We had a visitor at the Daily Herald office last week. He was a lunatic who wanted us to publish his lunatic opinions concerning recent events. His shoes were several sizes too big, his glasses looked like Jerry Lewis’ in “The Nutty Professor,” and he smelled like urine. He was hired on the spot.
I kid on the last point, but the rest is true. The crazies have been coming out of the woodwork since Sept. 11, which makes me wonder what’s going on in that woodwork. People get panicky and emotional and they don’t always stop to think before they act. It’s like a riot, but with less looting and more crying.
For example, we have received more than a dozen poems in the past month. Apparently, some people think that in times of national emergency, we cease publication of the news and become a literary journal. The poems all have two things in common: They are heartfelt, and they suck.
I don’t have a problem with people expressing themselves in poetry or some other artistic medium. Indeed, it can be cathartic to vent your feelings through language, particularly with the vast array of obscenities available to us. The best place to do it, though, is in your diary. It is presumptuous to think that because you were “inspired” to write something creative, that means everyone else wants to read it. I don’t doubt that God has inspired some folks to write their thoughts in poetic form, but judging from what I’ve seen, God has not been sending much talent to accompany that inspiration.
Anyway, back to Urine Man. It is my staunch belief that if you walk around smelling like urine, it doesn’t matter what you think. Your opinions are rendered null and void. They should have people sniffing everyone before they enter the voting booths on Election Day. If you smell like urine, you don’t get to vote. I’m pretty sure the Constitution allows for that sort of thing.
(Maybe he didn’t realize he smelled like urine. Maybe he’d been walking around all day, saying, “Man, somebody sure smells like urine.”)
So Urine Man’s opinions don’t matter, but we’ve come this far, so we might as well discuss them. His view was that we shouldn’t be sending food and aid to the people of Afghanistan because they are “the enemy.” I pointed out that while Osama bin Laden and his band of crazies may have been affiliated with that nation, it is not the rank-and-file population of Afghanistan that attacked us. Urine Man countered with the revelation that everyone in Afghanistan hates Americans and would kill us if they got the chance, and that we should kill them first. I suggested there was a difference between not liking a group of people — I don’t care much for people who smell like urine, for example — and actually intending to kill them. Urine Man was unfazed.
Here are his exact words, as spelled out in the flier he gave us, which was as crudely produced as he was:
“Bomb Afghanistan now! Kill 27,000,000 people [the entire population of Afghanistan]. Yes, U.S.A. has to kill all of them or they will kill all of us.”
I want you to read that again, and then I want you to be scared by it. I want you also to be scared at the following detail: Urine Man is certain that well over 50,000,000 Americans share his view.
Now, even allowing for the high level of dumbness in this country, I don’t think one-sixth of us feel we should kill every man, woman and child in Afghanistan. Most of us believe we should root out terrorism and its proponents and leave the ordinary citizens alone. The Afghan people may not care much for America, but that doesn’t mean they should die. I’d even listen to their opinions, as long as … well, you know.
I was of two minds about this column. On the one hand, I didn't want to write two terrorist/Sept. 11/Afghanistan-related columns in a row. On the other hand, I wanted to be relevant as a columnist and not shy away from current events. Many columns are centered around recent news items, so why should now be any different?
The word "urine" appears eight times in this column. Surely it will not be among the favorites of Ms. June S. West, who in 1992 sought to have me removed from BYU for using the word "urinate" in a column. (Read that column and her reaction to it here.)
Many Herald readers posted angry comments on the Herald's site, criticizing me for making fun of the man's scent. I was baffled that so many people apparently think it's OK to smell like pee.
The bad poetry we received was always passed along to me, as the editors figured I would know what to do with it. Eventually, I posted it on my blog (just click on the "Bad 9-11 Poetry" category).