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By MaryJo Thomas

My friend Naomi, a smart businesswoman, recently told me that George W. Bush could put his boots under her bed any night.

I thought Naomi was a "healthy" Republican, but her confession truthfully shocked me.

I started thinking about the sexuality of power and the magnetism of people with power. Sylvia Plath (a poet I never liked and am, therefore, hesitant to quote) said, "Every woman adores a Fascist, /The boot in the face…." Plath wasn't writing about Bush. But she was writing about men with power, the kind of power wielded by leather-booted, goose-stepping monsters (and, sadly, about her own "Daddy").
Uniforms can charm, seduce. Remember George Bush as he stood on the deck of the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln declaring victory? President Bush was wearing a flight suit and a smirk. Censures around his thighs accentuated his…well, you know. Leader of the Free World. Ready for action.

Sexy? Nonsense. Given his own war record, how dare he dress up like a soldier (airman, sailor) and strut his stuff! Why wasn't he ashamed? Embarrassed? Look again at that picture and you'll see an adolescent boy playing war. I am convinced this is all a game to him. And the only thing that he arouses in me is fear.

I will be voting for John Kerry in November. The Bush people like to call him a "hippie" and a "rich boy" and, true, he was both. But when he wasn't much more than an adolescent, Kerry volunteered to command a swift boat in Vietnam. (Who knows where George Bush was at that time).

Everyone knows about how Kerry earned his Bronze Star, how he, wounded, pulled a comrade out of the water during battle. What we don't read much about, and I don't know why, is the incident that earned him his Silver Star. Maybe he just doesn't like to talk about it (It wasn't even mentioned at the Democratic Convention).

Vietnam vets I have known have thousands of stories, but most of these men don't like to talk about the killing they did. Kerry is probably no different.

The swift boat he commanded was ambushed from shore by a Vietcong firing rockets. Kerry's response was quick, instinctual. Realizing that his boat could not avoid the attack, Kerry chose, instead, to turn his craft directly toward shore, into enemy fire.

Dropping the rocket launcher and running into the jungle, the sniper must have regarded the maneuver as the action of a madman. Kerry leaped from the boat and pursued the man, finally catching and killing him.

Incidentally, Kerry could have been court-martialed for his daring: sailors are not supposed to leave their vessels during combat. He chose the difficult and lonely thing, to break the rule. For this "conspicuous gallantry," he was awarded a Silver Star.

John Kerry was 23 years old at the time.

Does anyone really think George Bush at 23 (or at 61) could make such a decision?

Mr. Kerry, you can put your Birkenstocks under my bed anytime.

Copyright © 2004 MaryJo Thomas

MaryJo Thomas is 55 years old and the daughter of a West Virginia coal miner. The first in her family to go to college, she went to graduate school at the University of Florida in Gainesville. She has taught at a small, humorless Christian college in Kentucky for fifteen incredibly long years. Recently, she resigned her tenured position to devote herself fulltime to a writing, research, and editing business she and her sister run. Her sympathies and background are solidly working-class.

Divorced, she lives in a small house with her seven rescued cats and her black dog, Susan. When she starts earning some money again, MaryJo will return to Florida to live out the rest of her life among other sinners. Her plan is to write about the 1960s before she loses her memory completely.

MaryJo can be reached at