How would you describe the foreign policy of the United States? Or of this administration in general? Some would be charitable, some vicious. I think a totally unrelated incident earlier in my life enables me to be accurate.
In college I was active in a national student movement known as the National Student Association. I became chairman of the Virginia-Carolinas region, which gave me a seat on the National Executive Committee (NEC). Our national conventions at the end of each summer drew over a thousand delegates, but our NEC was limited to about 20, one from each region.
It was interesting how we students reflected the politics of our elders. There was never anything traumatic from our universities in Virginia and the Carolinas. We enacted our programs for student betterment, academic freedom, campaigns against racism, etc. But there was big-deal politics in the regions with the big cities. There was a miniature Cold War in the Illinois region, complete with cadres of beet-red Communists from the University of Chicago. Wisconsin gave us “playpens” of early American socialism. And of course there were endless allegations of corruption in the New York City region, which was separate from the New York State region, which more closely resembled our Virginia-Carolinas region.
The chairman of the New York City region, Hugh Schwartz, may have been the nicest and most ethical player in our entire roll-call, but don’t forget, it was New York City. And Hugh Schwartz had what coaches call “the equipment” and actors call “the factory” to be a cigar-chomping big-city political strongman. He was he-man hefty, authoritative, a quick-decider of big decisions. He was a “leader.”
There was a much less leader-looking boy in the New York City region – I think his name was Danny – who spoke in exactly the kind of whiny voice a theater reviewer would condemn as “cliché and stereotypical.” And one year just before the NEC meeting all of us other chairmen began to get letters – actually screeds and tirades – from Danny denouncing Hugh and the “high-handed and corrupt” way he ran the New York City region. Danny was constantly demanding the NEC take action to unseat Hugh Schwartz.
“We’re going to get you, Hugh!” swore Danny. “Your day is done, Hugh.” One day we heard Danny was going to complain about Hugh to the Manhattan D.A., which would surely have resulted in Danny’s own arrest. New York cops hated people like Danny.
Then we got “The Announcement”! Danny was going to take a subway to the George Washington Bridge and hitchhike to Chicago and demand he be allowed to stand before the NEC and confront Hugh Schwartz and call for his ouster. Each repetition of that announcement was replete with poorly written restatements of the stifling, undemocratic and anti-student activities of Chairman Hugh Schwartz.
The hall at the University of Chicago where we held our meetings echoed with the relentless Danny shouting, “We’re going to get you, Hugh. We’re going to get you now, Hugh.” There were two or three, some small number of NEC members, who voted to let Danny speak for five minutes out of sheer pity once they learned he’d hitchhiked in from New York and was staying somewhere on Chicago’s equivalent of The Bowery.
Like the Louis-Schmeling fight of 1938, they say it lasted longer than a minute, but it didn’t seem like it. Danny had just given us an abbreviated portion of the table of contents of his “J’accuse” address before Hugh Schwartz interrupted him.
“Look, Danny,” boomed Hugh. “All that is the business of the New York City region. It’s not worth interfering with the work of the NEC. Now, sit down and we’ll deal with it when we get back to New York.”
“OK, Hugh,” said Danny, meekly taking his seat.
And there you have it, Fellow Americans. “It’s “OK, Hugh” even if the name is Vladimir, “OK, Hugh” if the name is Iranian or North Korean or Afghan or Iraqi or Cuban or Chinese or Saudi. The self-description of our administration would fill a lot of long speeches, but it’s behavior of our leadership is strictly that of an “OK-Hugh-ocracy”!
Our nation hasn’t always been that way We’ve heard FDR tell the nation, “We shall win the inevitable triumph, so help us, God!” We heard Gen. Eisenhower say, “A landing was made on the coast of France this morning.” We heard Gen. MacArthur tell the Japanese after they signed the articles of surrender, “These proceedings are at an end.” And we heard Neil Armstrong say, “The Eagle has landed!” and President Reagan, as though he were an actor imitating Hugh Schwartz, boom out, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
Remember the “Don’t Tread on Me” snake flag? We’ve rolled that message all the way back to “Go Ahead and Trample Me.” The latest version likely invites the snake to “Slither up my pant leg and bite where you please.”
We’ve known a lot of administrations. If you’re particularly fond of this one, on Election Day just vote for the party that let itself become the “OK, Hugh” party. It’s the big party, the one that controls the White House and the Senate.
There will be others on the ballot.
Media wishing to interview Barry Farber, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.