The Magazine

An Alternative Inaugural Address

From the January 24, 2005 issue: What if George W. Bush weren't a compassionate conservative . . .

Jan 24, 2005, Vol. 10, No. 18 • By P.J. O'ROURKE
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MY FELLOW AMERICANS, I had intended to reach out to all of you and bring a divided nation together. But I changed my mind. America isn't divided by political ethos or ethnic origin. America isn't divided by region or religion. America is divided by jerks. Who wants to bring a bunch of jerks together with the rest of us? Let them stew in Berkeley, Boston, and Ann Arbor.

The media say that I won the election on the strength of moral values. If the other fellow had become president, would the media have said that he won the election on the strength of immoral values? For once the media would have been right.

We are all sinners. But jerks revel in their sins. You can tell by their reaction to the Ten Commandments. Post those Ten Commandments in a courthouse or a statehouse, in a public school or a public park, and the jerks go crazy. Why is that? Christians believe in the Ten Commandments. So do Muslims. Jews, too, obviously. Show the Ten Commandments to Hindus, Buddhists, Confucians, or to people with just good will and common sense and nobody says, "Whoa! That's all wrong!"

But jerks take issue with every one of the Ten Commandments. Jerks are particularly offended by the first two Commandments. Of course people of faith, decent people, differ on interpretations of the first two Commandments. For example, we don't all agree about the meaning of "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image." However, we do all agree about "Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them" when them is Freud, Marx, and Dan Rather.

"Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain." How many times, over the last few months, have we heard, "Ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod, I can't believe George Bush won"?

"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy." Let's be fair about this. We did see a lot of white, non-Hispanic Democrats in churches in 2004. But they were all running for president. And the churches were inner-city black churches. I happen to know that there are churches in the white, non-Hispanic suburbs where these Democrats live. Apparently jerks can't find them.

"Honor thy father and thy mother." Are telling lies about a bankrupt Social Security system and trying to block its privatization reform ways to do this?

"Thou shalt not kill." Why, in the opinion of jerks, is it wrong to kill a baby but all right to kill a baby that's so little he hasn't been born yet? And why do the same jerks who favor abortion oppose the death penalty? We can imagine people so full of loving kindness that they can accept neither the abortionist nor the executioner. We can even imagine people so cold-hearted that they embrace them both. But it takes a real jerk to argue in favor of killing perfect innocents and letting Terry Nichols live.

"Thou shalt not commit adultery." The jerks have begun praising marriage lately. But only if the bride and groom each have a beard.

"Thou shalt not steal." In 2004 the United States government spent $2,318,800,000,000. Thus every American benefited from $7,919.37 worth of federal services. Let me ask the jerks something. Say you're average jerks, a "blended family" of four. Did you pay $31,677.48 in taxes last year? If you didn't, you took things from other Americans. What did you give in return?

"Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor." Especially not in return for vast wealth, abundant prizes, and lavish praise from fellow jerks. I'm talking to you, Michael Moore.

And then there is the Tenth Commandment. "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor's." The Ten Commandments are God's basic rules about how we should live--a brief list of sacred obligations and solemn moral precepts. The first nine Commandments concern theological principles and social law. But then, right at the end, is "Don't envy your buddy's cow." How did that make the top ten? What's it doing there? Why would God, with just ten things to tell Moses, choose as one of those things jealousy about the starter mansion with in-ground pool next door?

Yet think how important the Tenth Commandment is to a community, to a nation, indeed to a presidential election. If you want a mule, if you want a pot roast, if you want a cleaning lady, don't be a jerk and whine about what the people across the street have--go get your own.

The Tenth Commandment sends a message to all the jerks who want redistribution of wealth, higher taxes, more government programs, more government regulation, more government, less free enterprise, and less freedom. And the message is clear and concise: Go to hell.

P.J. O'Rourke is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and author, most recently, of Peace Kills (Atlantic Monthly Press).