Saturday, May 28, 2016

Conversational Cruise Control

A two-week cruise across the Mediterranean with the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda -- celebrating their 60th birthdays and their 40th wedding anniversary -- provided the Colonel with a captive audience with whom to share his worldview.  

At dinner each evening, seated at a large table with new friends from across America and the globe, the Colonel, inspired by the day's excursion to a ubiquitous fragmentary remnant of some once-great empire -- Carthaginian, Greek, Roman, Moorish, Ottoman, etc. -- inevitably responded to some political inanity with a lesson in historical geopolitics.

Despite the shin-bruising inflicted on him by his adoring bride, the Colonel launched attack after attack on the weak defenses of knowledge and understanding possessed by his table-mates.

It always started so innocently.

"You sound like you are from the South, Ed.  Where are you from? Atlanta?

"No, there ain't nobody but transplanted yankees livin' in Atlanta anymore.  I'm from Mississippi."

You could see the mental images of bedsheets and burning crosses flash in their eyes.  "Mississippi," they would intone with a mixture of haughty superiority, disdainful disapproval, and patronizing sympathy.

The word "Mississippi" always has the same effect on the speech centers of yankees -- they start using smaller words and shorter sentences.  "So..., Ed from Mississippi, what do you do for a living?" 

"Well, George from the North Pole, in between Klan meetings and chasing girls at family reunions, there just ain't much time for work, now is there?"

At this point the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda volunteered, "He's a retired Marine; he's never been to a Klan meeting, and we are only related by marriage."

Introducing the word "Marine" into any conversation always elicits one of three immediate responses:

         -- "Thank you for your service,"

         -- "I almost joined the Marines," or

         -- "Semper Fi!," followed by a round of monosyllabic grunts and chest thumps as two Marines go through a recognition ritual as old as the Corps itself.

In this case, the combination revelation that the Colonel was a retired Marine, from Mississippi, elicited, "Well, you must be a big Trump fan, huh?  Guess you can't wait for him to start building that wall."

"Actually, I despise Trump only a little less so than the Clintons, Alabama, and LSU.  And..., empires that build walls don't last much longer as empires."

"Huh?  Wait, the United States isn't an empire."

Despite three, count 'em, three kicks from the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda, the Colonel bored in for the kill, "You folks up there just short of the arctic circle ever heard of a history book?  The United States of America is the greatest empire the world has ever known.  We don't like to call ourselves an empire, but we got all the hallmarks of one and then some."   

The Colonel's table-mates were now apprising him with looks ranging from that of finding a turd in the punchbowl to that of finding a rattlesnake in the cupboard.

The Colonel was undeterred by neither the looks nor the increasing violence and frequency of kicks to his shins, "Look, the future greatness of our Republic does not lie in the hands of an extra-constitutional executive.  The future greatness of the American Republic lies in the hands of a chief executive who will do two things -- unwaveringly uphold and abide by a strict interpretation of the Constitution; and, unite the nation in a grand mission."

"What kind of grand mission?  Sending a man to Mars?"

"Colonizing Mars would be nice, but the grand mission I have in mind is creation of a pan-hemispheric American republic stretching from the Hudson Bay to Cape Horn."

"That sounds like Manifest Destiny on steroids," one said.  Another snorted, "that's naked imperialism."

The Colonel's shins were absorbing a veritable rain of kicks -- the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda was getting quite a leg workout -- but he was on a roll and nothing short of a mortal wound was going to stop him, "You say that like it's a bad thing.  I thought we had already established that the United States was an empire."

"But, what about a people's right of self-determination?"

"Show me that clause in the Constitution. And, why shouldn't we share the protections of life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness with the rest of our neighbors?  And don't tell me they are happy where they are -- under corrupt and ineffective governments unable or unwilling to provide security and freedom to their citizens.  If their nations were so great, they wouldn't be flocking to our shores by the millions as we speak."  

"But..., but, not all cultures are are compatible with our form of democracy."

The Colonel had them right where he wanted them, "First of all, that is a racist statement and false on it's face.  Our Republic is peopled with folks from every corner of the globe who brought their culture with them when they came to our shores.  Isn't it a classical liberal tenet that our nation's strength is in part derived from our diversity?  Secondly, we aren't a democracy -- the word appears nowhere in our Constitution."

By this time dessert was finished and the Colonel and his bride excused themselves to go avail themselves of other ship-board entertainment, "Pleasure to meet y'all.  Have a nice evening."

For two weeks the Colonel was in heaven.