, Indiana, to organize a riot. He told us about his philosophy. The Soviet Union, he explained, offered no real hope against the American imperialist dogs. Alone the Cultural Revolution of Mao's Red Guards provided a model through which to reform the world. For those with short memories, the Red Guards burned, maimed and killed everything and everyone in their path.

It is not much of a surprise that Noam Chomsky, Angela Davis, Tom Hayden are with Kissinger. It is not much of a surprise that Jane Fonda and Susan Sarandon are with Kissinger. They have never been with America. Well, that's not quite true. In her Barbarella period Jane Fonda hated only her father, not yet her country.

One might understand Marisa Tomei. It's been a long time between major parts and that must be America's fault. After all, has she not demonstrated in "My Cousin Vinny" that she knows more about automobiles than anyone else - except perhaps the writer who handed her the script she was to recite? She must think something's wrong with the rest of us.

But Ben Cohen must have sold enough of Ben & Jerry's ice cream to start his own personal Communist International. How much money does he need to go and live in a country he likes?

The scholarly contributions in the text underneath the roster of names might have come from Edward Said, a wonderful person, long on the payroll of Columbia University to spread his poison. We learn: "But the mourning had barely begun [after 9/11], when the highest leaders of the land unleashed a spirit of revenge...The only possible answer was to be war abroad and repression at home."

Right. Don't you remember? Immediately after 9/11, the U.S. Air Force bombed Mecca, Bagdad, Damascus and Tehran. And all the signatories were arrested, so that they had to place this ad from their jail cells.

But wait. I just noticed Kurt Vonnegut's name in bold block capitals. Perhaps the whole thing is just one of his novels.

Puzzle: "Let the world hear our pledge," begins the closing statement. Why then advertise in an American newspaper? Why not in the countries they intend to address, the countries they clearly admire - the countries where they might prefer to live?

"We extend a hand to those around the world suffering from these policies," we read. "We will show our solidarity in word and deed."

Well, wonderful people, you have done the word. Now to the deed. Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden will gladly accept your contributions and provide you with a residence while you do the deed. You can choose between Abu Nidal's recently vacated abode in Bagdad, or any number of caves.