Stand Up and Clap! Have You Been Serviced?

The president has been talking about “service” again. Urging his audience to “make a culture of service a permanent part of American life,” President Bush promised graduates of Ohio State University this week that they “will gain satisfaction that cannot be gained in any other way.”

It was not the first promise the assembled students, faculty and family members had heard.

Moments earlier, they had been promised that anyone who demonstrated or heckled the commencement speaker would be subject to expulsion or arrest — and they had been instructed to service the president with a “thunderous” ovation.

Sounds like something an announcer in China might say to a crowd of university students before bringing out President Jiang Zemin to speak to them.

Perhaps the comparison is too harsh. After all, Bush is uniquely qualified to lecture people about service. His entire administration has been about service. He learned a lot (as he would say) about service in his role as a greeter at the Ball Park in Arlington, the only real job he ever had before he met Ken Lay.

Soon after that fateful handshake he was providing service to all kinds of people from his new home in Austin.

He served the petrochemical industry by letting polluters write environmental regulations (for starters).

Now he’s in a position where he can really service a lot of people. He can make Secretariat look like a eunuch now.

Just look at his service to Enron. (You do remember Enron, don’t you? Haven’t heard much about it lately? That just shows how unobtrusive the service has been.)

He’s ready to perform service for anyone who wants to gouge, cut, dig, drill, rape and loot the American landscape. The Afghan landscape, too — don’t forget that pipeline.

Nobody can say he hasn’t done outstanding service for the nuclear industry — providing us all with an opportunity to serve by standing at attention as deadly nuclear waste rolls through our neighborhoods. (Remember not to heckle or demonstrate, ok? Wouldn’t want anyone to get held without trial.)

This president is devoted to serving all manner of special interests. (What makes them so “special”? the service they get, of course!)

Of course, the president is only human. His record of service is not flawless. Vietnam Vets of Alabama, for example, put up a cash reward for anyone who can prove Bush actually performed his military service in the state of Alabama, as he claims to have done (Dubya’s commanding officer says there’s no record he never showed up for duty). As far as I know, the reward is still there for the taking.

No one’s perfect. And lecturing students about service is an improvement for Bush: in Texas he used to lecture the poor about “responsibility.”


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DAVID VEST writes the Rebel Angel column for CounterPunch. He and his band, The Willing Victims, have just released a scorching new CD, Serve Me Right to Shuffle. His essay on Tammy Wynette is featured in CounterPunch’s new collection on art, music and sex, Serpents in the Garden.

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