Michael P. Ackley has worked more than three decades as a journalist, the majority of that time at the Sacramento Union. His experience includes reporting, editing and writing commentary. He retired from teaching journalism for California State University at Hayward.More ↓Less ↑
Editor’s note: Michael Ackley’s columns may include satire and parody based on current events, and thus mix fact with fiction. He assumes informed readers will be able to tell the difference.
The story yet circulates in the family of Barack Obama, as it is retold here by his third cousin, thrice removed, Ima Onyango.
“I remember it, clear as day,” she chuckles. “Grandma Madelyn was really angry. ‘Barack,’ she hollered. ‘Come here. What is this line in red crayon doing on the kitchen linoleum?’
“And Barack, he said, ‘I didn’t draw that red line. Somebody else drew that red line.’ Goodness, how we all laughed and laughed.”
Of course, our president finds himself in a similar situation now, and his disavowal of red-line artistry is resonating as hollowly now as it did when he was a kid in his grandma’s kitchen. So, to help him out, we offer some other oratorical flourishes he might employ to justify an attack on Syria.
1) “We must act militarily to strengthen world order. Around the globe are people whose well-being rests, in part, on the belief that they can count on us. … To leave (Syria) to its fate would shake the confidence of all these people in the value of an American commitment and in the value of America’s word. The result would be increased unrest and instability, and even wider war.”
2) “Our allies and our partners are also counting on us in this situation. The people of (Israel, of Jordan, of Turkey) each look next door and they see that they’re one stiff breeze away from the potential of being hurt, their civilians being killed as a consequence of choices (Assad) might take in the absence of action. They anxiously await our assurance that our word means something.
3) “Throughout this entire long period, I have been sustained by a single principle: that what we are doing now in (Syria) is vital not only to the security of the (Middle East) but it is vital to the security of every American.”
4) “In 1963, President Kennedy, with his characteristic eloquence and clarity, said: ‘[W]e want to see a stable government in (Syria). … We believe strongly in that. We are not going to withdraw from that effort. In my opinion, for us to withdraw from that effort would mean a collapse not only of (Syria), but the (Middle East). So we are going to stay there.”
Well, all right then. We’re sure Barack Obama and his speech writers could find much more in the way of useful rhetoric in other utterances by presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon. All they have to do is remove “Vietnam” and other regional references and insert “Syria” and other regional names, as I did.
To be fair, we should provide similar help to opponents of a military adventure in Syria. They might draw inspiration from a Vietnam-era protest speaker.
For example, they might modify one of his sentences to read, “In our opinion and from our experience, there is nothing in (Syria) which could happen that realistically threatens the United States of America.”
Or, “To attempt to justify the loss of one American life in (Syria) by linking such loss to the preservation of freedom, which those misfits supposedly abuse, is to us the height of criminal hypocrisy.”
They also could say, “We find that not only is (Syria’s) a civil war, we find most people there don’t even know the difference between (Islamism) and democracy.”
We’re sure Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon, being deceased, won’t mind if Obama cribs from their speeches. However, that old, anti-war protester might object to the use of his utterances.
That protester now says our allies “anxiously await our assurance that our word means something.” That former protester would be Obama’s secretary of state, John Kerry.
A truly hot topic: We cannot fail to add our thanks to those of thousands of Tuolumne County, Calif., residents for firefighters’ heroic efforts to control what likely will become the largest wildfire in Golden State history.
As we write this, this conflagration has consumed more than 360 square miles of forest, from the foothills of the Mother Lode to within the boundaries of our treasured Yosemite National Park.
At one point, more than 5,000 firefighters attacked with military precision by land and air, protecting thousands of homes from destruction. Containment lines now have the blaze nearly surrounded, but officials don’t expect it to be “out” until the snows fall this winter.
I’d just like to add my own thanks to the hundreds of hand-lettered signs of gratitude that have sprouted in front yards and on fence lines throughout that beautiful part of the country.