Debate Awards
by Matthew Rothschild

September 10, 2003

Given in honor of the performances of the Democratic candidates in the debates on September 4 and September 9.

Blooper Award: to Bob Graham, for doing what the independentistas could not do after decades of struggle. In Thursday's debate, Graham granted Puerto Rico nationhood, referring to it as "that country."

Broken Record Award: to Dick Gephardt, for repeatedly calling Bush "a miserable failure."

Smug Award: to John Kerry, whose putdowns of Bush & Co. may backfire. Thursday night, he said, "Good things happen when Bush goes on vacation." He also said, "It would be wonderful to have a President who could find the other countries (beyond Mexico) in this hemisphere." Tuesday night, he said the diverse crowd was "Ashcroft's worst nightmare."

Best bin Laden Lines: Carol Moseley-Braun for "Osama Been Missing," Bob Graham for "Osama Been Forgotten," Al Sharpton for Bin Laden has "released more videos than a rock star, but Bush's intelligence agencies can't find him."

Best Deflection: Howard Dean, on why coming from an overwhelmingly white state doesn't make him out of touch with minority concerns. His retort: If the demographics of your state determines your politics, "then Trent Lott would be Martin Luther King."

Best defense of Congressional War Powers: Carol Moseley-Braun, who said, concerning Iraq, "Congress abdicated its role under Article 1, Section 8."

Worst Defense of a Bad Vote: John Kerry, who said on Tuesday, "We had to give life to the threat (to use force). If there hadn't been a vote, there never would have been inspectors, and there never would have been a chance for the U.N. I think we did the right thing."

Best Line on the Bush Economy: Dick Gephardt: "How many Americans have to lose their jobs before he loses his?"

Runner-up: John Edwards: "The only Spanish Bush speaks is Hasta La Vista."

Most outspoken in favor of national health care: Dennis Kucinich and Carol Moseley-Braun.

Most passionate about equal education for all: John Edwards.

Most anti-Iraq war: Dennis Kucinich.

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The beauty and the tragedy of everyday life in a war zone.

Maybe I should only be shocked that I wasn’t shocked a long time ago.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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