Until the weekend arrest of Saddam Hussein, it's been a good 12 months for gangsters and tough guys everywhere.
I dub(ya) 2003 the "Year of the Bully."
According to the U.S. Department of Education, 29 percent of public schools reported that there was a student bully incident at least once a week during the 1999-2000 school year, which tops a list of discipline problems that includes verbal abuse of teachers and racial tension among the student body.
At the middle school level, 43 percent of schools reported weekly bullying incidents. And according to a 2001 report by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, three in 10 students in grades 6-10 have either been the victim of, or engaged in, bullying.
And it doesn't end there.
Thug rapper 50 Cent topped the pop music charts, D.C. sniper suspects John Muhammed and Lee Malvo were all over the news, terrorists attacked the United Nations and the Red Cross for crying out loud, the Terminator became the governor of California, and just last week in Arizona a "Bible-believing" pastor was arrested and charged with whipping a boy with a tree branch several hundred times, against the screaming protest of the mother, while in church.
What did the little "jackass" do? He was goofing around in Sunday school. You're familiar with the biblical adage: spare the rod, spoil the child, I'm sure.
I use the term "jackass" on purpose. You see, bullies and jackasses go hand-in-hand. My experience with being a bully and being bullied is that bullies view just about everyone around them as jackasses - mule-headed animals who need the stick every now and then to discourage innate stubbornness and to remind them who's boss.
So in honor of bullies everywhere, I pay homage to the winner of the first annual Sean Gonsalves Award for the Unsung Bully of the Year. Of course, I can't identify the winner by name because of what he might do to me, but, believe me, this man needs no introduction.
Unfairly criticized as not being "smart enough," victim No. 1 of the liberal media conspiracy, this straight-talking executive is at the top of his game.
He redefined gun-boat diplomacy in Texas cowboy terms, resurrecting such memorable political phrases as "Wanted: Dead of Alive," and "You have until high noon to leave, or else." And don't forget the granddaddy of all tough-guy talk: "Bring 'em on."
Now, stealing other people's lunch money is a hallmark of the great American bully tradition. And no one stole more lunch money this year than our unsung bully. Just listen to one of his admiring critics.
Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute, reported last week that the number of new jobs that have been created is far below the Bush administration's promise of 306,000 each month as a result of the recent tax cuts.
"The plan the president declared a success is now 1.25 million jobs short of administration projections of jobs that would be created through the so-called 'Jobs and Growth Plan' implemented in June," he said.
"We need 150,000 jobs per month just to maintain unemployment at the current level and to keep up with the population entering the workforce, and we haven't seen that amount of growth in more than two and half years," Mishel added.
But let's turn to the crowning achievement of our honoree. His doctrine of pre-emption as exemplified in the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq has taken bullying to new heights.
Two weeks ago, our NATO allies (notably the punk and sissy leaders of France and Germany) refused to get more deeply involved in the Iraq quagmire, and in exemplary 'I'll-show-you-who's-boss' fashion, the Bush administration decided last week to block any non-"coalition" countries from getting dibs on the $18.6 billion in Iraq reconstruction contracts.
Congratulations to the cure for the "Vietnam syndrome" - the man who gave "Bully Pulpit" a whole new meaning - the Sean Gonsalves Unsung Bully of the Year.
When one bully goes down, as he did in Iraq, you cheer in your heart. But the playground remains just as dangerous.
Sean Gonsalves is a Cape Cod Times staff writer and a syndicated columnist.
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