In 1940 playwright and humorist George S. Kaufman, who made his living mocking everyone, wrote a satirical story titled “The Great Caviar Riots” for The Nation magazine. In the story he mocks both the culture of protest and members of the upper classes, who take to the streets to regain their culinary class privileges.
Today, Cindy Sheehan, a heroic woman who refuses to be the “good mother” sending her son to his death in a foreign war with the heartfelt thanks of her government, has challenged the right-wing media who defame her for speaking truth to power by telling them to either join the Army and go to Iraq themselves or send their sons and daughters.
Sheehan’s remarks and Kaufman’s old story inspired me to come up with this tongue-in-cheek idea: a “Patriot Draft” for the rich and the Right.
Since liberals and the Left are neither brave nor trustworthy, according to the Right, why not give them all deferments and restrict the draft to conservative Republicans aged 18-62 (those old enough to vote and not old enough to collect Social Security). Since lower-income people and the poor are also not trustworthy, according to the Right, give them deferments, too, and restrict the draft to families with household incomes above $200,000.
Protests would of course begin immediately. On the New York Stock Exchange, hundreds would step forward to sign Vouchers of Resistance to the “Patriot Draft.” Draft counselors would tell clients to sell their condos and donate stocks to charities to reduce their incomes. Country-clubbers would buy audiotapes of the collected works of Marx and Engels to prove to the Bush administration that they were not “patriots,” at least as George W. Bush would define patriotism. Wealthy women would march in the streets denouncing the government for forcing their millionaire middle-aged husbands to desert them.
Colonies of millionaire draft dodgers would spring up in Monaco and Bali and the American Enterprise Institute and Heritage Foundation would relocate there. The heavy drafting of Federalist Society members would create a real crisis in right-wing judicial appointments.
But this would be just the beginning. Faced with a growing upper-class insurgency, the administration would try to accuse the protesters of being foreign agents, but it would be difficult to create mass fear against Monaco, Liechtenstein, or even Switzerland, whose banking laws would attract many of the protesters.
Finally, Bush would accuse his enemies of being sushi-munching agents of Japanese empire and ban sushi from all menus on the grounds that it was encouraging draft resistance (except of course for an American version, which would be officially called “freedom fish”).
Opposition to administration policy would begin to trickle down to the masses of people when multimillion-dollar NFL quarterbacks were drafted. The Country Club Draft Resistance movement would be joined by a new mass organization, the HCLF (Howard Cosell Liberation Front). A national beer boycott would follow, along with Japanese creditors withdrawing funds because of the sushi ban.
The administration’s bombing of Monaco, which it accused of harboring draft dodgers, terrorists and weapons of mass destruction, would be answered by a NATO counterattack. As the economy collapsed, Bush would seek asylum in Taliban-controlled areas of Pakistan along with Rumsfeld, Cheney and Bolton.
An Interim Government of National Salvation, including liberals, communists, socialists, and NFL football players, would then be established and a policy of deRepublicanization would be launched. The government would try to repair relations with the United Nations and hope that the UN would intervene to compel the Taliban to extradite Bush and the other fugitives, short of military action.
In the U.S., most people would see the events as the result of a government that had gotten away with so much that it thought it could get away with anything, including making its upper-class supporters act out its ideology as draftees. They would ask: Why did they launch the Patriot Draft? Why did they invade Iraq to fight terrorists and find weapons of mass destruction? Why did they call Iraq, Iran and North Korea an “axis of evil”? Was it blind pursuit of profit, as the Marxists (who were now being taken seriously) said? Was it a combination of religious fanaticism and sheer stupidity, as the liberals generally believed? The only thing that everyone was sure about was that the Right stole the 2000 election to gain power and after that called everything they did an extension of democracy.
Satire aside, today the Bush administration has shown us that it is capable of saying and doing anything to defend the privileges of the rich and powerful. The only way to have a “happy ending,” Hollywood or otherwise, for the U.S. and the world is to concentrate all of our efforts, 24/7, on driving the Republican Right from power and repairing the damage they have done for so long.
Norman Markowitz is a history professor at Rutgers University.