Many badges-o-shame have crossed my narrow chest. Like the night I shrieked at the sight of a daddy longlegs at Cub Scout camp. Or when I locked my keys in my car twice in one month. Or my brief but penetrating Phil Collins phase.
But it’s true. Terribly, horribly true. You got to admire the guy’s grit. Bauer’s like one of those 12-inch rubber wrestling dolls I never got for Christmas. You can bounce him! Toss him out of a helicopter! Throw him at a speeding cement truck! And yet, Bauer still comes back for more punishment.
I’ve seen Jack Bauer sneer stoically in the face of Chinese torture. Glare unblinkingly in the eye of death. Chat casually with Elisa Cuthbert without staring at her cans. The only thing I haven’t seen Jack do in 24 consecutive hours is go to the bathroom, eat a snack, or check his Facebook page.
In the world of 24, Jack Bauer is the contradictive instrument of democracy secretly penciled into some little-know format of the Constitution only Dick Cheney has thoroughly studied. Jack answers only to the President, and not the law – unless the President is breaking the law, and then Jack can elect to answer to him at his pleasure.
Not that pleasure is a word Jack Bauer understands, unless he takes some kind of sick satisfaction in breaking bones, brutalizing captured adversaries, and electrocuting suspects who may or may not know a secret code. Jack is always willing to kick Democracy in the groin so long as the rest of us are willing to arrive sometime later to apply the ice.
And the Angry Czeck recognizes that a ball breaker like Jack Bauer can come in handy when things get dicy.
When speaking of her husband’s frequent philandering, Sharon Osborne once said, “So long as he cheats on me and I don’t know, I’m fine. Don’t let me find out, because that’s just rude.”
I don’t want to know the real Jack Bauers of the world do, nor am I interested in being made privy to their methods. That’s just rude.
It’s cheap and easy to wax hypothetically when creating a Jack Bauer scenario, but if we had snagged a guy connected to the 9-11 hijackings while airplanes were soaring into buildings, wouldn’t you want a guy carrying a rusty toolbox to talk to the guy? Or would you rather preserve due process than the lives in the Pentagon?
Most people – law abiding, patriotic, peace-loving people – would choose the guy with the toolbox. Nobody wants a formal introduction to Mr. Toolbox. We want to be able to deny the existence of Mr. Toolbox. But to deny the necessity of Mr. Toolbox is naïve.
We were afforded the luxury of condemning Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib because the arrogant Bush Administration rudely allowed their deplorable existence to be known. Maybe the Obama Administration will practice torture, rendition, and assassination more covertly. More politely.
I am a decent enough guy to be shamed. But I’m pragmatic enough to appreciate Jack Bauer.