In the 1998 movie "Soldier," Sgt. Todd is talking to the woman who nursed him back to health when she asks: "What are you going to do?"
Todd replies: "I'm going to kill them all, sir."
Excellent. Just the sort of response we expect from a soldier and by which we understand that his spirit, if not his body, is intact. War is hell, but somebody has to prevail and preferably that somebody is "us."
Or maybe not. Given the breathless reaction to Lt. Gen. James N. Mattis of the U.S. Marine Corps, who had the audacity to speak candidly - admitting that he sometimes enjoys his work - maybe we'd be happier if Todd said something (cue violins) along these lines:
"Actually, Sandra - may I call you Sandra? - I've been thinking about that. As soon as I'm all patched up, I'm going to get some therapy and seek forgiveness from those who left me for dead."
Whereupon Sandra says, "Oopsey-daisy, we're fresh out of painkillers."
That's a joke, I hasten to add, lest the bow-tied brigades of humorless harrumphers unleash a Deeply Offended jeremiad my way.
That I have to say so ruins the joke, of course, but so it goes in the briar patch these days. I do not personally wish to inflict pain and suffering on anyone, but - if I may speak candidly - I don't mind if a few murdering Islamofascists cease contributing to depletion of Earth's precious oxygen supply.
Oh, chortle, chortle. If only Mattis had said some such, or thrown out some "attic humor," as humorist Christopher Buckley once put it. You know, the sort of bon mot that elicits precious titters from the studiously dowdy. Why, then, Mattis would be the darling of dyspeptic America instead of the barbarian anathema he's become.
But, alas, Mattis isn't a parlor boy; he's a kick-down-the-door Marine who, as a military friend defines the job, "takes human life on behalf of the nation." Mattis doesn't speak latte; he speaks spit. So instead of making some arch remark about how to conduct warfare against terrorists, he ignited a national snit by saying that he found killing the enemy, in so many words, not unpleasant.
His precise words were: "Actually, it's a lot of fun to fight. You know, it's a hell of a hoot. . It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right up front with you, I like brawling." Mattis told a San Diego gathering that included military personnel, many of whom reportedly laughed.
Then Mattis went on to clarify who "some people" are.