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A True American Story

September 2, 2004
By Mark Sullivan

I first met Chris when I was 10 years old. We played on the same team for our local youth basketball league. Even though we had a pretty poor season (I was never much of a basketball player), we still had fun playing the game, and in the process, became casual friends.

This friendship continued through middle school, where, despite our growing apart and running with different crowds, we still managed to remain friendly to each other in the classes that we had together.

Chris was a genuinely likeable character. He was funny, outgoing, and could get along with just about anyone. He was always great at joking around with teachers; bothering them to the point of frustration, only to make them forget about all of it with one of his usual quips (a skill that he carried with him throughout high school as well).

In 8th grade, I said goodbye to Chris. The story was, his father had been offered an impossible to refuse job at a company with good pay, great benefits, and a stock price that kept soaring with no end in sight.

I should probably mention that this company was Enron.

So his family packed their bags and moved on down to the great state of Texas, home of David Koresh, the Alamo, and, as Molly Ivins put it, "so much bad public policy."

I assumed that that was the end of my relationship with Chris, and that I would probably never see him again. But I was wrong.

As we all know by now, Enron collapsed in October 2001 after it was revealed that they had been engaging in fraudulent accounting practices, bilking workers and investors alike of their life savings, while Mrs. "Kenny Boy" Lay made sobering appearances on national television, pleading for sympathy because she and her husband no longer had more money than God.

I almost forgot the "connection" I had to the Enron scandal until I heard rumors around school of my old friend Chris moving back to Wisconsin. The rumors turned out to be true, and soon I found myself in class with the very same Chris who had left 3 years earlier. Only there was something a little funny about him.

Secrets never stay secrets, especially in small towns; and that goes triple for a high school.

I soon learned that Chris' family had lost everything, and I mean everything, thanks to the greed and ego of just a handful of powerful businessmen (most of whom, we should never forget, still managed to walk away with millions).

I remember attending a fundraiser organized by some of Chris' closest friends, to raise money so that his parents could afford to buy their children Christmas presents that year.

It was the kind of hardship that I wouldn't wish on anyone but the monsters who caused the whole mess in the first place. Here we were, filled with stories of workers losing their life savings weeks from retirement, pensions disappearing, lives being ruined, and I was up close and personal with someone who had experienced it firsthand.

I expected Chris to be furious, not only at the men who personally destroyed his family, but also at the man who was good friends with those responsible; a man whose policy and ideology helped to create this whole situation in the first place.

For those who haven't guessed it, I'm talking about another wonderful product of Texas, that is, George W. Bush.

But it soon became apparent in class that Chris was anything BUT a liberal. Even the strongest of arguments from our very liberal Political Science teacher could not sway him. Chris was a Republican, a Texas one at that, and not a soul on earth was going to change his mind.

This radical clash of ideologies killed any chance of Chris and I having even the most casual of friendships. All of the partisan bickering in Washington today is NOTHING compared to two very opinionated teenagers verbally duking it out on our simulated Senate floor.

Then there was war. Literally.

For many of us, March of 2003 will be remembered as a dark time in American history. It was when our president took us to war against a country that had never attacked us and did not pose any immediate threat to us. Bush lied, plain and simple, and gave himself the honor of being the first president ever to preemptively invade another country.

Of course, Chris supported this war, and in an effort to prove his love for his country, decided to join the United States Marine Corps.

I cannot say for sure when Chris enlisted, or if he enlisted only because he wanted to go fight in Iraq, but I can say that once the war began, I heard more and more talk of his strong urge to finish school so that he could report for duty.

But by that time school was over for me; I graduated early, got a job, and didn't spend much time thinking about my warmongering - but definitely not a chickenhawk - former friend. That is, until recently.

You see, just as I had a firsthand connection to the Enron debacle, I now had a firsthand connection to the war. Earlier this month, I learned that Chris' unit was shipped off to Iraq. That is all the information I have. I am not aware of where he is or what he is doing, but I do know that he is there.

With all our bitter disagreements, I still have a tremendous amount of respect for Chris. I will proudly support him in uniform as I proudly support all of our troops for their tremendous sacrifice that comes with defending the American flag. I do not have the dedication nor the courage to fight, but because of those who do possess those traits, I am allowed to sit here and type this story.

I guess the point of all of this is to remind myself and others that we have a lot of work left to do, not only through the November election, but for the rest of our lives, because people like Chris should not exist.

To clarify, I am not advocating that all honest, loyal, hardworking, funny, patriotic, and genuinely good people like Chris should be tossed by the wayside. What I mean is that people like Chris who are directly harmed by other people like George Bush and his friends should not then put their lives on the line to prop up that same George Bush and his same friends.

It is a very real problem in this country when people are being conditioned to support those who would spit on them. It needs to stop. I can no longer tolerate stories of more violence in Iraq, more kids my age coming home in body bags, more money being wasted, and more lies being told.

It's time to wake up America. It's time to start once again honoring our country and our troops. It's time to stop allowing others to gain wealth and power by walking on the backs of the people they claim to represent. It's time to stop sending our troops into false wars while simultaneously cutting their benefits. It's time to get rid of George W. Bush.

And it's time to bring Chris home.

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