and "courageous" statesmen
By HENRY GALLAGHER FIELDS
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The Last Ditch doesn't ordinarily cover sporting events Strakon doesn't even seem to have a lousy bookie on call, let alone a sportswriter but one recent sweat-fest deserves comment in these otherwise sniffy pages: the humiliation of former heavyweight champ "Iron Mike" Tyson a man who started his pugilistic career with nothing and has now ended it with less than nothing, having fallen $40 million into debt.
To be sure, old H.G. himself has never been much of a sports fan. I was never an exceptional athlete, either, though I did take third place in the Peewee Marbles Tournament at the Community Playground in Arootka, Indiana, on July 17, 1953. But you guessed it I'm not going to be limiting myself to the blow-by-blow here; writing for TLD you've got to think Big Thoughts; so I'm going to draw some comparisons between the "sweet science" and the world of politics.
The pugilistic extravaganza occurred on Saturday last, in Washington City, Capital of the Free World, which hitherto had been notorious only for knuckle parties between rival lobbyists. The promoters put Rust-bucket Mike Tyson up against Irish Kevin McBride a fighter who was ranked so far down the list of heavyweights as not to even qualify for the moniker "white hope." Well, long story short, before the seventh round old Rusty Mike, feeling every minute of his 38 years, threw in the towel well, actually he was too gassed out to do any throwing; his cornermen just motioned that the end had come.
And that capitulation while the clock was stopped ignited howls of derision from the mob and the sports commentators. Bum! Coward! Sissy! Boxing aficionados were as outraged as the Roman crowd would have been if the lions had been insufficiently hungry to devour the helpless Christians. Good money had been paid to see someone get beaten to pulp, if not killed. And they wuz robbed!
In the final round he fought, Tyson seemed unable to
actually throw punches, instead resorting to head
butts; and the bell found him sprawled on the canvas,
his head stuck between the first and second ropes.
(If only Madame Defarge could have been there with
her knitting.) Now, the commentators acknowledged
that the obviously dazed and exhausted Tyson did not
have the wherewithal to continue the match as
anything other than a human punching bag. Though
Irish Kevin's punches swam through the air as
slowly as if underwater, with his 270 pounds of
bulk the massive Hibernian undoubtedly could have
leveled a perfectly stationary target such as Rust-bucket Mike eliminating whatever brain
cells Tyson still possessed and rendering him totally
inutile for any future employment other than that of
the presidency of the United States. And with his
$40 million debt, including back taxes and
alimony, the severely oxidated iron man needs to
find some type of remunerative employment. Well, too
bad; ex-champs are expected to go down fighting,
and let the neurons fall where they may; that's the
The once-Iron Mike, now a mere corroded flake, in his heyday boasted superb physical skills strength, quickness, coordination. It's true that he never showed much in the way of character, being a bully, criminal, and rapist. But coward? If we're really to call Tyson a coward for entering the ring and fighting six rounds but flinching, at last, when it came time to have his head knocked off to please the crowd, what then are we to call the "statesmen" who stay far from the fray but send thousands of people to their death in war? Officeholders are conventionally celebrated as courageous for performing those fatal feats of telephoning and paper-signing. In fact, sending people off to be killed in war is almost de rigueur for any leader if he wants to earn the mantle of greatness.
It hasn't seemed to bother anyone of importance that Wilson, Roosevelt II, and Bush II never had to face the left hook of a 270-pound palooka much less the bullets, fire, and explosions they sent thousands of men, and now women, off to face. It hasn't bothered anyone, either, that those desk-champeens never had to face the horrors to which they consigned hundreds of thousands of civilians across the globe. Courage?! You'll have a hard time finding a "statesman" of any rank brave enough even to face down powerful lobbies especially if their initials are A-I-P-A-C.
But, realistically, politics cannot be expected to reach the moral level of an enterprise as high-minded as professional prizefighting. For in the fight game, boxers are expected to follow the rules, and they're penalized if they fail to do so. Hitting below the belt can lead to a disqualification. Fixed fights are considered a criminal outrage. And, most important, the boxers are expected to actually slug it out, not simply dance around and hold on to each other. By contrast, in politics, and especially in the politics of war, anything goes. Respectable folks assume lies and cheating to be the norm: what if you gave a war and nobody lied? Didn't the illustrious Winnie Churchill say that "in wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies"?
In most wars, that bodyguard surrounds truth so comprehensively that the latter fails to make it into the visible spectrum. Today, nobody, least of all the mainstream media, is much disturbed about the obvious fact that the war in the Middle East has been based entirely on lies. That's just to be expected. Fight fans demand higher moral standards, but as we know there's a big, big difference. In the Saturday night fights a few professional boxers sometimes get hurt, and that's worth talking and writing and thinking about. In war, on the other hand, what possible difference can it make if a few million common folk are sent off to kill and be killed?
June 16, 2005
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