Carroll Dale Short

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Can't Win Fairly? Just Change the Rules

By Dale Short

Back when you were in school, remember that one aggravating kid on the playground who just couldn't stand to lose at anything, no matter what?

But he discovered that if you pout or cry after a game, people make fun of you. So he learned to express his sore-loserhood in a more socially acceptable way: he changed the rules after the game was over, and pretended with a straight face that they'd been that way all along.

The most you could do was argue with him, and eventually you got tired of arguing and gave up. The kid salvaged his self-esteem, such as it was, but the price of doing so was that it put this hazy cloud of uncertainty over a hard-fought effort and took away some of the satisfaction of winning.

The bad news is, that kid has been cloned. I'm certain of this.

Every time I read or watch the news, I see crowds of angry folks holding rallies and protests in city parks, shouting through bullhorns that it's time to “Take Back America.”

Take it back from...whom, exactly? Obviously, from everybody who disagreed with their views, via a sizable margin, in a legal election.

These protesters are certainly entitled to exercise their free speech. Unlike during the previous two presidential campaigns, when people who showed up at a Republican political rally with a T-shirt or bumper sticker that the Secret Service or private security deemed was disrespectful to the candidate were quietly blocked from entering, or were ushered away to a room somewhere for “questioning” until the rally was over.

After the elections, there was lawsuit after lawsuit, none of which was covered on TV news, to my knowledge. As far as I know, the plaintiffs won them all and the government settled out of court. In other words, the Americans who thought differently than the majority, at the time, only got their “free speech” back after it was too late to make any difference.

As James Taylor once sang, “Ain't it funny how things can turn themselves around, now?”

The people who are most on their soapboxes for free speech and political change, right now, are the same ones who applauded the banning of free-speakers back when their guys were riding high in the saddle.

What changed? If I were a cynical sort, I would say the president's skin color. But fortunately, I'm not cynical.

So, it's a mystery to me why, week after week, a gathering of a few dozen raucous “Take Back America”-ers in a park somewhere gets headlines in prime-time news, while rallies of millions marching in the streets, world-wide, protesting the beginning of the tragic Iraq War, were ignored by the same networks.

Seeing as I'm burned out on politics in general lately (Shakespeare's great line, “A pox on both your houses!” comes to mind from time to time), I wouldn't have a dog in this hunt at all if not for the fact that I wrote column after column, year after year, back then, complaining that our free speech was being taken away, big chunk by big chunk, and that the government's tactics were looking disturbingly like those of a police state.

The response I received, via e-mail and in person, was overwhelming. “Love it, or leave it!” was the main theme. “We won! Get over it, sore loser!” was the most popular bumper sticker of the time, even though the vote margin was razor-thin and there were documented irregularities all over suggesting that somebody had their thumbs on the electoral scales.

“No matter what we believe, we need to support our president one hundred percent!” said the noted political scholar Britney Spears, at the time, to standing ovations from crowds.

You just don't hear those themes as much now—actually, not at all.

“Love It Or Leave It!” bumper stickers are collectors' items almost as rare as the “Drill, Baby, Drill!” variety.

Why? Beats the heck out of me.

Sing it again, James.

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