Vinny Gambini: How could it take you five minutes to cook your grits when it takes the entire grit-eating world 20 minutes?
Mr. Tipton: I’m a fast cook, I guess.
Vinny Gambini: Did you just say you were a fast cook? Are we to believe that boiling water soaks into a grit faster in your kitchen than any place on the face of the earth??.Were these magic grits? Did you buy them from the same guy who sold Jack his beanstalk beans??
The courtroom scene will doubtless ring a bell with anyone, which by now is almost everyone, who has had the good fortune to see the 1992 hit comedy, ‘My Cousin Vinny’. Well-known actor Joe Pesci stars as Vinny Gambini, a street-wise, smart-aleck defense lawyer trying to save his young cousin and a friend from prison, or worse. He succeeds, in part, by turning the key testimony of prosecution witness Tipton into so much mush, thanks to his withering grits-is-grits cross-examination.
The movie recently aired on cable, and I watched it for the umpteenth time with some friends. But this time the laughter didn’t linger. No sooner had the credits rolled than talk turned to the war.
Specifically, how innocent civilians were still being killed by suicide bombers, how horrible it was, and because of it how we should leave Iraq immediately. Lost in their supposed concern, however, was any acknowledgement of the who and the why behind the bombings.
The fact that the bombers were terrorists seeking to destabilize a newly-installed, and freely elected democratic government didn’t seem to matter. Nor did the fact that 86% of the Iraqi people — a number we’ve never gotten anywhere near in our elections– braved shootings, bombings, perhaps even beheadings, to cast their votes for the most liberal and inclusive constitution ever in the Middle East, going so far as to extend an olive branch to those who, under Hussein, were likely on the business end of the tree shredders.
No matter. Innocent civilians were being killed, and that was that to my anti-war friends. Especially with a chance to win back the White House in the offing.
Which brings me to my staircase remark. At least, I guess that’s what it’s called. It’s what you wish you’d thought of in the heat of battle but didn’t. By the time the light bulb goes on, it’s too late. The guests have all gone. You’re on your way up the staircase to bed.
That’s when mine showed up. Hours later, on the metaphorical staircase. Too late to be of any good when it hit. But perhaps not too late to do some good now.
Thanks to Henry Ford, we’ve always been a mobile people. Every day, millions of automobiles race along our highways, when they’re not parked at our malls.
Yet any one of them, at any time, could be driven by a suicide bomber.
Any one of them could explode in rush hour traffic in the heart of Phoenix. Or in the parking lot after a game at Dodger Stadium. Or smack dab in the middle of the Brooklyn Bridge, wrecking the spans, wreaking havoc on the economy, and sending innocent drivers to their deaths.
Pick your poison. It’s all just as deadly. And all just as easy.
So suppose, just suppose, that somewhere among our thousands of towns and cities, ten car bombs go off in one day, killing 500 people. The next day, ten different cities, ten more car bombs. Another 500 dead.
The third day, the same. Ditto the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh.
At the end of a week, upwards of 3,000-innocent Americans have been killed.
Horrifying, to be sure. But then it becomes even more so. Because it’s at that point that the terrorists make their two-pronged demands.
Prong One: Women may no longer be educated. Prong Two: All, and we mean all, women must begin wearing burkhas.
With more than two centuries of freedom behind us, our answer is swift and four-lettered.
Sadly, so is the answer of the terrorists. More car bombs, and more civilians dead.
Again, our response is unequivocal. They may have gotten their way in Spain thanks to a few bombs. But we are not Spain. In short order, we give them national finger. Just who do these terrorists think they are?
Well, here’s who they are. Years ago, well-known writer Bob Greene explained that the reason we’re a safe country is not because have a policeman on every corner, but rather because of who we are. His example? If we’re driving through the middle of nowhere at 3 in the morning, with not another car, home, or town within miles, and we come upon a red light, we stop. We stop because we’re supposed to.
The terrorists don’t. Even worse, they shoot people who do stop.
Their demands that women drop out of school and begin wearing burkhsas intensify. Over and over, we say not a chance. Over and over, more car bombs. Or worse.
Which is why I wish I’d thought of all of this before I hit the staircase.
The question I have for all those caring folks who abhor civilian deaths above all else is a simple one. How many civilians must die in our streets before they’ll take their daughters out of school and begin dressing them, and themselves if necessary, in burkhas? 3,000?
8,000? 50,000? What’s the number?
In a microcosm, that’s what’s at stake in Iraq. That’s what’s at stake throughout the civilized world. That’s what’s at stake right here.
Because no matter how horrifying the thought, no matter how unsettling the reality, no matter how much you wish it were otherwise, there’s nothing superhuman about our cars, bridges or tunnels, or even our jet-fuel pipelines. They’re just cars and bridges and tunnels and jet-fuel pipelines.
Like it or not, grits is grits. And don’t think the terrorists don’t know it.