George W. Bush has decided to escalate the war in Iraq. This new road to victory is being supported by the President’s wife Laura, their dog Barney, Republican presidential aspirants, and a minority of American voters.
Many other people disagree with President Bush’s urge to surge, including the majority of voters, the majority of citizens, countless serving and retired military officers, and many flip-flopping politicians and journalists who, not that long ago, patted Bush on the back, congratulating him for his attack on Iraq, and subsequent mission accomplished. Now, these same pols and pundits flagellate the President for his mission impossible.
I was against the war in Iraq from the get-go, to the “got him” era(1), and on through the Abu Ghraib and Gitmo disgraces. I continue to be unequivocal in my opposition. The get out–now, soon, next year–positions currently held by a majority of Americans are welcome, but four years too late. The people should have spoken out long before the President dared his enemies to “bring it on”. Push became shove, and Bush fell down on the job, slipped in the polls, and tumbled into the quagmire of Iraq.(2)
I was thinking about the President’s dilemma the other day as I was driving north on Route 95, headed to my home in southern Maine. When I pulled off the Interstate onto the Spur Road, my thoughts were interrupted by a different sort of miscreant, a road warrior as pushy and belligerent as George W. Bush, but much more dangerous to me as I reacted locally, while thinking globally. I glanced in the rearview mirror and noticed a black SUV pull around the vehicle behind me, then swerve back into the right lane only inches from my car. The driver of the SUV was in a hurry, and I was in his way.
I was traveling east on Spur Road, heading for a convenience store located on Route One. The SUV stayed on my bumper as I approached the exit lane that curves onto the four-lane blacktop, once known as the King’s Highway(3). The signal at the intersection of Spur Road stopped the southbound traffic, so I only needed to slow down as I approached Route One. If I had stepped on the brakes, the maniac in the SUV would have slammed into the tail end of my car. I flipped the left turn blinker lever, checked for oncoming vehicles, then crossed over the highway into the left lane.
A horn blared behind me. A long, loud blast of warning. I didn’t slow down. I peered into my the side mirror. The SUV narrowly missed hitting my car’s rear bumper as it skidding away to the left, then veered back across two lanes of asphalt into the far right lane. The SUV raced passed my car. The driver glanced at me, then quickly looked away. I was, at that moment, yelling loudly, cursing imaginatively, probably red-faced and, in the mind of the SUV driver, a crazy man in the throes of road rage.
I didn’t feel enraged. I didn’t pull out a pistol( 4) and fire at the bushy-haired man with a graying beard. I didn’t chase after him, and didn’t blow a gasket as I turned left and drove into the parking lot of the store. I did think about the stupidity of the SUV driver and his actions behind the wheel of his vehicle, and realized that I was a victim of road outrageous.
The Counseling Center of the University of South Florida reports:
“[s]tatistics show that 250,000 people [in the United States] have died in traffic since 1990. It is believed that two-thirds of these deaths are at least partially caused by aggressive driving, although only 218 were found to be a direct cause of angry drivers [road rage]. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 66 percent of all annual traffic fatalities are caused by aggressive driving actions, such as passing on the right, running red lights and tailgating.”
Road rage incidents of the red-faced, mano-y-mano, vulgar variety have killed a few hundred people since 1990, but road outrageous has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of innocent victims. The driver of the black SUV might not have been angry, but he sure was impatient when he committed the act of “aggressive driving”–tailgating–against me and my car.
Tailgating is an outrageous crime. The thousands of annual deaths caused by the impatience of tailgaters were not accidents. Bullies morphed into killers playing a deadly game of bumper cars, these auto-fascists’ of the road–intent on overtaking and occupying space they believe to be theirs–have destroyed more than the crumpled machines now scattered in pieces throughout the junkyards of America. They have also destroyed innocent lives, and the futures of the families who bury their dead.
I was lucky when the driver of the black SUV failed to smash into my car. I could have been another homeland statistic.
Road outrageous is a dangerous and deadly ailment that has killed more people in America during the past sixteen years than all the deaths suffered by Americans in wars and terrorist attacks during the same period.(5) Yet, one simple cure to the domestic problem of too many Americans dying on the roads of America–if also prescribed by President Bush as a tonic for his failing foreign policy–would save thousands of Americans, here and over there: Back off.
Tailgaters and George W. Bush should slow down, and back off.
JAMES T. PHILLIPS can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
(1) “Saddam Hussein was found in a tiny cellar at a farmhouse about 15km (10 miles) south of his hometown Tikrit. British Prime Minister Tony Blair has welcomed the news, saying it removes the shadow’ hanging over Iraq.” BBC News, 14 December 2003.
(2) “When the American media jumped on former President Bush’s bandwagon in 1990, the people of the world were able to watch as most journalists slavishly reported, as fact, every falsehood conjured up by the United States government and their obsequious allies. The lies and obfuscation during Bush War I should make most Americans wary of what their current government pronounces and their media report during Bush War II.
Truth is the first casualty of war, and lies are the bandages used by politicians, diplomats and military leaders to hide their failures and misdeeds and the subsequent true consequences of war. Media representatives who aid in covering up the unpleasant facts of life during war are propagandists who see, hear and speak jingo.” JAMES T. PHILLIPS, 17 May 2002.
(3) Although the King’s Highway was re-named Route One, the stretch of road through southern Maine where I encountered the black SUV might not be the original course used by European colonists.
(4) “A lot of road rage began in the 1980’s, following the films [like] Road Warriors, in which drivers were shooting at other driversIn movies you can sit in the seat of the perpetrator and actually experience vicariously what it feels like to shoot at another car or cut them off. So that becomes part of a learning experience.” Dr. John A. Larson, as quoted in a recent New York Times article written by Diane Sierpina. Dr. Larson is the author of Steering Clear of Highway Madness.
(5) Wars: Iraq, 1991; Somalia, 1993; Bosnia, 1995; Kosovo, 1999; Afghanistan, 2001-07; Iraq, 2003-07; Somalia, 2007. Terrorist attacks: The World Trade Center, 1993; Oklahoma City bombing, 1996; the African embassy bombings, 1998; the USS Cole attack, 2000: Twin Towers, 2001; Pentagon, 2001; a Pennsylvania field, 2001. Total American deaths 1991-2006, estimated: under 10,000.