Optics Master Extraordinaire
By Steve Kerch, MarketWatch
CHICAGO (MarketWatch) -- It's time to revive the custom of dueling to resolve our disputes -- and not just political, although certainly that would be the first place we'd like to see some diehards on both sides of the aisle squaring off. But duels in media, academics and corporate boardrooms would also be welcome.
American politics is as nasty as ever. But unlike in days of yore, today we are deprived of the spectacle of something like the great Aaron Burr-Alexander Hamilton duel of July 11, 1804, at the Heights of Weehawken in New Jersey. In the culmination of a longstanding political and personal feud, the sitting vice president, Burr, fatally wounded the former Treasury secretary, Hamilton.
Now doesn't that beat getting all indignant over some partisan issue or another and declaring that the voters will throw the rascals out come the next election? Heck, elections only happen every two years. And we're on a 24/7 news cycle. A good duel now and then would certainly liven up the cable day!
Indeed, this would be the perfect pitch for a new reality show, because let's face it: Contestants only figuratively bumping off the competition on faux-reality shows like "American Idol" and "Survivor" couldn't hold a candle to the real thing on what we could call "I'd Rather Duel Than Debate!" The dueling ground could be in Weehawken again; it can probably use the economic stimulus.
First up on the firing line could be Congressmen Bart Stupak, a Michigan Democrat, and Randy Neugebauer, the Texas Republican whose outburst of "Baby killer!" ("It's a baby killer!" if you accept his version) disrupted the House of Representatives debate on the health-care reform bill.
It would be a perfectly representative face-off for our times: a Blue Stater from the most heavily unionized part of the country against a Red Stater from the republic that embodies the pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps mentality. Let's see whether Obama Socialism or Laissez-Faire Capitalism is the stronger with pistols at 10 paces!
We'd want to adhere to tradition here. Dueling pistols all around. And powdered wigs. Since we could never assume the parties themselves would agree to ground rules, the show's producers will have to set them: Start back to back, walk 10 paces, turn and shoot. Only one shot each -- if neither can hit the other, well, they're both losers.
Think of the outstanding matchups, not to mention the ratings: Glenn Beck vs. Keith Olbermann, Ken Lewis vs. Henry Paulson, Sandra Bullock vs. Jesse James, Sarah Palin vs. ... no, wait, she's too good with a moose rifle.
Yeah, sure, there might be some liability issues. And maybe a few criminal laws to skirt. But even if we ended up having to use paintballs instead of pistol shot, it could still be a lot of fun -- especially if the participants didn't know we were using paintballs.
Steve Kerch is assistant managing editor and personal finance editor of MarketWatch in Chicago.