Diary of a Mad County
MONDAY, March 17: On this St. Patrick's Day, President George W. Bush, backed by fellow superpowers Britain, Spain and Candyland, assures America that in two days, the bombs will drop on innocent Iraqis in order to free them from terror. Putting the "heart" in heartless, Wall Street reacts to the speech by sending the Dow up 200 points. . . . Just as concerned as Wall Street is the sports world, which is not only preparing for March Madness but, it is announced, will soon give us two-time Swiss champion figure skater Lucina Ruh attempting the longest and fastest spin on ice. Who's up for a bit of fiddling? . . . . Anti-death penalty advocates hold a vigil in Orange for Louis Jones Jr., the Gulf War veteran convicted of raping and beating a woman to death with a tire iron. Jones is to be executed early Tuesday morning. The small group is led by Jan Urban, who was pro-death penalty—"I heard about crime and felt impotent, and I gave into the fear"—until a few years ago when she figured out that stance was in direct contradiction with her pro-life stand. "My priest asked me to consider a more consistent philosophy," she said. The group engages passersby in conversations about the execution, some of whom are "all stirred-up about the war," Urban says. "Mostly, though, it's folks stumbling out of bars saying, 'Yeah, but no one in your family has ever been murdered.' We'd tell them that they have to believe in the sacredness of life, that we need to start stop the cycle of violence. That it just continues when we kill the killers."
TUESDAY, March 18: You, me and 280 million Americans kill Louis Jones Jr. I know I should feel safer, but somehow, when my son says at breakfast, "Dad, Iraq doesn't have nuclear bombs, but North Korea and China do, right?" I don't feel safer. . . . The night before a bombing campaign on Iraqis to liberate them from terror and hatred at home, Greg Harris, an African-American former Marine, wakes up and finds a 10-foot burning cross on his Anaheim Hills lawn. Neighbors say they are shocked something like this could happen in Orange County. Indeed, something like this hasn't happened in nearly, oh, four years, when a teenager did it to a Jewish family in Huntington Beach.
WEDNESDAY, March 19: Things are very much on edge as word finally comes that, yes, professional kiteboarder Adam Koch will soon attempt to kiteboard—he's on a wake board propelled by a giant nylon kite—from Catalina to Seal Beach. (To review, Adam's job is holding a kite, while in many parts of the world, careers tend to be more scavenging-for-food-and-sifting-through-rubble-oriented.) Koch says, "Once I take off from Catalina, I'm exposing myself to Mother Nature. The conditions could be optimal near the island but nasty in the middle. I have to be ready for anything." Do be careful. Koch is currently ranked sixth on with the Professional Kite Riders Association or, as it also known, reason No. 6,054 Why People Hate Us. . . . It's an hour before the Iraq deadline, and I'm teaching the Catholic-education class I've taught the past three years. I love doing it. The kids are great, my son's in the class, and it allows me to teach Jesus' radical philosophy of peace without using guilt as a motivator. Toward the end of class, I ask the kids to meditate on the word "peace." They do, except one sweet, bright-faced boy who starts chanting in a comic guru tone "Pepsiii." I call him up in front of the class and ask him if he thinks it's funny that a boy his age with a mother and father like his will soon be killed by bombs in Iraq. His face falls. Jesus. . . . You, me and 280 million Americans begin bombing Iraq. . . . I drive down PCH, going to gas stations, looking for reactions to the war. Most, even those who support the war, are ambivalent. That is, except the woman I meet at the Huntington Harbor Arco station that is awash in patriotic bunting, American flags and Raider car banners. She smiles as if she knows something I don't. "I don't think anyone who reads and understands the Bible is worried," she says. And I want to guilt her, but how do you do that with someone who, no doubt, has an "IN CASE OF RAPTURE, THIS VEHICLE WILL BE UNMANNED" sticker somewhere on her minivan. I hate her intensely and am now face-to-face with how radical the teachings of Jesus are. As she talks of prophecy and Chosen People, I think I'm going to scream at and/or spit on her. I struggle to see her as part of the whole, to find a place of comfort, and suddenly, relief comes in the form of a word that begins repeating in my head: "Pepsiii."
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THURSDAY, March 20: During times of turmoil and change, isn't it a comfort to have someone like Tony Rackauckaswho you can always depend on to be there. Yes, the district attorney who puts the "fee" in malfeasance is ordered by an arbitrator to reinstate prosecutor Mike Jacobs. Jacobs was fired two years ago for asking the state to investigate the DA's shady dealings. With his reinstatement, Jacobs will get more than $300,000. Seems like Tony can't turn around—or order a rum and Coke—without costing the county a few thousand. Rackauckas, who's presently lobbying the county for more money, also was forced to reinstate a manager to the tune of $300,000 last year. It's like Christmas—except, of course, Christmas comes but once a year. Rackauckas also had to pay another manager $45,000 for demoting him. And then there are those lawsuits pending by at least sixother employees.
FRIDAY, March 21: As the network Children of the Corn break out their best army gear and start using their euphemisms decapatation (death), target of opportunity (death), shock and awe (death) like high school wannabes who'd just learned what cool words the popular crowd is using, I call Jan Urban looking for a bit of solace. How does she maintain her drive in the face of great odds? Doesn't she ever get discouraged? "I do it," she says, "because I need to do it. For my own integrity. I think you're affirming human dignity by standing up for others. . . . It pulls you away from your own self-centeredness, brings you into a wider worldview. You know, during Vietnam, I was on the fence, and I just couldn't be on the fence anymore, whether it was executions or this war. You know, I often struggle with why I was drawn to this. I work in a very conservative office; no one in my family has ever spent time in jail. Yet, I'm out there, and when I'm out there, I know that's where I should be; I kind of think to myself, 'It's good I'm here.'" Yes, it is. Pepsiii, Jan. Pepsiii.
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