Thursday, May 15, 2008

Golf as Expiation

From: The Guardian

"U.S. President George W. Bush said on Tuesday he quit playing golf in 2003 out of respect for the families of Americans killed in the war in Iraq."

Golf As Expiation

By Guru Alano Jeffries Lipmiano, adviser to former heads of state Amin, Taylor, Nixon et al.

Many have criticized President Bush for his statement that he gave up golf as a way of making a personal sacrifice to show solidarity with those fighting and risking their lives in the war in Iraq, a war that he largely created.

However, I think that it is difficult to see the value and importance--the weight and value of such a personal sacrifice--until we examine it more closely.

I recall meeting with Mobutu Sese Seko, I believe it was in the late 1960s. He had just finished his plundering of the Zairian (now Congolese) economy after deposing Joseph Kasavubu in a bloody coup, raping the natural resources of the nation, and had lured the former Minister of Education back to the nation on the assumption that he would be amnestied, only to be tortured and then murdered by Mobutu's minions.

I recall the scene vividly. Seko sat atop an ornate Louis the XVII original, running his right hand through a bag of rubies, and said: "I am satisfied, Guru, but I cannot yet find full and complete satisfaction. There is a vague feeling of irritation, or disquiet. Perhaps I am taking my people in the wrong direction."

Table tennis, I recommended. Give up table tennis, your favorite sport after your evening repasts. With this sacrifice, you will show that you too are willing to deny yourself what is important, that you too will bear the burdens of want, as does the nation. Seko smiled, as several rubies fell from the bag to the floor.

I, too, remember, as if it were yesterday, the events of 1973. Pinochet had just overthrown Allende in a bloody coup, and he had just then declared himself "Supreme Chief of the Nation". The General had begun his "disappearing" of political opponents, in which over 2000 were killed and about 30,000 tortured.

"Guru," he said one evening, as we sat in the Massage Room of the Presidential Palace, "There is a pain in my lower back that emerges whenever I hear the shouts of imprisoned former associates from the courtyard, a pain that no massage can remove. Please, tell me, how can I rid myself of this continuous suffering?"

I looked to the plate of Maté and Alfajores (fried Argentinian bread) that sat on a tray beside the massage table. "You must make a show of sacrifice to rid yourself of the tension of the difficult removal of your treasonous enemies, General." I pointed to the tray. "General", I said, "Mate' es fine. No mas."

He smiled, instructed a satrap to remove the tray. The following day, the vanishing of the Disappeared once again flowed without imposition or bar.

It was only months later that I sat together with Nixon and Kissinger. It was late at night, the three of us seated in the Oval Office, tumblers of scotch before us--all but Nixon's untouched--and Nixon's shoulders hunched low over his desk, the desk lamp against the night sky framed in the window behind him casting his face in an eerie glow.

"It's the goddamn press, Henry. They want to hang us. Why don't they realize what I am trying to do for them, Henry? Peaceniks, Hippies, Yippies, and the damn New York Times. One day, when this has all passed, passed us on, then they'll realize, then they'll understand how hard I worked, how hard I tried..." The tumbler shook in his hand, and all that could be heard was the ice lightly clinking against the heavy glass. "What can I do, Guru? What can I do?"

I looked to the gilt framed picture on his desk, of Nixon playing the piano, Pat beside him. "You must sacrifice. You must abstain. The piano is your sacrifice to the lives so bravely being lost in Vietnam. Just as they have given up their freedom to play stringed ebony instruments in the Southeast Asian jungles, so you too shall put aside this desire. For them. "

He looked at me with a silent, poignant smile, as a tear slowly ran down his cheek. "Henry", he said, waving his hand "Tell Ramon to remove the piano from the East Room and put it in the basement. And have him bring another bottle of Scotch."

There are many such tales of deep sacrifice for the good of one's nation, taken with a full and insightful vision of what the nation has suffered, and with a full understanding of what that suffering entails.

The sacrifice of golf is no mere folly, no trivial shift, by a man so out of touch throughout his entire life with the meaning of actual suffering, by a man whose lifelong values have been so skewed by the cosseting of pain, infliction of deprivation, error, and the human consequence of his actions by an ever-present familial safety net that he cannot even conceive of the notion of risk inherent in actual sacrifice, by a man so in thrall to his own limitations and such fears of those limitations that he has walled himself in from all that might possibility contradict it.


Golf is a sacrifice, a man giving up the very peace and solace, the removal from daily life, that his war has removed from those that his actions have sent into sands of Iraq.

And so I say, Mr. President, put your putter aside with honor, with pride. And do so with the knowledge that you too have made a great sacrifice, fully in keeping with the actions and goals that you have cast upon this nation.