Wednesday, December 08, 2004

I promised you a couple of good ones today. This is from Monday's La Vanguardia. It's by Toni Orensanz. The aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy is in the port of Tarragona for a couple of days and the sailors are getting a couple of days of rest and recreation. They have behaved themselves fairly well--I've seen no reports of anybody getting arrested or anything like that.

Off the subject: I know an Barcelona ex-cop, who's admittedly not all there in the head (literally and figuratively--he made a suicide attempt, stuck his pistol up under his chin and fired, and what he succeeded in doing was lobotomizing himself. He's pretty much bald, and he looks like somebody whacked him in the left front corner of the head with a golf club, at least going by the shape of the indentation where the bullet came out. He is the scariest guy I know), and he has an ethnic theory of crime. He says, and I'm of course paraphrasing, "Your typical small-time street hoods are Gypsies and Moroccans. The hash trade is in the Moroccans' hands, but the retail heroin trade is controlled by gypsies. Most armed robbers are junkies from around here. You get a lot of just plain street bums from Germany and Scandinavia, and every once in a while one of them gets murdered. The pills trade is run by the Dutch. Cocaine is South Americans. Prostitution--Eastern European mafia, who are responsible also for a lot of car theft and a good bit of general mayhem. British--alcoholics who get in street fights. Dutch and Scandinavian and German tourist drunks pass out all over the place. You Americans only cause problems when the Sixth Fleet comes to town, and what we used to do was just turn them over to the shore patrol, who could do something worse to them than we could ourselves." The thing is I've never heard of any serious misbehavior by US military guys in or around Barcelona, and I read the Vanguardia every day so I'm sure I'd be informed if there had been. Anyway, here's Orensanz's story. Read the first paragraph carefully and don't miss the last line.

John Robert, 21, is wearing a white short-sleeved T-shirt, jeans, and Michael Jordan sneakers. You're right: he's American, from Michigan, a sailor from the aircraft carrier JFK, anchored in the port of Tarragona until last weekend. He spent Thursday night alternating shots of bourbon with beer and his small eyes got smaller as he continued bending his elbow. At this time (seven in the evening) there were only warriors in the bar--an Irish pub in Roman Tarraco--loudly celebrating that their friend John had gotten behind the bar to get a photo along with a local beauty, the waitress, dark, a pink sweater. I don't know how many they killed over there in Iraq...

That's right, United States sailors are no different than a Nazi Einsatzgruppen. I believe this is known as "drawing a false moral equivalence".

I contemplate the scene from a table, accompanied as an observer by the sperm-breathéd smug asshole, actor Oriol Grau, a member of the platform Tarragona Heritage for Peace. Oriol suggests that I notice several details. The first: they smoke without stopping, anxiously, despite all the anti-tobacco campaigns "made in USA"...I know it may sound simplistic, but none of these guys seems like he ever killed a fly. They're young, well-built, more or less good-looking, closely shaven, some quiet, they laugh happily, they are friendly if you talk to them. Anybody would say they are happy. "And they're authentic machines, trained to kill," says Oriol. "Today you drink a beer, elbow-to-elbow with them, and tomorrow they could shoot you in the head, if they got the order." Even the worst of murderers might have the face of a child. Whether for good or for bad, only in the movies do the bad guys have the faces of bad guys...

Oriol, Oriol, Oriol. First, the guys in the Spanish military--or the Catalan police--would also shoot you in the head if somebody gave the order, which would never happen anyway because the Americans and Spaniards aren't in the habit of shooting civilians in the head, unlike certain armed forces and terrorist gangs I'm sure you've heard of. Secondly, it's funny that precisely these guys get damned as evil murderers by some wiseass who doesn't understand that he's allowed to have his debate about whether people should speak Catalan or not in Barcelona barber shops precisely because other guys like these made sure that it wasn't going to be German or Russian.

Tarragona seems like heaven to them. "It's not exactly like home, but at least there isn't any shooting around here, you can sit in a restaurant, buy something for your family, and see that normal life continues," says Officer Michael, a huge guy who wants to see his wife and two children back in Virginia. The war stays behind, with its days of eighteen to twenty hours on duty. One fact: From the JFK, airplanes that took off have dropped, nothing more and nothing less, than a mere 27,000 kilos of bombs.

Where they found warmth and attention is among the shopkeepers of Tarragona. The soldiers go to their "home, sweet homes", and the shopkeepers receive them with their arms and cash registers open. They collect among themselves around 500 million old pesetas in three days. "It's like a present from the Three Kings for the small businesses of Tarragona," says the president of Tarragona's small business association, Rafael Tatay. This si so true that the last time they came to tarragona, the shopkeepers demanded that a resident remove a banner he had hung on his balcony protesting the prisoners in Guantánamo. But while the shopkeepers were biting their fingernails so that the Yankee clientele wouldn't get indignant and run away scared, the Americans took photos with the slogan behind them. They found it surprising, maybe exotic.

"In my opinion, all these people would be welcome if they came as tourists, but the JFK is not a cruise ship, it is a weapon of mass destruction, a symbol of an unjust society, and part of an illegal war," says Oriol Grau. And it is a fact that last year the City Council declared Tarragona a "City Against War"...

Get the spin on this. First, the American sailors are unwitting dupes of an evil society that manipulates them and all of us in order to fight illegal wars. They are directly comparable to Nazi or Soviet soldiers, says this article. Second, the Tarragona shopkeepers are traitors who have sold out to the Yankees for 500 million pieces of silver. This is fun, accusing elements of your own society of betrayal of their principles.

There's no point at all in talking with someone with such an extreme attitude. I don't even bother engaging these guys in dialogue. I have better things to do. And, hey, Oriol, what's the story? Looking for a little attention? You haven't been on TV since about 1998, if I recall correctly. Got to get that career jump-started.

Here's what's really pissing Oriol Grau off. He was on a local TV show that tried to rip off the American style of talk show, and they had a moment in the sun and then everybody got tired of them because they ran out of ideas and they got cancelled. Obviously, Oriol watches Conan and Dave and Jay and even Jerry all the time, and he's just not anywhere near as talented as anyone on those programs' staffs, and he knows it. Oriol can't even get himself back on TV here, much less make it in the real world free of big subsidies from the Catalan government if you go so far as to jerk off while moaning in Catalan and call it performance art.

Stay tuned for tomorrow; I have one that's even better than this!

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