The Common Good
March-April 2003

Bad Dog, Barney…

by Ed Spivey Jr. | March-April 2003

Remember the TV commercial where a man is walking down a dark city street and nervously glances back at two shadowy figures?

Remember the TV commercial where a man is walking down a dark city street and nervously glances back at two shadowy figures? The tension builds until the figures step into the light and reveal themselves as Boy Scouts, leaving the man visibly relieved (and a little embarrassed) that he'd completely misjudged the situation. Then the Boy Scouts beat the crap out of him and steal his wallet.

Okay, I made up that last part, because mental editing of TV commercials is what separates us from lower forms of life, such as Karl Rove. But these days, walking down the street in fear seems a fitting metaphor for the times we live in, because at any moment a bunch of Boy Scouts could run up and beat the crap out of us. Although, again, that's just a metaphor, so it won't actually be Boy Scouts. They could be dressed like Boy Scouts, but then it would be a disguise and not a metaphor, so it's probably not relevant. But let's just move on.

IT'S A SCARY TIME. It seems like every rogue nation in the world (except Iraq) is developing nuclear weapons. The countries without nukes already have chemical and biological weapons (though fortunately none have been found in Iraq). And at last count, there were hundreds of al Qaeda operatives living secretly in our country (though probably none of them are from Iraq). Not to mention the fact that global terrorist networks are being financed by shadowy figures all over the Middle East (except in Iraq).

I think I finally understand why we're considering a pre-emptive strike against Iraq: It's too late to be pre-emptive with anybody else. And if you can't be pre-emptive (literally, "when good guys shoot first"), you can't send in the military, right? Nope, you have to use (pronounce with a whiney sneer) the State Department instead—and let's face it, nobody's going to hang an American flag on his SUV for boring ol' [whining sneer again] diplomatic initiatives. Heck no! WAR brings a country together! And it's WAR that gives us a sense of common experience. (That, and regressive tax policies, deteriorating environmental protections, and an abysmally inequitable health care system.)

And then there's North Korea and its president, who looks like a Slobodan Milosevic celebrity Pez dispenser that got left in the car on a hot summer day (and is none too happy about it). Experts say what he wants—besides contact lenses in "today's hot colors!"—is simply a "place at the table." Just make sure the Beloved Leader doesn't sit next to the South Koreans since he'd probably snitch their dessert (or, as Kim Jong Il calls it, "Beloved Dessert").

So, as we approach this new season of war, it's important that the president have the full confidence and support of the American people, and not just the Electoral College. Because it is he alone who must assess the threats to our nation, and he alone who must make that lonely walk across the hall and ask Dick Cheney what to do.

The war preparations in the White House are intense—various pant legs rushing to and fro, and seldom a pat on the head to soothe things down. Of course, I'm talking about the only view of the White House that outsiders get nowadays: the Barney Cam, a camera attached to the First Dog's collar. It's the brainchild of the First Lady's office, which puts the pictures on the official White House Web site, thus providing a dog's-eye view of the places where history is being made. Or at least sniffed.

Barney travels from room to room, giving us a perspective of the White House that visitors seldom see, unless they're 14 inches tall, or perhaps crawling around on their stomachs hiding Enron files under the furniture.

Here's a picture of the elegant dining room, where dignitaries from all over the world never seem to drop anything good off their plates.

Here's the Oval Office, which has no corners, which is a good thing, since corners always seem to make people yell "bad dog!" at Barney. (And there's that guy who sits around all day holding a briefcase hand-cuffed to his wrist. He hates it when Barney starts sniffing around. Plus, he never wants to play fetch with the "football.")

There is much more for the American people to see, but right now Barney's anxiously looking for someone to let him outside, and they better do it quick because Barney was VERY THIRSTY earlier and doesn't much care if people are busy with war preparations because Barney really needs to go to the Rose Garden right now!

No Barney! Not on the vice president's secret papers! Bad dog.

Ed Spivey Jr. is art director of Sojourners.

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