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Getting stabbed is like eating a live hog-nosed bat: it’s nasty, gruesome, and not worth doing twice. First thing, your clothes get ruined (I mean by stabbing, although I’m sure the bat would make a mess). Not just the garment transfixed by the offending instrument, but also all garments south of that position, and your shoes. Blood goes everywhere. Try this experiment: drain a cup of blood out of your arm. Merely nick a vein and insert a bendy straw (so you can direct the flow). Now splash that cup of blood around your kitchen. It will cover every surface from floor to ceiling with an unbroken coat of gore. You will think you stepped onto the elevator set of ‘The Shining’. One cup of blood covers 200 square feet. If they could figure out how to do it, the folks at Sherwin-Williams would probably use human serum for all their interior finishes. I’m going somewhere with this, so don’t vomit yet. I got stabbed when I was a rash stripling of 17 years, and the first thing that went through my intoxicated mind upon seeing my raiment incarnadine was “oh shit, Mom is going to notice”.
Aside from the volumes of blood that ruin your clothes and spatter anything that will hold a stain up to 300 feet away, there’s the discomfort. It kind of creeps up on you. When I did my stuck pig imitation (followed by a yodeling medley worthy of Slim Whitman), I made an important philosophical connection. We are large bags of guts. These guts are defended by a light armature of bones and a sheath of muscular material. Anything longer than it is wide will go straight through all that. The problem with guts is they are full of terrible poisonous stuff and bacteria and (on this occasion) about three quarts of Joe Ortlieb’s finest. I was very lucky that none of my guts got holes in them, so I didn’t leak anything nasty into my interior. Raised hell with my sheath of muscular material, though-and golly, it hurt like heckfire.
The third big response I had to getting stabbed is, I think, a universal one. It went roughly as follows: you win. Okay, so maybe I deserved it for pissing in the guy’s Camaro, although an argument could be made that I warmed the seat up for him. But after that first jab, I figured we were at least even. He could stop now. I’d go back into the bar and get some paper towels. He could have some for his car and I could stuff the remainder in what I was pretty sure was a sucking chest wound. Then everybody could go home. But when there’s a guy with a knife, nobody goes anywhere until he’s finished with it.
It was one of those broad, short blades concealed in a belt buckle. Back then everybody was wearing huge belt buckles-it was the wane of the long-distance trucker craze. You could hide a knife in the damn things (the buckles, not the truckers). He (my assailant) whipped it out (the knife) like a Puerto Rican thug from Starsky and Hutch. I guarantee you he’d never done it before, except in front of a mirror in his parents’ basement. Scared the hell out of himself. He didn’t look real sure of himself. I might have run, or taken a swing at him, except A) I was too drunk, B) my pecker was hanging out, and C) my initial response to the knife was “no fucking way”, which is probably what a lot of dead people thought in that instant they could have taken control of the situation but didn’t because they were so damn surprised. Et tu, Brute? Too late. This guy figures he pulled the knife, he better use it, and anyway he may have mistaken my penis for a shotgun. So being a leftie, he gives me a thump across the right side of my chest. Feathers come out of my jacket (it was mid-winter in New Hampshire and I was either wearing a down-filled parka or I hadn’t moulted yet, I don’t recall). Then blood starts leaking down my pants from under the jacket and the guy with the knife about faints. He’s as drunk as I am, and I’m worried he’s going to puke on my wounds. At last he croaks, “get the fuck out of here motherfucker,” and I figure, why not? So I got out.
You win. It was a powerful moment for me. He stabbed me and I lost, but only on points. If he wanted to, he could have kept on stabbing me and made a proper job of it. Lots of people do. They get into the spirit of the thing and start hacking away like Gramps carving the Christmas goose, and the next thing you know you’re all out of stuffing. The phrase stove lengths springs to mind. But this guy was no killer. He was just some punk with a Camaro into which some other punk urinated following an altercation in a bar (the bar is still there; I won’t name names but it’s in Rindge, NH, if anybody wants to put up a plaque: minor American writer stabbed here, 1984). If this cat had wanted to finish the job, I was all his. My hands were locked over my huevos. I would have died in that position. What lesson does this rambling confessional screed promote? Simply this. There are two kinds of men in a fight: men who will cut you once for honor, and men who will stab you to death.
Maybe this is why I rant about the Bush cabal. I didn’t set out with the Republican lepershit leadership as an idée fixee I just had to bitch and moan about. I didn’t like Clinton, either. But over the last couple of years, every subject of public import comes back to what the ruling junta is up to. Other people can talk about international steel tariffs and the Gaza Strip and so forth, and I do try on occasion. But I just can’t take my eyes off the gang who stole my country. Because they’re not the kind that draw blood and consider honor served. They will stick the knife in and drag it around. They will redistrict their opponent’s vital organs. They will not stop hacking, not even after their enemies are lying on the ground gasping like beached groupers.
The kid with the Camaro-I wish I could recall what we were arguing about, but I guarantee you it was nothing important-was a gentleman, despite his mullet. He knew when to quit. Whether I was a gentleman or not (not, as it happens) isn’t germane to the discussion. Because only the nature of the guy with the knife matters at all. For years and years the Democrats on the hill were gentlemen (or gentlewomen in the case of female representatives and Tom Daschle). They had decisive power. They were in command. And yet to accommodate their belligerent opponents they moved to the center, which was well to the right of any reasonable center, but these Democrats were accommodating people (pussies). The Democrats had the knife and the forbearance not to use it.
I think failing to comprehend that their Republican counterparts are not gentlemen is at the root of the failure of the Democratic opposition: the Dems have never been stabbed by a punk in a parking lot. I learned a valuable lesson that night, and they didn’t (although Ted Kennedy was probably on the premises). My opponent must have been a Democrat. He gave me a jab and decided his stabbing career was finished. If he’d been a Republican, I would probably have perished there, mistaken by passers-by for a quantity of pastrami. The Democrats just don’t get this subtle difference. They’re standing in Washington with their hands over their privates as the knife goes in again and again, slashing asunder every bit of progress this nation has made in a century-slitting the throats of our allegiances, disemboweling the treasury, gutting the infrastructure, ripping our Constitutional rights a new one, jamming grue-slick poniards through the thin armor of our environmental, industrial, and social safeguards. The Democrats are still, despite a thousand wounds, laboring under the illusion that this a gentleman’s fight. Unless they learn the difference, it’s not just them that will die a political death. It’s the America we all used to believe in that will die–not just metaphorically.
I got lucky and met a short knife with a fifth rib. Facing a saber charge, can the Democrats really imagine they’ll enjoy the same good fortune? After all, without a spine, how can you have ribs?
BEN TRIPP is a screenwriter and cartoonist. Ben also has a lot of outrageously priced crap for sale here. If his writing starts to grate on your nerves, buy some and maybe he’ll flee to Mexico. If all else fails, he can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org