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Only in America could Chavez talk smack

I don't know about y'all, but it appears to me that international diplomacy has fallen to a new low. In case you missed it, although I don't know how you could have, the president of Venezuela stood at a United States podium in New York City and called President Bush the "devil."

In fact, he embellished his remarks by claiming that he could "still smell the sulfur" left over, I suppose, from Bush's appearance at the U.N. a day earlier.

Chavez is lucky that he lives in the 21st century. Wars have been fought over less. We went to war with Spain in 1898 when a Spanish foreign minister, Enrique Dupuy De Lome, called William McKinley a "weak politician who caters to the rabble and jingoist of his party."

Spain is a lot tougher than Venezuela. In fact, I bet Venezuela couldn't even beat Mississippi State.

I realize that name-calling is not new when it comes to politics - even American politics. Or maybe that would be, "especially American politics."

Take the aforementioned McKinley, for instance. Teddy Roosevelt said a lot worse things about him than De Lome had, but theirs was a spat among Americans and T.R. wasn't about to let a "foreigner" come to this country and besmear the man or his office.

As recently as the 1980 Democratic primary, Jimmy Carter, who was usually not given to such language, threatened to whip Teddy Kennedy's "posterior" if the Massachusetts senator chose to challenge him. He did and he did.

My mama used to teach me that old adage about how "sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me." Well, they may not hurt me, but they sure can make me mad, and I don't mind admitting that Chavez's comments got my dander up.

I don't care if you are a Democrat or Republican or Libertarian or Episcopalian - they just have gotten your dander up, too.

Chavez is a great one to talk, by the way. He is an autocratic dictator who is said to be responsible for thousands of human rights violations - and worse. In fact, if a citizen of his country had stood in a public forum and made the comments about Chavez that Chavez made about our leader, that person would probably find himself lacking a head in short notice.

I'll tell you how out of line Hugo the Horrible's remarks were. They had Democratic Bush-basher Nancy Pelosi coming to the chief executive's defense. And anyone who can inspire Democrats and Republicans to join forces in this age of political partisanship run amok had better watch his back.

In the immortal words of the late Lewis Grizzard, "That dog will bite youuuu!"

Chavez wasn't alone in his condemnation of our nation this week. The president of Iran, another bastion of democracy, was in town, too. Did you happen to catch the highlights of his act on the six o'clock news? I did, and I couldn't help but feel that I had seen that guy someplace before.

I was watching TV Land later that night when "The Andy Griffith Show" came on. Suddenly it hit me! Dud Walsh!

If you are an "Andy Griffith Show" fan - and if you aren't, you're probably not reading my columns anyway - you will remember the Darling family. Charlene was the pretty blonde who was sweet on Andy. Her daddy was Briscoe Darling and her brothers were a bunch of backwoods galoots who never spoke but could pick and sing with the best of 'em.

And Dud Walsh - played by Bob Denver, later of "Gilligan's Island" fame, was Charlene's husband - and dumb as a box of rocks. Take a look at President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran the next time you get a chance. Spitting image of Dud Walsh.

I believe Dud makes a little more sense, though.

On the world stage, the Iranian president sends waves of fear through freedom-loving people everywhere when he speaks of his nation's right to nuclear weapons and issues his thinly veiled threats to blow Israel off the map.

In his home country, it is said he is the champion of the poor and downtrodden because he promises them a day of economic security. The same strategy worked for Hitler, you may recall.

Others in his nation lampoon him and call him a dangerous buffoon. They don't do that in public, however, because they don't enjoy the same rights we do - and Ahmadinejad was taking advantage of our right to free speech by launching a long anti-American tirade himself this week.

And so it goes.

And thus my point. About 230 years ago, our forefathers set forth to create a nation in which people were free to express their opinions without fear of government reprisal.

After winning a war against Great Britain and struggling along under a pond-water weak government for a number of years, many of these same men created the Constitution under which we now live - a Constitution that guarantees freedom of speech.

Millions have died to protect that Constitution and the freedoms it guarantees. There are outlaws out there who would take it away from us. Chavez and Ahmadinejad are among them.

So far, we are still standing tall, and that's what bothers our enemies the most.

Darrell Huckaby is an author and teacher in Rockdale County. E-mail him at dhuck08@bellsouth.net.

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