Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Limbaugh SLAMMED on-air...


Andrew Sullivan posted a transcript and audio recording of a caller who, somehow, slipped past the call screeners during Rush Limbaugh's radio call-in show. When the caller, who claimed to be a former Marine and US Army veteran, was put on the air, he really ripped Rush a new cake hole over Limbaugh's support for the torture of "enemy combatant" detainees.

Read the transcript, or listen to the audio recording HERE.

This sort of thing is so immensely gratifying to me because of an incident that happened to me in 1989, when I was a student at the Art Institute of Chicago. One of my fellow students, a guy named "Dredd Scott", put a piece in the senior art show titled "What Is The Proper Way To Display A US Flag?". (Sorry in advance if this photo throws off the page formatting - text continues below the image...)


The piece featured a collage under which was set a comment book. On the floor, was an American flag, positioned so that it was basically impossible to read or write in the comment book without stepping on the flag.

Now, anyone who was a Cub Scout knows that even allowing the flag to touch the ground is bad enough, but to actually invite people to step on it is... well, it's "bad form" to say the least. Scott wanted the piece to be confrontational, and confrontation was what he got.

Once the media picked up on the piece, we had massive protests outside the Art Institute. Veterans waving banners at traffic on Michigan Avenue that read: "Honk if you love the US Flag!!!" and such. Guys in camo fatigues and elderly veterans in suits wearing VFW hats - the works.

Walking to school, I was routinely shouted at by passing pickup trucks, usually curses and profanity. Guess they could tell from my long hair and art supplies that I was one of "those Goddamn art school fascists" or something. At one point, a pickup (always a pickup for some reason...) pulled up to the curb outside our main building and a man got out of the truck with a hunting rifle brandished in his hands, then stood and waved it around, screaming, as students dove frantically behind concrete walls for cover. For several eternal seconds, I was sure I was about to be shot.

Fortunately, Chicago's Finest dropped him with a body tackle and disarmed him, and nobody was hurt. "I only wanted to scare them!" he protested as they stuffed him into the back of a police car.

"I only wanted to scare them!"

At the height of the frenzy, a group of US veterans from the local VFW showed up, three guys pushing three other guys in wheelchairs, to see the piece. At this point, the show was still open to the public. Cameras followed them down the usually quiet halls, shining bright lights.

They stopped in front of the Dredd Scott's "American Flag" (not bothering with anything else on display - I still feel sorry for everyone else there who's work was likely overlooked when the gallery was later closed to the public). They stared at the piece with frowning faces. With the cameras rolling, one bent and snatched the flag off the floor, and the group, still on camera, was immediately led from the gallery by our security guards, shouting all the while.

Except for one man...

Unnoticed by all, one of the wheelchair veterans had distanced himself from his fellows in the lead-up to the confrontation. As the rest of them were hurried out in their cocoon of shouting art students and video lights, he sat, near the wall, watching the action with a sad expression on his face. He followed them down the hall when the excitement had waned.

Outside, the veterans, still clutching the flag, gave interviews to CNN. They decried the artist's "disrespect" for the flag, oblivious to the disrespect they had shown for his art. The wheelchair veteran sat at the fringes, watching.

"Excuse me, sir," I said, walking up to him, "but I couldn't help but notice that you're not up there with your friends, and that you didn't join in with them when they yanked the flag off the floor. Can I ask you why?"

He sighed. "Well," he said, "the way I figure it, I lost the use of my legs fighting for that artist's freedom of speech, and if I went and took that away from him, what kind of American would I be? It would make everything I sacrificed in service to my country and what that flag stands for worthless."

I was thunderstruck then, and thinking about it now, twenty years later, I still get a chill. This was easily the best civics lesson I've ever received, and it took 10 minutes and came completely as an accident.

I've never forgotten the lesson that veteran taught me.

Cut to 2009, and this caller on Rush Limbaugh's show, a showcase for the rantings of yet another extremist who "only wants to scare them!". Cut to this veteran upbraiding Rush for supporting torture in the name of freedom.

"We are not supposed to torture people," this veteran, a former Marine and member of the US Army said. "What's the matter with you?"

Excellent question. I'm just glad that he made it through to voice his opinions on the air. Good for you, sir.



Anonymous said...

If my child was being held hostage by a group of terrorists, I'd hope that my government would do all it could to find out from known comrades of the terrorists where they were holding him and how to get my child back safely. If that comrade was of the mindset that he would not divulge that information, I would be willing to PERSONALLY torture them to get them to talk. Wouldn't you, for your child? I mean, if they made the first attack on you and your loved ones, don't you think you'd have the right to use whatever force necessary to get your loved ones back if polite inquiries failed? BTW-your story about the Veteran is truly very moving.

Matt Cook said...

The problem with your question (IMHO) is that the scenario you're setting up is NOT what happened. We tortured enemy combatants because the Bush administration claimed that they were not eligible for consideration under the Geneva Conventions of Warfare. This was not a hostage situation - they wanted intelligence on an attack that might or might not be about to happen.

Besides the fact that torture is simply immoral (Americans. Do. Not. Torture.), what we did also hurt us politically with Muslims all over thee world, distanced us from our European allies, and, I really do believe, shamed us all as citizens.

Plus, even the CIA and every other intelligence profesional interviewed was pretty clear that the info obtained under torture is basically worthless... THink about it - Iif I were, say, torturing AN INNOCENT MAN in your kidnap scenario, eventually he WOULD try and tell me what I want to hear, simply to make the pain stop. Does that get me any closer to actually finding my kids? no. It simply wastes my time and shames me, all while sarring forever the innocent man i was torturing. Not a good use of my time.

But, in the end my main reason is still this: we're Americans, and we claim to be better than this. I really think that the moment we surrender to our base instincts (namely fear) that we've lost something that makes us fundamentally American.

But, hey, disagree... that's what freedom means - that we CAN disagree and discuss it in public without people picking up, say, hunting rifles. =)

Anonymous said...

I agree. I wasn't saying the government should or shouldn't have tortured those people, I was just saying that I believe there are cases where I would be on the side that says, "Go ahead." So, I'm not a completely anti-torture person. I understand your position that American's should be better than that. And I also agree that being able to talk in public about our disagreements makes this the best country on the planet. :-) BTW, you have a lot of funny stuff here, the videos, etc.

Matt Cook said...

Well said, and I wish that all "Anonymous" commenters were as polite as you. Thank you sir/madam. =)

Glad you like the site - come back any time.

FernFairy said...

I wanted to thank you for this post. I was reading a book that referenced that art exhibit but wanted more information. The first hand account is a valuable lesson that I feel needs to be more widely understood. Thank you.

Matt said...

You're quite welcome, and thanks for posting!