Fortunate son

Kevin Horrigan is St. Louis' resident Molly Ivins wanna—be. An outsider. A rebel with a word processor and crazy, nonconformist liberal views. St. Louis, like most other big cities, is down to one major newspaper and one alternative weekly. Both make Mao's Little Red Book look like the genteel prose of a moderate. Like Big Bad Molly, Horrigan is a Texan. He began his career writing sports, first in Kansas City, then in St. Louis. But interviewing lunkheaded athletes and coaches quickly drains of its intellectual challenge, even for guys like Horrigan who do not necessarily require much challenge. He left the Post in the 90s when offered a political column in a new start—up paper. But the St. Louis Sun went down almost as fast as the Titanic. After a few stints on radio and nearly hitting bottom as a columnist for a suburban weekly throwaway, Horrigan was rescued from obscurity and thrust back into the dull St. Louis limelight. For the past few years his Post—Dispatch op—ed column has been passing itself off as that peculiar brand of Midwestern intellectual fare known to the rest of the country as bewilderment.

This week Horrigan was one of many liberal crusaders beating the drum for a new draft. Not because he has suddenly sprouted the dark wings of the hawk and thinks the draft would benefit the U.S. war effort. Likely it would have the opposite effect. Horrigan, a genuine fortunate son who avoided service in Viet Nam through a series of student deferments, thinks that if the draft were reinstituted Americans and their leaders would be more hesitant to send their children to die in foreign wars. We wouldn't rush blindly into so many dumb conflicts, like Somalia and Bosnia and Grenada and Kuwait. He's not sure about Afghanistan. "If more of the sons and daughters of America's haves had to share the sacrifice, or even had to risk the chance of sharing the sacrifice, America might be a whole lot more careful about where and when it went to war. Waving the bloody flag is a lot harder when it's your blood on the flag."

Oh, yes. There's one small problem with this. There was a draft before and during the Viet Nam and Korean wars and it didn't stop the U.S. from sending troops overseas. Lots of troops. Mostly the same kind of troops that are going to Iraq and Afghanistan now, semi—literate ghetto and jerkwater kids, mainly because middle—class heroes like Horrigan were able to get a series of deferments. Did someone say deferment? Oh, the guilt! Tremendous, elephantine guilt. Not so much during the war when there was still a chance he could lose his deferment, but now...horrible, Gut—wrenching guilt! Such guilt makes a peacenik do strange and curious things, like come out for the draft now that one is well into his fifties, sluggish and a good 60 pounds overweight.

 

It doesn't take corrective lenses to see that Horrigan isn't really concerned about the draft or the insurgency in Iraq, but that like any true egalitarian what he really cares about is equality. And not the ineffectual equality of opportunity, but the more profound, more radical equality of outcome. Exactly! What America needs is a true radical egalitarianism where the lazy and the ambitious are equals, where the genius is the equivalent of the idiot. That's why this whole volunteer army thing irks Horrigan because it is the poor, the semi—illiterate kids who are marching off to the dessert, not the middle—class kids (although Horrigan's own soldier son, now in Iraq, is an obvious exception). Horrigan wants to see dentists and chiropractors and sandpaper salesmen driving those convoys through Fallujah. Why not? Dentists can drive, can't they? Besides, nobody likes dentists anyway...the damn sadists.

 

As for the poor kids that insist on volunteering, Horrigan would prefer they remain in the ghettos and backwaters, unemployed, ping—ponging between trailer court and corrections facility. What good is acquiring a bit of discipline, technical training, getting a chance to go on to college if you are dead?  Horrigan asks, unable to visualize the other 90 percent who will not be dead any time soon, who will come home to the States with opportunities and training and the discipline to stick to something.

Forget give peace a chance. Let's give the accountants and public relations specialists and sandpaper salesmen a chance...a chance to see Iraq and Afghanistan, so this great egalitarian society of ours won't get any more out of whack. After all we can't have more smart people than dumb people. We can't have more well—off people than poor people. So let's ship the well—off to Baghdad. Who knows, maybe we'll get lucky——really lucky——and a few of them will get shot. That ought to even things out.

Christopher Orlet is a frequent contributor. His web site is www.christopherorlet.net

Kevin Horrigan is St. Louis' resident Molly Ivins wanna—be. An outsider. A rebel with a word processor and crazy, nonconformist liberal views. St. Louis, like most other big cities, is down to one major newspaper and one alternative weekly. Both make Mao's Little Red Book look like the genteel prose of a moderate. Like Big Bad Molly, Horrigan is a Texan. He began his career writing sports, first in Kansas City, then in St. Louis. But interviewing lunkheaded athletes and coaches quickly drains of its intellectual challenge, even for guys like Horrigan who do not necessarily require much challenge. He left the Post in the 90s when offered a political column in a new start—up paper. But the St. Louis Sun went down almost as fast as the Titanic. After a few stints on radio and nearly hitting bottom as a columnist for a suburban weekly throwaway, Horrigan was rescued from obscurity and thrust back into the dull St. Louis limelight. For the past few years his Post—Dispatch op—ed column has been passing itself off as that peculiar brand of Midwestern intellectual fare known to the rest of the country as bewilderment.

This week Horrigan was one of many liberal crusaders beating the drum for a new draft. Not because he has suddenly sprouted the dark wings of the hawk and thinks the draft would benefit the U.S. war effort. Likely it would have the opposite effect. Horrigan, a genuine fortunate son who avoided service in Viet Nam through a series of student deferments, thinks that if the draft were reinstituted Americans and their leaders would be more hesitant to send their children to die in foreign wars. We wouldn't rush blindly into so many dumb conflicts, like Somalia and Bosnia and Grenada and Kuwait. He's not sure about Afghanistan. "If more of the sons and daughters of America's haves had to share the sacrifice, or even had to risk the chance of sharing the sacrifice, America might be a whole lot more careful about where and when it went to war. Waving the bloody flag is a lot harder when it's your blood on the flag."

Oh, yes. There's one small problem with this. There was a draft before and during the Viet Nam and Korean wars and it didn't stop the U.S. from sending troops overseas. Lots of troops. Mostly the same kind of troops that are going to Iraq and Afghanistan now, semi—literate ghetto and jerkwater kids, mainly because middle—class heroes like Horrigan were able to get a series of deferments. Did someone say deferment? Oh, the guilt! Tremendous, elephantine guilt. Not so much during the war when there was still a chance he could lose his deferment, but now...horrible, Gut—wrenching guilt! Such guilt makes a peacenik do strange and curious things, like come out for the draft now that one is well into his fifties, sluggish and a good 60 pounds overweight.

 

It doesn't take corrective lenses to see that Horrigan isn't really concerned about the draft or the insurgency in Iraq, but that like any true egalitarian what he really cares about is equality. And not the ineffectual equality of opportunity, but the more profound, more radical equality of outcome. Exactly! What America needs is a true radical egalitarianism where the lazy and the ambitious are equals, where the genius is the equivalent of the idiot. That's why this whole volunteer army thing irks Horrigan because it is the poor, the semi—illiterate kids who are marching off to the dessert, not the middle—class kids (although Horrigan's own soldier son, now in Iraq, is an obvious exception). Horrigan wants to see dentists and chiropractors and sandpaper salesmen driving those convoys through Fallujah. Why not? Dentists can drive, can't they? Besides, nobody likes dentists anyway...the damn sadists.

 

As for the poor kids that insist on volunteering, Horrigan would prefer they remain in the ghettos and backwaters, unemployed, ping—ponging between trailer court and corrections facility. What good is acquiring a bit of discipline, technical training, getting a chance to go on to college if you are dead?  Horrigan asks, unable to visualize the other 90 percent who will not be dead any time soon, who will come home to the States with opportunities and training and the discipline to stick to something.

Forget give peace a chance. Let's give the accountants and public relations specialists and sandpaper salesmen a chance...a chance to see Iraq and Afghanistan, so this great egalitarian society of ours won't get any more out of whack. After all we can't have more smart people than dumb people. We can't have more well—off people than poor people. So let's ship the well—off to Baghdad. Who knows, maybe we'll get lucky——really lucky——and a few of them will get shot. That ought to even things out.

Christopher Orlet is a frequent contributor. His web site is www.christopherorlet.net