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Jewish World Review April 16, 2003/ 14 Nisan, 5763

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker
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No wonder "they" hate us; I hate us, too | It was impossible to ignore the jarring juxtaposition of last weekend's top-of-the-fold datelines -Augusta and Baghdad -where very different wars were being waged. Try to guess which one is ridiculous.

Here's what was happening in Baghdad: Families and friends went looking for loved ones who had disappeared into Saddam's blood chambers. Among the electric prods and meat hooks, they found photographs of dead Iraqis with their throats slashed, their eyes gouged out and their genitals blackened.

And then we have Augusta, where Martha Burk, chair of the National Council of Women's Organizations, was protesting women's exclusion from the all-male Augusta National Golf Club. In a photograph, Burk was shown flanked by Kim Gandy, National Organization for Women president, and Martin Luther King III.

No wonder "they" hate us; I hate us, too. In Baghdad, brutalized men, raped women and tortured children dream of such doily dilemmas. Only a free nation of the well fed could afford to fret over something so inconsequential.

It is a matter of stunning wonder that Burk et al saw fit to protest a constitutionally protected institution on grounds of gender bias in the midst of such an epochal historic juncture. Here we are involved in a military clash that has liberated millions of people and toppled a tyrant, while potentially rearranging the world's geopolitical landscape, and these self-anointed "civil rights" bureaucrats are compelled to address rejection by an all-boys club?

Talk about trivializing the momentous and devaluing the currency. Those who fought for voting rights and equal citizenship risked and sometimes lost everything. And this is their legacy? We can only figure by King's and Gandy's presence at the golf tournament that the civil-rights movement is over and gender equality has been achieved. Bravo, let's move on.

Even without the brute contrast of death and high life, Augusta National's rules were never worthy of the controversy that has captivated America's teapot minders. It's a private club of only 300 invited members who dress in sporty green jackets and quietly nurture a tiny slice of civilization. And who exactly cares?

Burk. She turned her attention to the Augusta club, she says, because of its high profile in hosting the annual Master's Golf Tournament. A low-profile, all-men's club presumably would escape her radar, by which one infers that it's OK to have a male-only club as long as its members are not terribly successful, prosperous or famous. Augusta was created in 1932 for wealthy New Yorkers who wanted to play winter golf, and many of today's members have CEO after their names.

Augusta's sin doesn't seem to be that its membership is all male. Rather it is that they have achieved exclusivity by virtue of social positioning and/or professional standing. Never mind that the club breaks no law. Never mind that it's no one's business whom they invite to join. Never mind that no one is injured by exclusion from the club. Burk's operative rule seems to be: Men bad, women good. Rich bad, poor good.

Among the many wrong arguments for Augusta's inviting women to join, one in particular stands out for its creative dot-connecting and exploitation of feminism's newest darling -Pfc. Jessica Lynch. Writing for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Cynthia Tucker implied that since Lynch is "one of the valiant women warriors helping to erode the strictures against allowing women in combat," (boy, now there's progress), then Augusta should let women join the golf club. War, golf, war, golf. I get it.

"But Lynch's heroics mean nothing to the imperious (Augusta National president) William `Hootie' Johnson, who runs his own little tyranny," she wrote. "His exclusive golf club will not abide incursions by women members -no matter their courage, honor, stature or wealth."

Imperious? Tyranny? Incursions? I understand the temptation to use war vocab these days, but such words in the context of a club dispute ring false, as does Tucker's "argument," which sends Logic scrambling for a powder. Submitting Lynch's survival as evidence that women ipso facto should be included in a private men's golf club is like saying: If "P," then ... Tuba! It doesn't follow.

Last I checked, Johnson wasn't inviting women to join Augusta National because, well, they're not men as club rules require, and he doesn't care to be bullied by people like Tucker and Burk. And Lynch, who never asked to be anyone's poster girl, deserves to be left alone to adopt her own cause (or not) and invent her own legacy.

Like Augusta's membership policy, her life is no one else's business.

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