The brutal, sleepless heat stirs me toward an anecdote, and although I've yet to figure out an underlying point to this ...
I've said I wouldn't dicuss the current MidEast Mess, but some context is in order.
You will not find a more ardent supporter of Israel than myself. I am not sure how bombing the Lebanese Army will strengthen it enough to finally take on Hisbollah, or somehow pushing Lebanon into a failed state will suddenly embolden a government that would then be non-functioning into dealing with the Hisbollah Militia -- I'm sure there's some cunning strategy afoot I can't discern. I don't know how killing Lebanese Christians or Canadian tourists will swing the battle, but hey, I'm no general. If this was some circuitous route by which to finally motivate the mandated disarming of Hisbollah by the UN, I'd suggest there may have been other ways to initiate it.
All I know is that this began with two soldiers kidnapped and is ending with Israeli and Lebanese -- and to be fair a helluva a lot more Lebanese -- children laying dead and broken in ditches. There is plenty of room in hell for everybody in this.
And don't think I'm not very, continually, worried about this.
The anecdote ... it was stirred by the latest from famous lawyer Alan Dershowitz, in which he argues that there is a scale of innocence, and anyone but the infirm and elderly who has not fled forthwith from Israel's assualt on Lebanon is some sort of Hisbollah collaborator. Not may be. IS.
To wit, we must never, ever question the appropriateness of scale or choice in Israel's various responses as odds are, on the Dershowitz scale, a whole lotta Lebanese has a little Hisbollah in him.
"Those who voluntarily remain behind have become complicit. Some [emphasis mine]— those who cannot leave on their own — should be counted among the innocent victims."
I may note that evacuating to God knows where to live on God knows what while apparently any moving convoy is a legit airstrike target may seem to anyone not as ferocioulsy fearless as Dershowitz to be a bit daunting. Noting that people should be fleeing north is a little Kafka-esque while the north is being bombed.
I wish I had some example of how even in one of the most technically advanced western democracies in the world that tens of thousand of people picking up and fleeing, even with advanced notice, can become a massive clusterfuck, with thousands of innocents left in the wake. But hey, he's the perfessor. I'm plainly not qualified to match my own intellectual prowess or moral sense against an internationally famous lawyer who teaches at Harvard.
I am qualified to comment as his bartender, however. When I was a stand-up, I bartended to make ends meet. I love bartending, possibly more than I love stand-up and writing. In my family's eyes it is not just an honest trade, it is an actively virtuous one. A son who ran a pub was just as prized as one who'd become a priest.
I tended in a few cities, but the longest stint was in Boston 15 years ago, during the First Gulf War. The Charles Hotel, four stars all the way, had a little plaza behind it. There I worked at an Italian cafe/restaurant called Giannino's. Our proximity to the hotel and Harvard, specifically the Kennedy Foreign Affairs School, gave us an interesting clientele.
Ken Howard was a regular, a very sweet guy. "Give me a screwdriver, but make it two shots of vodka, and hold the orange juice." I served Ted Kennedy a few times. One guy who came in for a stretch was a writer named David, who asked very serious questions about stand-up. We'd chatted about characterization, tone, performance for a few afternoons before he finally decided to use his credit card to pay -- and I saw the name "Mamet" flash by. We had professors, businessmen, visiting dignitaries, some faculty would eat there on occasion -- Dershowitz, to be precise. Although I'd be hard-pressed to tell you exactly how many times he visited, I can only convey that he made an impression. He was, in bartender short-hand, how would we say ... an asshole.
But not the biggest asshole we ever served. No, that honor belonged to the Saudi prince who stayed at the Charles Hotel during the War. (Wouldn't want to go home and risk mussing the hair, not until the Christian Soldiers had Marched Onward and tackled the dirty work. Natch) The Prince -- I have no idea where he fell on the lineage tree, but that's what he called himself -- only visited our restaurant the once.
Giannino's owner was a young guy named Paul. Paul was a tough, wiry bastard from Holland who'd come to New York, flat broke at 16, to learn the restaurant business. He spoke with a weird, hybrid Dutch/Brooklyn accent. The sort of New York accent an actor puts on when doing a cab driver from the 30's. But on Paul it fit. He was also, as are many immigrants, fiercely patriotic when it came to the US. Zeal of the converted, etc.
So one night we get word that the Prince will be visiting our place. Paul was understandably excited -- the restaurant business is all about buzz. On the night of nights, submachine-gun toting private security gave the grounds a once-over. This was less distressing than you'd think; they'd been lurking around in the parking garage and stairwells for weeks. We'd gotten pretty used to them. The Prince arrived, was seated out on the patio. I didn't see him eat, as my bar was tucked away out of line-of-sight.
Paul pulled out all the stops. Our chef was amazing to begin with, and they put on a hell of a banquet for the event. Paul called in our best waitress, Kate, to do the dinner. If you've ever worked in the restaurant/bar business, you know that the staff is a roiling blend of high school drama class emotions and Desperate Housewives style intrigue. If you've worked the business, you also know that there is always that one person everyone actually likes. Sweet, sincere, working their way through college ... that was Kate on our staff. Even the heroin-addicted commie waitress liked her.
Near the end of the meal, I heard a buzz from the wait-station. Kate was in a corner, pretending not to be freaking out. Paul came out from the kitchen. The Prince had been playing grab-ass with Kate all night. The other servers had seen it. She'd tried not to make a big deal of it, but when it became plain that she wasn't into Captain Handsy, our visiting dignitary had launched into a particularly nasty set of comments.
A bunch of us followed Paul out as he crossed onto the patio. He nodded to the Saudi. "Yeah. I gotta ask you to leave."
Objections arose. Paul shook his head. "She works for me. I don't allow that for any guest. Now I gotta ask you a second time, please leave. Meal's on the house."
The Saudi's lackey starts to yell: "You can't talk to him like this! This man is Prince --"
Paul cuts him off with a whistle, a New York cab whistle. Sets his shoulders and says:
"This is America, which makes you the Prince of absolutely fucking nobody."
The single most patriotic moment of my life.
At the risk of taking the shine off a fine bar story, I think I've finally figured out why I'm dwelling on this. That someone could make the argument that the last, the very last standard in war that we hold in these broken times -- that any and all civilian casualties are to be universally condemned -- that someone could lawyer away that last vestige of human sacredness without puking on himself with disgust frankly stuns me.
Mr. Dershowitz, I don't care that you're famous, or you teach at Harvard, or you write books, and I'm just a hack, the literary equivalent of a workman bartender. This is America, which makes you the prince of absolutely fucking nobody.
This is your bartender telling you -- get the hell out of public discourse. We don't need a new batch of finely crafted amorality: we have enough naturally occuring filth to drown in as it is.
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