Yes, Virginia, There Are Pantywaists

1 June 2004

George and I Are Pantywaists

by Craig J. Cantoni

I’m a pantywaist, a liberal, a pacifist and an appeaser. And I hate soldiers, cops, firefighters and anyone else in a uniform.

Not really. But that’s what Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and other ”conservative” talk-radio blowhards would say about me. Why? Because I believe that the Iraq war is a mistake and will make us less secure. And I don’t believe that anyone who wears a uniform is automatically a hero and deserving of adulation.

In reality, I’m a former artillery captain who still has an artist’s rendition hanging on his office wall of a forward observer sitting in a mud hole, surrounded by hordes of Red Chinese, with binoculars around his neck and a map in front of him. The caption reads, ”The Greatest Killer on the Battlefield.”

As the drawing suggests, I have no problem incinerating people and nations if they are a threat to my family, my neighbors or the nation, and if doing so will eliminate the threat and make us safer. Nor do I have a problem with preemption and telling France and the United Nations to put croissants up their nose, if doing so will make us safer.

I strongly dislike Jane Fonda, Hillary Clinton and Ted Kennedy, and would like to put croissants up their nose. At the same time, I strongly disagree with the foreign policy of Paul Wolfowitz and other neocons, and would like to put croissants up their nose. Because I disagree with the latter, it doesn’t follow, ipso facto, that I like the former, as talk-radio blowhards would have their listeners believe. And because I find it painful to listen to President Bush’s speeches and follow his thinking, it doesn’t mean that I believe that John Kerry is presidential material or that I’m an unpatriotic liberal.

The fact is, I was in the Army Reserves for eight years after active duty and saw firsthand that some reservists had joined for the extra money, some for macho reasons, some because they worked for the government in civilian life and could get plenty of time off for summer camps and special training, some because they craved authority that they couldn’t get in their civilian jobs, and some for patriotic reasons. Some were malingerers, some were incompetent, some were disadvantaged with few other options in life, and some were dedicated professionals.

I also realize that firefighters and police officers have a wide range of motives for choosing their profession. Some police officers want to help society, some want a nice uniform and retirement, some are thugs, and some get an undeserved bad rap, as I believe was the case in the Rodney King affair. Some firefighters risk their lives to save others; some start fires for the thrill of it, as was the case recently in Phoenix; and some, as in my hometown, gorge themselves at the public trough with union featherbedding and rich pensions.

Putting on a police or firefighter uniform doesn’t change human nature, instantly transforming the wearer into a hero, as the Right believes, or into a villain, as the Left believes.

Moreover, it is counter to the facts to believe that policing and firefighting are any more dangerous than other lines of work. For example, the fatality rate for law enforcement officers is about the same as roofers. In 2003, 148 officers were killed while on duty, with over half of those the result of auto accidents or other on-the-job accidents. Much more dangerous occupations include taxi drivers and convenience store clerks.

To me, an unsung hero is the Indian immigrant who toils long hours in his inner-city convenience store without knowing if his next customer will blow his head off. He has no medical plan, no pension, no uniform, no special status in society, and no firearm or training in how to use one. Nor does his family get a fancy funeral, public adulation and death benefits if he his killed ”in the line of duty.” However, he does get called a ”dot” and overhears other snide remarks about his appearance and accent from other racial minorities. But don’t look for coverage of this racism by establishment reporters, who want the public to believe that only white Anglo-Saxons can be racist.

Don’t get me wrong. I applaud when a police officer or firefighter does something that is worthy of applause. For example, four firefighters in my hometown recently saved the life of a boy by lifting a car off of him. It doesn’t matter if civilian passersby would have done the same thing. The guys are deserving of public praise.

I also defend the police when they warrant it. For example, when I was shopping in a liberal enclave in the New York metropolitan area during the Rodney King affair and overheard some customers parroting the one-sided coverage on the local news, I interrupted and said, ”It’s too bad that you automatically conclude that the police are at fault and that there can’t be another side to this.” They looked at me as if I were a jackbooted Nazi.

The point is, talk-radio blowhards engage in black-and-white thinking like the liberals they criticize. To them, you’re either for something or against something. There is no gray in their world, no nuances. Just like the Left, everything is a litmus test. According to the Right, if you’re against the Iraq war, you fail the litmus test of patriotism. According to the Left, if you’re against socialized medicine or another collectivist scheme, you fail the litmus test of compassion.

Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Hillary Clinton and Ted Kennedy have three other traits in common. First, they live in an echo chamber, only hearing their one-sided beliefs repeated over and over again and not letting new ideas inside. Like being in a closed garage with a car engine running, they breathe their own exhaust and exhibit all the signs of being poisoned by intellectual carbon monoxide. For Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, they like to hear themselves talk and shut down callers who disagree with them. For Hillary Clinton and Ted Kennedy, they live in the cocoon of the East Coast liberal establishment and think that the New York Times is a balanced newspaper.

The second thing they have in common is a love of government power. Both sides want to use government power to remake the world into their image.

And the last thing they have in common is this: The contemporary liberalism of Ted Kennedy and Hillary Clinton, and the contemporary conservatism of Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, are at odds with the classical liberalism of George Washington, who, if alive today, would be opposed to the collectivism of the Left and the foreign escapades of the Right.

But, as we know, Washington was a non-compassionate pantywaist.

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Mr. Cantoni is an author and columnist. He can be reached at ccan2@aol.com

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