Much has been said about the death of so-called "hero" Pat Tillman, who gave up a lucrative professional football contract to murder sheep herders in Afghanistan. But no one puts it as eloquently as University of Massacussetts student and future Pulitzer Prize winner, Rene Gonzalez. Gonzalez writes with courage and grit, undaunted by the barrage of hate mail, death threats, and atomic wedgies he's bound to receive for daring to speak his mind. Resolute, insightful, and witty, his searing article for the campus newspaper looks like something I'd write.
In fact, he reminds me alot of myself when I was his age. As a teen, I penned an article for my high school paper - a penetrating critique of America's infatuation with the Jungian Hero Archetype - aptly entitled: "Mike Jankowski is a Big Dumb Jock".
"Mike Jankowski thinks he's so macho with his macho letterman's jacket and his perfect teeth and all the little cheerleaders following him around like puppies. "Oh Mike, you're so cuuuuute! Oh Mike you're so macho!" But underneath all those muscles he's nothing but a big dumb jock. He thinks he's a real tough guy, a real Mister MACHO - but I bet he wouldn't last 10 seconds against me in a spelling bee. Then we'd see who'd get all the girls, yes siree!"
Like Gonzalez, my essay earned me nothing but jeers from the philistine hordes. For a time, I was the most hated kid in the whole school simply for exercising my first amendment right to free speech. But like toilet paper from the trees in my front yard, the vicious hatred from my classmates soon faded away and thoughts of graduation and college took over. My essay, while lambasted by the ignorant masses, earned me a full scholarship at UC Berkeley. Jankowski, however, turned down a UCLA football scholarship to join the Marines, of all things.
My superior intelligence and godlike talent took me far at Berkeley, and I was quickly chosen as editor-in-chief of the campus literary journal, The Velvet Quill. Do you think I'd get one single "Attaboy" from my ol' home town? Noooooooooo! But Lance Corporal Mike Jankowski gets his pretty-boy face all over the front pages, simply for losing a leg while storming into a Panama Department of Motor Vehicles office and shooting a couple of startled clerks. The whole town was in a tizzy about it, plastering yellow ribbons and American flags all over Vegas. "Mike Jankowski is a hometown hero! Hooray for Mike Jankowski!"
Whoop-dee FREAKING dooooo! Can he write a haiku? For that matter, can he spell "haiku"? I don't think so!
Furious over being snubbed in favor of a man with the intellectual firepower of a pack of Pop Rocks, I fired off an op-ed to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. A critical analysis of the military industrial complex and its corruptive influence on our educational system, I entitled the column "Mike Jankowski is a Big Dumb Jarhead".
"Well, I always said that Mike Jankowski would lose his head if it weren't attached, but it looks like he's gone and misplaced his leg now, too. I guess the great football superstar won't be scoring any more home runs for the ol' alma, will he? Neener neener neeeeener! Perhaps now Las Vegans will finally realize that carboard "heroes" like Macho Mike Jankowski aren't what makes America great - but rather the artists, the poets, and the elbow-patch intellectuals with bad complexions and retarded social skills. There's nothing "courageous" about mowing down defenseless Panamanians, folks. Heroism, my little Vegas sheeple, doesn't come from wearing a uniform. It comes from sneering at those who do. So take my advice: wake up and see Mike Jankowski for the idiot and the COWARD that he really is!"
I'm not sure what happened after that, as I spent the next few weeks hiding from Mike Jankowski. For a man with one leg, he sure could get around. But it only goes to show how we no longer have Freedom of Speech in this country, and how real heroes like Rene Gonzalez must live in constant fear of being called a "pinhead", or given a chocolate swirlie for their beliefs. I only hope that the right-wing backlash against this fine young man doesn't sour him against America.
btw, a big ol' Nazi salute to Bourgeois Brian for tipping me off to the wonderful Rene Gonzalez photo. Not only is he a brilliant mind, but he's a looker, too! Go get 'im, girls!