A friend of mine once asked me if the Civil War broke out again which side would I fight on. Without hesitation I said the South, of course.
"But you don't and never believed in slavery and you believe the nation is one land and not a series of states glued together," my friend said.
Yes, but I am a Southerner. This is my region. These are my people. I love the region. I don't like anyone, even if they are other Americans, coming down and occupying my land.
I don't know that he ever understood this concept. But I do and I also understand in some kindred way what the average Iraqi is thinking.
They are never going to love us. Their writers and historians are going to always craft the invasion in the same light, a sovereign nation invaded by a land bigger and more powerful than it. Then someone will pose this question: Would we ever have invaded blue-eyed, blond headed Sweden? Many Southerners still burn with a flame of hatred for having armed men burn their houses and towns, for a Sherman to be Godlike and decide that he would spare a Savannah as a Christmas present to Lincoln and burn an Atlanta and Columbia.
Regardless of how long federal troops occupied, they still couldn't get Southerners to give up grits for home fries at breakfast.
You can break a people's back, but you can't break their mindset, their pride, their love of their own country. For some like the Vietnamese, a century is the same as a day to them. They have patience, as we found out.
Say we stay in Iraq another four or five years. Several things will probably happen. More innocent soldiers with families back here will die because the resistance will continue what is in effect drive-by shootings. We hope and pray there is not a giant attack like the Tet offensive that finally convinced some of us that the war in Vietnam was never going to be won. But the longer we stay the more chance that the 14-year-olds will one day be 18-year-olds with fires of resentment burning in their bellies.
There always is a chance that young American soldiers seeing their friends picked off like targets in a shooting gallery will vent their anger and mow down some innocent Iraqis.
The second thing that will happen is that the resistance to our presence there will rekindle and grow in America. Just as the Gulf of Tolkin Resolution was based on bad information, more is coming out that information was either falsified or suppressed to facilitate the invasion.
Democrats approaching a presidential year will hint first and then make little criticisms to see how they will play. If they find a receptive audience, more and more criticism of the war could be coming. Maybe even a thought about why President Bush was the leader from Jan. 20 to Sept. 11 and his highly paid intelligence people either didn't know or ignored warning signs of the attack on us.
Someone might even raise the possibility that he used Americans' seething anger and hurt from the attack to push a military agenda not exactly related to either retaliation or rooting out other terrorists.
If the Democrats are successful in wresting the American flag from Bush's grip, they might even get Americans wondering if the economy is ever going to turn around, if four more years of flag waving and layoffs is what they really want.
Americans are interesting people. We hold a range of emotions, we have some patience, but we eventually run out of patience, we are easily duped and then one day out of the blue get mad about it.
What I find interesting is that two years and eight months after the last presidential election, no one has made any serious effort to change the antiquated way in which we elect a president.
Remember this fact: That regardless of hanging chads and contested votes in Florida, Al Gore still got 540,520 more votes than George Bush did.
If Saddam Hussein had undergone an election while still in power and had come in second, we would be raising hell if he kept in power. But no one has rushed to do away with the antiquated Electoral College system.
I hate it for two reasons. First, the person who gets the most votes should win the election. Lester Maddox was governor because of a similar stupid law and Georgia lawmakers fixed it.
Secondly, I hate it because if you are in a state that is strongly Democratic or strongly Republican why bother to vote if you support the other side? Your person is not going to win. But if your vote is added to a national total, your vote does count. It is not diminished by the makeup of your state. This would change the way politicians look at things.
Being the eternal optimist, I hold out hope that next year's election will at least be a horse race and not a year of annointment.
Bob Paslay is assistant managing editor of the News Daily and Daily Herald and can be reached at (770) 478-5753 Ext. 257 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.