Keeping track of who we're supposed to hate


ALTHOUGH THE shooting hasn't begun yet, I've been trying to work up a healthy hatred for Iraq. It seems like the patriotic thing to do. And I've always believed that if people go through the bother of killing each other, they shouldn't be impersonal about it. After all, it is a very intimate act.

Although I haven't reached the point of gnashing my teeth at the thought of an Iraqi, I'm sure it will come because I've had so much experience at this sort of thing.

The first time I developed a patriotic hatred was in 1939, when newsboys came through the neighborhood at night, waving special editions and shouting: "Extra, extra, Germany invades Poland."

Although I was just a kid, within a couple of years I dutifully hated Germans, Japanese and Italians. (I didn't hate Italians very long, though, because they surrendered as soon as it was convenient.)

At the same time, I loved and admired the brave Russians and Chinese because they had joined us in hating the evil Germans, Japanese and Italians.

But as soon as World War II ended, and I could stop hating the evil Germans and Japanese because they weren't evil anymore, I had to start hating the brave Russians and Chinese, because they weren't brave anymore, but had become evil.

While I was adjusting to that, along came the North Koreans. Even though I didn't know a North Korean from a South Korean, or any Korean from a chipmunk, I went along and hated them. The North Koreans.

Not long after that, I discovered that I could still hate some Germans. Not West Germans, because they had become good and even gave us some of their ex-Nazi scientists to help us build rockets. But East Germans had become evil commies and were to be hated.

However, this created some confusion, since Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and other countries had become commie, too, so I felt a responsibility to hate them. But I was told that they didn't really want to be commies: the Russians made them do it. So I didn't have to hate them as much as I hated the Russians and Chinese.

Then came Cuba. I had never paid much attention to Cuba because I didn't smoke cigars. But when a heroic Fidel Castro overthrew an evil, corrupt regime, I was urged to admire the heroic Castro, which I did, although he looked like he needed a bath. Then, almost overnight, Castro became an evil commie and I had to start hating Cuba. My hatred reached the boiling point when we had the Cuban missile crisis. But in recent years, it's been reduced to a simmer.

Naturally, I joined in really hating North Vietnam. And some Cambodians, although I'm still not certain which Cambodians I was supposed to hate. It's possible that in the confusion I was hating Cambodians that I should have been liking, in which case I apologize.

The 1960s may have been one of my hate-peaks, second only to the 1940s. I found myself hating the Russians, Chinese, North Vietnam and Cuba, while still nursing an intense dislike for North Korea and not thinking highly of Albania. There were a few other countries that I occasionally cursed, but their names slip my mind.

Shortly thereafter, though, President Nixon said I didn't have to hate the Chinese anymore, although I wasn't expected to hug them. And I haven't hated them since, except for that recent month or two when I could again hate them because of the way they kicked around their students. But that seems to have calmed down and President Bush says it's OK not to hate them, so I don't.

In fact, I don't have to hate the Russians, or hardly anyone in Europe because we've become pals and they're all eager to eat Quarter Pounders with cheese like decent folk do.

And it couldn't have happened at a better time, because of the need to hate Iraq. I can be vicious, but I have only so much hatred to spread around.

Actually, it isn't that hard to hate Iraq. It's simply a matter of shifting my hatred a few miles. Until recently, I hated Iran and kind of liked Iraq because it was fighting with Iran. But now that it's time to hate Iraq, it's not necessary to hate Iran. Unless Iran cuts a friendly deal with Iraq, in which case I'll have to hate it again. Iran, I mean.

Fortunately, there is less pressure to hate some of the other Arab nations, which I formerly hated because they went in for terrorism. But now they say they hate Iraq, too, which means that I can like them. At least for the time being. Things can change quickly and I might have to start hating them once more, so I'm not going to like them a lot just in case.

I wonder if there will come a time when there isn't anyone I have to hate. Nah. Not as long as there are New York Mets.

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