When Is a Hole Not a Hole?

Iraq v VietNam:

“Vietnam.”Even now, decades later, the word evokes such painful memories that to say “Vietnam” and “Iraq” in the same sentence is to risk accusations of disloyalty, as if merely noting the obvious parallels was an act of treason. It is not. In a recent Newsweek poll, 64 percent of Americans said that they were very or somewhat concerned that Iraq might become another Vietnam, and their concern is fully justified and rational.

Approaching a man digging in his back yard:

“I see you’re digging a hole in your back yard.”

“No, I’m not.”

“You’re not digging a hole?”


“Sure looks like a hole.”

“Well, it’s not. A ‘hole’ is bigger. If this was a ‘hole’ I’d be using a backhoe, not a shovel.”

“Huh. It has all the earmarks of a hole. You’re standing in it up to your knees and there’s a pile of dirt right next to you that you just took out of it. If it’s not a hole, what is it?”

“It’s a personal, access-neutral program of a structure-like hole-digging activity.”

“Uh…yeah? But it’s not a hole?”

“Not a bit of it. Nothing like a ‘hole’, in fact, nothing at all.”

“Looks like a hole.”

“That’s because you’re so negative. You’re looking at the absence of dirt in a specific area.”

“And that’s not what I should be looking at?”

(up to his waist now:) “No, of course not.”

“What should I be looking at?”

“The pile of dirt, of course.”

“The pile of dirt? Why?”

“Because that pile of dirt represents the progress I’m making.”

“And what progress is that?”

“My progress toward a better garden.”

“You have a garden?”

“Not yet, but I will have when I spread all that dirt.”

“Oh, I see. But what about the hole?”

(up to his shoulders:) “Why do you keep harping on that? It isn’t important–and it isn’t a ‘hole’!”

“Right, right. Don’t get excited. It’s very different from a hole, I can see that now. There are only a few superficial similarities between that–” (pause)

“Personal, access-neutral program of a structure-like hole-digging activity.”

“–what you said, and a hole. Oh, yes, I can see that. Don’t know why I couldn’t see it before. But–”

“Yes? But what?”

“But…jeez, it’s getting so deep I can hardly see you down there…but you’re still gonna have this…thing in your back yard. What if one of the neighbor-kids falls into it and gets hurt? What then?”

“Not my problem.”

“Why not?”

“It’s not my back yard. Now go away. You’re interfering with my programmed hole-digging activity.”

“That hole– Personal whatever-it-is, is getting awfully deep and you don’t have a ladder down there. Want me to get one for you?”

“For the last time: This is NOT a ‘hole’, it is NOT ‘deep’ because I’m not using a backhoe, I don’t need a ladder, and I don’t want your help. Now GO AWAY!”

“Ok, if you say so.”

A little while later, from the depths of the personal, access-neutral program of a structure-like hole-digging activity, come faint cries as darkness falls:

“Help? Help? Can anybody hear me? I’m stuck in this hole and I can’t get out. Help! Could somebody throw me a rope? Is anybody out there?”

One response to “When Is a Hole Not a Hole?

  1. This is almost creepy. I just wrote a post about “The Vietnam Conflict” with the song “Sam Stone” by John Prine – about another hole that’s even more tragic.

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