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"On Quitting"

Our culture has a serious prejudice against quitters. It is taught very effectively, especially to little boys early on. For example: "Don't be a quitter."

"He's just a quitter."

"Well, I'm no quitter."

But there are situations that can only be improved by quitting. You heard of the guy who went to the doctor with a pain. He pressed on his arm and said, "It hurts when I do this."

The doctor's advice was very simple. "Don't do that."

Here are some more situations that can be improved by quitting

[1] Smoking. Every health study advisory lists smoking cessation as Number One on "what to do to improve your health" -- "Quit smoking." Whole industries have sprung up with products and techniques designed to help addicts quit. They only work, though, if the smoker really does quit.

I smoked a pipe for twenty years, beginning in college, when I took it up as a means of staying awake while reading heavy philosophical tomes. Let me share how I quit.

I was teaching school at the Boys' Academy, and during the last part of each class period, while we all did "Uninterrupted Sustained Silent Reading" [USSR], I lit up my pipe. It would not be allowed in any classroom today. One of the boys, Brian Garvin, was the son of a dentist. Brian often told me, "You shouldn't do that, Sir. It's hurting you."

I replied, "I know, Brian," but I didn't quit.

One day, Brian brought from his father a brochure, in living color, which showed the step-by-step details of the surgical procedures for removal of cancer of the lip and cancer of the tongue. I looked at the pictures. Then I took my pipe out of my mouth, threw it into the metal waste can with a clang and said, "O.K., Brian. You win. I quit." And sixteen boys watched a grown man quit smoking. I have never regretted that quitting.

[2] Addictive consumption of alcohol. I love a margarita. Just one, with dinner. Adela loves a half-glass of wine, with a full meal. But we have watched friends, who loved too much alcohol too much, die miserably. One bled to death with a destroyed liver. The other lapsed into dementia, but still could not quit. In both cases quitting would have improved the situation.

[3] Persisting in a job or profession you hate. "Take this job and shove it," has become a proverb in our language. It is hard to do, and the stigma of being a quitter helps keep persons in harness, persons who long to be free.

[4] Believing things that are now obviously not true. It is always good to quit doing that. The moon is not made of green cheese. The world is not balanced on the backs of four elephants. The sun does not revolve around the earth; nor does it really rise or set - it just appears to. There is no Santa Claus. Daddy will not come fix it, nor will the doctor, nor will "technology." The Universe was not created in six days in the year 4004 B.C. God did not write a book. The Almighty and Benevolent Sky Father is an illusion with no future.

[5] Continuing a fight that is lost. In professional boxing, a fighter's handlers are allowed to "throw in the towel," before someone gets seriously hurt. In real life, where the fights are more likely to be symbolic or emotional, the best way to win is to refuse to play, i.e. refuse to fight, but sometimes, once the fight is under way, the best thing left to do is to stop it. Quit.

[6] Continuing in a war that is lost. We finally did what needed doing once before, in Viet Nam. It wasn't surrender; it was just quitting. Quit and go home.

Macho little boy posturing is all that's left of the current lost war in Iraq. How can we persuade this little boy, who is in way over his head, that it's O.K. to be a quitter? And how can we persuade his successors that it's a very bad idea to go around invading other people's countries? It's illegal, a gross violation of the U.N. Charter, which is the law of our country. But it's worse than illegal. It's stupid. And now it's time, and past time, to quit.

The Urge to Surge

Changing the euphemisms won't fool those of us who can remember. They used to call it "escalation." 1965. More American troops, and that'll take care of everything. Into Vietnam, a nation of thirty million people, we sent half a million troops. It didn't work.

The urge-to-surge people want thirty thousand American troops to pacify Baghdad, a city of six million people. Do the long division problem. Write it out, cross off those four zeros -- 6,000,000 / 30,000 -- that's one U.S. soldier for every 200 furious Baghdad citizens. "House to house" is also part of the announced "new" strategy. 200 to one, remember.

It will turn into Stalingrad, which was the turning point on World War II. At Stalingrad the Red Army defenders of Mother Russia defeated definitively the Nazi enterprise of world conquest -- it was all lose and retreat after that for the German invaders. Russian losses were dreadful, but the defenders won.

In Stalingrad the result of "house to house" was the complete destruction of the city itself, and the annihilation of the million plus invading Nazi army. Hitler wouldn't let his army surrender, so it was destroyed altogether. In Baghdad the Acting President won't let his army "redeploy," so he just may lose it altogether.

In Baghdad the Americans are the aggressors, having invaded in gross violation of the U.N. charter. The defenders have all the advantages of terrain and motivation. The invaders can't figure out how to get out. "The flies have conquered the flypaper" -- a line from Steinbeck's novel about the Nazi [them, again!] occupation of Norway, THE MOON IS DOWN. More Nazi troops would not have changed anything.

No one anymore is admitting that this is all about oil. We have no plan to abandon the permanent bases, which are there, and are where they are, because of the oil.

When the Haliburton Memorial theft of all the reconstruction funds is finally stopped, the question will become, "How come they get schools and universal health care and we don't?" Of course the reconstruction of Iraq will make little sense, if all the Iraqis have been killed.

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Copyright © 2007 Harry Willson

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