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Beating Golf Clubs Into Swords

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In a recent interview with Politico, President Bush admitted that he had given up golf in deference to the families who have lost a loved one in Iraq.

"I don't want some mom whose son may have recently died to see the commander in chief playing golf," he said. "I feel I owe it to the families to be in solidarity as best as I can with them. And I think playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signal."

Bush's remarks, which have received widespread condemnation, are more apt than he realizes. The game of golf itself is a metaphor for constructive human activity and recapitulates the human experience of our historical transformation from hunter-gatherers to cultivators. Golf as a metaphor stands in opposition to the realities of war, which is the ultimate destructive human activity.

For those who are not addicted to the playing or to the viewing of grown men chasing a tiny ball across an enormous lawn, the appeal of golf may be hard to understand. However, if we look at golf in terms of its media ecology, its attraction can be better understood.

The playing of golf is a linear, one-at-a-time activity that was well suited to the biases of the print era in which it was created. It is not an accident that golf was first conceived in Scotland and became popular just as the printing press was converting the Anglo-Saxon manuscript culture into a print culture. With its one thing at a time play and its linear progression, golf reflects the one at a time linear experience of reading. Golf stands out against all other sports in that the goal is to minimize scoring, not maximize it. In a similar fashion, reading text minimizes the context of language, removing the normal cues of intonation, inflection and volume.

The environment in which the golf game takes place is a vast cultivated pasture. A skillful golfer avoids the "rough" and various sand and water "hazards" and progresses from the fairway to the manicured green. As the golfer "reads" the lie of the land, he recapitulates the human experience of the hunter-gatherer morphing into the cultivator. The golfer chases the ball through the groomed undergrowth until he finally deposits it in the hole. If he gets the ball in the hole one stroke below par, its a "birdie." Then it's on to the next hole and the next hunt.

Viewing golf on TV is a completely different experience. Modern televised golf coverage suffers from ADD. Gone is the linear progression of the game. Many cameras provide many points of view that reflect the biases of television rather than those of print. The commentary and viewpoint continuously jump from hole to hole in a non-linear fashion, focusing on the highlights of the game, while eliminating the tedium of the hunt. The medium of television transforms golf from the linear one-at-a-time play of an individual into the simultaneous interplay of all the golfers. Golf viewers have already internalized the process of the play and are experiencing the essence of the game as presented on TV, that is, as myth.

That President Bush would think it appropriate to give up golf in a time of war indicates that he has abandoned the constructive capabilities of society in favor of the destructive ones. Critics complain that claiming to give up a game as a sacrifice in time of war trivializes the nature of combat and demeans the true sacrifices of our soldiers and their families. What they miss is Bush's true message: He is a War President, not a Peace President.

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  • Dbro

    Maybe if Bush went to every vet’s hospital in the nation and took every patient out for 18 rounds, that would should some compassion and solidarity.

    Then, maybe frat boy would understand what tour-of-duty means, since he’s never completed one, even in the reserves.

  • Well, I suppose you could melt down his clubs and use them to make a couple of M16s.

  • Let me put it this way: When did not playing golf do anything about a war?


  • bliffle

    “… in part…If… might have … could have been as they predicted.”

    And yet, people announce positively absolutely that we must invade and occupy Iraq.

  • Look, it is just some really sleazy attempt at showing if he actualy cares about the soldiers he is sending to Iraq to be slaughtered.

    It is really an insult to make such a golf/war statement as solidarity to the troops. God, Bush is really a scummy idiot.

    Golf clubs as weapons? Go back to the 70s and ask Jack Nicholson about his use of golf clubs as the original form of road rage at an intersection in Hollywood.

    FU Bush,

  • Irene Wagner

    Dave Nalle Wondering about the tie-in between your #23 here and something you said on another thread that has too many comments already, I cut, pasted, and moved it:

    Cultural imperialism – and the economic imperialism it goes hand in hand with – has at its heart the seduction of the subject population and ultimately their voluntary accession to the cultural conquest. That’s an enormous difference.
    I’m against physical conquest. I’m all for cultural and economic corruption and subjugation.

    The best cultural corruption is mutual cultural corruption: ideas are traded like commodities. One expects to learn something from the culture he is trying to imbue with the wisdom from his own.

    So, which elements of non-Islamic culture would you select to infect the Muslim world, and what would be your goal in choosing these, rather than other elements of non-Islamic culture which you might have chosen to effect this “facing down.”

  • And it’s worth noting that the coming conflict with Islam doesn’t take the form of a grand confrontation of superpowers. It’s a confrontation between ideologies held by multiple nations without a unified leadership and it isn’t all about who has the biggest weapons. It’s not about some Islamic empire standing toe to toe with the US at this point, it’s about a gradual cultural movement and demographic forces which can’t be faced down with missiles and guns.


  • Clavos

    The warriors used to say that it was inevitable that the US and USSR would have a horrendous ground war in Europe.”

    And, in part because they did, bliffle, both sides armed themselves to the teeth, stationing large numbers of troops all over Europe and creating the famous balance of MAD, so there wasn’t one.

    If the pundits hadn’t hammered the point, one side might have gotten the drop on the other, and the outcome could have been as they predicted.

  • bliffle

    The warriors used to say that it was inevitable that the US and USSR would have a horrendous ground war in Europe.

  • Clavos

    Also, Lawrence Wright’s Pulitzer-winning The Looming Tower.

  • Lee, putting aside Lumpy’s bizarre spelling and biblical allusions, you ought to read up on the real situation with Islam sometime. Try to look past the Iraq war to the larger picture.

    Start by reading Bernard Lewis’ Islam and the West (free plug for my doctoral advisor’s doctoral advisor). It’s old, but he lays out the fundamental problems brilliantly and covers the historical context well. Then read While Europe Slept by Bruce Bawer. Then read The Coming Balkan Caliphate by Christopher Deliso. If that last book doesn’t wake you up, nothing will.


  • Lee Richards

    What wall of inevitability do you see? Where? Who built it? Who wrote on it? When did you read it? What specifically does it say? How do you know it can’t be erased or torn down, or worn away?

    You prophecy an “inevitable” Armageddon you can’t possibly guarantee. It might, of course, happen someday, but your unfounded certainty is no more than the equivalent of the crazy guy on the street always carrying the sign predicting “the end is near.”

    Using a cracked crystal ball to prepare for the future is just as bad as your dismissive “head in the sand” put-down.

  • Lumpy

    lee. the writing on the wall is 10ft high. you can bury your heas in the sand and pretend it’s not there but that doesn’t actually alter reality.

  • Lumpy

    what imperial west? you’re stuck in the 19th century, zedd. it’s islam, not th west which is currently trying to impose ideology by force. just being big or influential doesn’t nake u imperialistic.

  • Zedd


    I think others would say that large scale war with the imperialist West is inevitable.

    Feeling emotional about those that you fear or disagree with to the point that you through out the potential for diplomacy, is dangerous. You simply CANT do that.

  • Zedd

    I thought you were making a commentary on the manufactured nature of the game, paralleling it with the class thing, Bush and the war. Then how the war became real.

  • Lee Richards

    I sincerely appreciate what you did when you were called upon. I know it cost you too much.

    My service was stateside and in peace time–not in your league. My friends and family members did serve in Vietnam and the most gung-ho, super-patriotic, lifelong Republican among them–an army career colonel who served two tours there–would, I believe, want to spit on Bush for his asinine self-justification and condescending callowness.

  • Lee Richards

    Those messages comin’ in loud and clear today, Lumpy?

    Your “inevitable” might be a wiser person’s “possible”, but maybe preventible. Predestination just doesn’t work too well in internatioanal relations(as GWB has shown.)

  • Lumpy

    the particular war in iraq might be ‘optional’ now, but large scale conflict with imperialist islam is inevitable.whether the ostriches of the left admit it or not.

  • Clavos

    I don’t disagree with either of your points, Lee. This war is “optional and mismanaged,” just like the one in which I was forced to participate.

  • Lee Richards

    Clavos, I often enjoy and respect your comments.

    This, however, is either imperceptive, disingenuous or both, in relation to my point of “optional and mismanaged.”

  • Lee, you hit the nail right on the head. I’ve got no problem with Bush playing golf during a war or doing whatever the hell he wants to relax. After all, Churchill wasn’t about to give up his cigars just because Hitler was bombing the shit out of English cities.

    But if he thinks giving up golf is going to act as some kind of universal salve for his conscience (or his image), he’s sorely mistaken.

  • Clavos

    Of course, he could have shown his respect and solidarity with hundreds of thousands of this nation’s young soldiers by not sending them into his optional and mismanaged war in the first place

    Better yet, he could show his solidarity with the nation’s youth by disbanding the armed forces altogether, thus keeping them completely out of harm’s way.

  • Lee Richards

    The sacrifice of those serving, being wounded or killed in Iraq, and their families, is total, but in Bush’s mind, giving up golf equals “solidarity” and sacrifice right along with them.

    How about his riding off on his frequent and prolonged vacations, clearing brush, biking, or joking about WMD with the press–more “solidarity” with those on their 3rd or 4th tour?

    What about sending just enough troops originally to lose with, and now threatenting to veto new vets benefits so they will stay in the service rather than run off to college–more Bush solidarity with them and their families they can count on?

    And his compassion for the sacrifice of the fallen could easily be seen–if only their caskets weren’t hidden away from the public when their bodies are returned home.

    The Bush Doctrine, of charging it all to future generations–including the children of the troops–what a wise and compassionate gesture(and enormous shared debt)of sacrifice and solidarity. Yep, we’re all in this together, just like a foursome at the country club.

    Of course, he could have shown his respect and solidarity with hundreds of thousands of this nation’s young soldiers by not sending them into his optional and mismanaged war in the first place. But, sometimes, a man’s just gotta do what God(and the Saudis)tell him to do.

    He is one for the ages. First he was our Great Decider, and now he’s proudly donned the mantle of The Prime Ex-Putt-Putter in American history.

  • If the C-in-C thinks frivolity during wartime is inappropriate, perhaps his daughter shouldn’t have had that big expensive wedding either.

  • Hmm… you’re obviously looking at golf from the male perspective. Believe me, as a female hacker, I have a completely different take on the game of golf, but then again, most women do.

  • bliffle


    Are you kidding?

  • wdufkin

    It was a noble genture on the part of Bush. I don’t much about golf but I know as the parent of two servicemen I appreciate the solidarity.

  • Irene Wagner

    Reading : Golf :: Not reading : Not golfing.

    It was bound to happen.