Sandbox sermons

Burt Prelutsky
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Posted: May 11, 2006 12:05 PM

Quite often when people are in a mood to insult world leaders, they'll accuse them of behaving like children. To which I say, I only wish it were so.

The fact of the matter is that most kids have a very moral take on things. Because they are small and weak, their very survival requires total concentration and a very clear focus. They have a heightened sense of good and bad because their lives consist of inevitable repercussions.

Whereas most adults can get away with stuff so long as cops and the IRS don't find out about it, kids are nearly always under extremely close scrutiny. That's why children will often be heard to say, "That's not fair" or "You cheated" or "It's my turn." They make concise and immediate moral judgments that would make a Jesuit's head spin. It is behavior not much favored by grown-ups, most of whom exist in a world of moral ambiguity; after a certain age, black and whites disappear in a morass of grays.

For instance, adults recognize that illegal immigration is an enormous problem in America. Even before 9/11, it was a major headache. Millions of Hispanics crossing our border were adding a terrible burden to our schools, our hospitals and, yes, our prisons. States such as California, Texas and Arizona, were being overrun by these invaders whose very first act in their new country was to break the law!

When some people dared to state concern, their voices were drowned out by the Hispanic politicians looking to tie up blocs of votes and the Catholic hierarchy looking to fill up empty pews.

Suggest that the country didn't really need ten million unskilled laborers and you were denounced as a racist. Suggest that Americans would bus tables and pick lettuce if the price were right, and you were flogged as an enemy of free enterprise.

I have argued long and hard that most Americans would rather pay an extra five cents for a head of lettuce than to subsidize the farm industry with illegal laborers. But the politicians continue to champion the bracero program as if it were the answer to a prayer. And I suppose it is if you're running for office, own a ten thousand acre farm in the Imperial Valley, or head up a diocese.

Of course if I were a kid, I could have saved my breath. Explain to a seven-year-old that there are millions of people all over the world, their names on official lists, waiting their turn to enter America legally, and he'd sum up the illegal alien problem with a terse, "No fair taking cuts!"

Or consider the situation in Iraq. President Bush has been under attack for a few years now because we never found the so-called smoking gun. Allow me to make a long-overdue confession: It never made much difference to me if Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. For my part, I didn't even require proof positive that he played an active role in the 9/11 atrocities. I was satisfied that he funded suicide bombers and that he gassed Kurds, that he invaded Kuwait in an attempt to gain control of its oil fields, and that, without declaring war, he fired scud missiles into Israel, and that was good enough--or bad enough--for me.

I'm even willing to go on record to state that if the only thing he'd done during his tenure was to torture and murder his fellow Iraqis, I'd be happy to see my tax dollars go to exterminating the Butcher of Baghdad.

I realize that it is anathematic for many Americans to even consider waging war against a country that hasn't bombed Pearl Harbor. But, frankly, I don't know why.  These people go ballistic when they hear of a few Iraqis killed inadvertently by allied soldiers, but when it comes to Hussein's reign of terror that victimized tens of thousands of those same Iraqis, they merely stifle a yawn and mumble something in French.

To all of them, I pose a single question: If Hitler hadn't invaded other countries, should the world have given him carte blanche to do whatever he wished in Germany? 

Turning the clock back seventy years, would the same people who blithely equate Bush with Hitler have argued against allied intervention so long as he only tortured and gassed Jews, gays, Gypsies, Catholics, Socialists, dissidents, and the infirm, who were unfortunate enough to be German?

It seems so obvious to me that it is not merely weapons of mass destruction that should inflame our sense of injustice, it is also evil of massive proportion.

The morally vapid will continue to put their misguided faith in an organization as toothless and craven as the U.N., just as their equally naive grandparents put theirs in the League of Nations. 

Someone once said that a camel was a horse put together by a committee. In similar fashion, the specialty of world peace organizations is to make grand pronouncements of irresolute resolutions. Whether it was dealing with Italy, Germany, and Japan, in the 1930s or Iraq, North Korea, and Islamic terrorists today, the professional peacemakers can always be counted on to shake a stern finger, go "tsk-tsk," and then call for a time-out.

There's nothing very complicated about dealing with the Saddam Husseins of the world. And once again, you can find the appropriate response in the sandboxes of our land. For every third grader in America knows that schoolyard bullies never stop bullying until some kid with a bit of gumption gets fed up at long last and punches the little brat in the nose.