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 Normal Brains 

November 2, 2006 
normal brainsAfter a lapse of several years, I have cable television again. I got it just in time to watch the Detroit Tigers play like a bunch of Republicans in the World Series, their pitchers firing fastballs at more than 100 miles an hour at hitters but hopelessly inept at tossing balls to first Today's column is "Normal Brains" -- Read Joe's columns the day he writes them.and third base.

normal brainsThe Series, in turn, ended just in time for Halloween, when the cable channels showed every hokie horror movie ever made, most of them starring Vincent Price or Boris Karloff. I watched the first film version of Frankenstein again, including the unforgettable scene where Igor, Dr. Frankenstein’s assistant, sneaks into the lab and steals the wrong brain to put into the monster’s cranium, with unfortunate results.

normal brainsMan, that always creeps me out. I mean, how hard can it be? Each brain is kept in a jar with a sign identifying it, in clear scientific language, as a “normal brain” or, alternatively, “abnormal brain.” Igor takes the “normal” brain but drops it, and then, unaccountably, takes the “abnormal” brain instead. Anyone can see trouble ahead.

normal brainsYou’d think a brilliant doctor performing an experiment of historic importance would be sure to hire a competent assistant, a trained professional, rather than a minimum-wage bumbler like Igor. But important experiments in these films have a way of going seriously wrong, as in the Vincent Price classic The Fly, another one that still creeps me out. As you may recall, Price plays a scientist who carelessly gets his body parts mixed up with those of an ordinary housefly, and it doesn’t do the fly much good either.

normal brainsBy now I’m sure you know where this is headed: the Iraq war. The mad scientists and their blundering assistants remind me of the Bush administration’s experiments in spreading democracy. I don’t want to press the analogies too far, but I look at Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and I’m thinking “Igor.” Someone forgot to specify “normal brain.”

[Breaker quote for Normal Brains: Lessons of the classic horror movies]normal brainsIf there is one thing this administration could use, it’s a normal brain. Here is where the movie analogies break down. You can see the neoconservatives who agitated for this war as the brilliant but deranged scientists and President Bush as the Igor who, only dimly grasping his instructions, botched his assignment. Or you may see Bush as the monster who gets the abnormal brain by mistake and staggers around the countryside grunting inarticulately and wreaking havoc. There is no single “right” way to apply the parallel.

normal brainsThis brings us to Senator John Kerry, who even without makeup vaguely reminds one of Boris Karloff. This being an election season, tempers are raw. Candidates (“I’m Joe Blow, and I approved this message”) are accusing each other of ax murders, pedophilia, and even, when they really get rough, Holocaust denial. Their opponents reply in kind, and everyone demands apologies, which only a fool would give.

normal brainsWell, Kerry told a joke about Bush being so dumb he got stuck in Iraq, and Bush was so dumb he didn’t get it and construed it as an insult to our brave fighting men (and women). He demanded an apology, and all the Republicans demanded an apology, and then even the Democrats demanded an apology, so Kerry, like a fool, apologized. “Cut and run,” eh, John?

normal brainsNeither Bush nor Kerry has what is scientifically known as a “normal brain,” but Kerry’s seems to be even more defective than Bush’s. Republicans accused Kerry of snobbery, pointing out that our armed forces are in fact highly educated, and that if you walk into any barracks you are sure to hear them discussing Plato — whose most famous dialogue is called, significantly, The Apology.

normal brainsKerry, it must be remembered, once recalled that his dying mother gave him three words of advice: “Integrity, integrity, integrity.” This may help explain his odd behavior. At any rate, the Republicans took his apology as a vindication of their cause. He had enraged and activated their base, and suddenly they had high hopes of holding both houses of Congress next week.

normal brainsThe voters face a clear choice between the two parties. The Democrats are placing their hopes in Barack Obama. But the Bush administration has made it absolutely clear that it will not allow him to acquire weapons of mass destruction.

Joseph Sobran

Copyright © 2006 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate,
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