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From the Front...In Augusta

Rahooligan

By Rahul Rohatgi, Crimson Staff Writer

TV News Anchor: As our troops courageously and effectively dismantle the Iraqi regime in Baghdad, this network shifts its focus to another heated conflict—the battle for Augusta National. The PGA Masters golf tournament begins today, but most Americans will be following the protests by women’s organizations against the exclusive southern club.

Our embedded correspondent, Rahul Rohatgi, is with the 3rd Division-5th Battalion of the National Coalition of Women’s Organizations (NCWO), which is leading the protest in Augusta, Ga. Let’s hear from him now:

(Live via satellite): Rahul Rohatgi here checking in from the front. As you know, I’m not allowed to give away operational details, so all I can say is that the group of protestors I am with is about two miles away from the actual golf course, somewhere on Washington Road. We’re not allowed near Augusta National, of course, thanks to a recent ruling by federal judge “Dudley” H. Bowen upholding the power of the local sheriff to boot protestors as far as he needs.

The conditions here have been brutal the past few days. Rain has dampened the spirit of some of those on the front line, but they have traveled too far to turn back now.

ANCHOR: Rahul, what exactly do these protesters want?

RR: Well, Augusta National, the private club associated with the Masters tournament, is a men’s-only club, and Martha Burk, the president of NCWO, doesn’t like that. Last year she sent a letter to Augusta president Hootie Johnson asking him to change the policy, and he basically told her to shove off. Since then, the issue has taken on a life of its own.

ANCHOR: How is the conflict affecting civilians?

RR: (delayed reaction, listening to ear-piece) Right, right, civilians. Well the PGA golfers competing in this event have been harassed incessantly, especially Tiger Woods. Burk has also stated that everyone who isn’t with her is basically complicit in the discrimination. Also, Augusta is snarled in crazy traffic.

ANCHOR: So if women can’t be members at the club, what can they do?

RR: Women are allowed to play the golf courses as guests, just like men. Obviously, the membership is an extremely homogenous group of men, mostly very wealthy corporate board members and directors.

ANCHOR: Who might be the first woman to be a member, when and if that happens?

RR: Good question. I don’t know. Oprah? Martha Stewart, after she gets out of prison? Whoever it is will be rich, privileged and probably a snob.

ANCHOR: I see you’re standing next to one of the foot-soldiers of the protest movement, actually the Generalissimo herself, Martha Burk.

RR: Yes, Ms. Burk has graciously agreed to a short interview with our network. As an embedded journalist, I have gotten to spend a lot of time around the 3-5th Battalion, and I can say that Ms. Burk is a field general as capable as anyone in Iraq. Ma’am, let me start out by asking—do you think you have any chance of winning this battle with Augusta National and Hootie Johnson?

BURK: Um, probably not. He’s a stubborn son-of-a-bitch. But hopefully I’ll parlay this publicity into a more prominent role, and demolish those NOW (National Organization of Women) haters.

RR: So, the point of all this was…?

BURK (interrupting): You’re here, aren’t you?

RR: Point taken. Well, several days ago you compared this cause to the plight of female soldiers fighting in Iraq. Why did you say that?

BURK: Honestly, that was a mistake. Sometimes I just say stupid things.

RR: Where have you recruited most of your sympathizers? How do they have the time to come down and protest?

BURK: They’re all professionals, of course. They used vacation days. Do you think the average woman in this country cares about the fate of rich, privileged women and their abilities to join a golf club?

RR: How would you say the protest is going?

BURK: Well, the women have been complaining about the lack of domestic help.

RR: Finally, what other all-male clubs are you looking to integrate?

BURK: I’ve been mobilizing for an attack on all-male prisons, actually. Them and the U.S. Senate.

RR: But there are already women in the U.S. Senate.

BURK: Really? They sure don’t look like it.

RR: Ms. Burk, thanks for talking to us, and good luck with your efforts.

ANCHOR: Rahul, we’ve got to cut to our retired gender-equality protestors soon, so please wrap it up.

RR: With pleasure. Well, folks, this battle will rage at least until Sunday, when the tournament is over. Neither side is giving an inch. Nighttime is fast approaching, and as we all know, the NCWO “owns the night.” They have also established 100 percent air-waves supremacy. But the enemy is formidable, and the level of resistance fiercer than expected. Martha Burk would have liked to establish a larger coalition for her cause, but right now she is settling for a “coalition of the willing to waste time in a parking lot holding signs.”

From somewhere in Augusta, Ga., this is Rahul Rohatgi with the 3rd-5th Battalion. Now back to the studio, and back to the issues that matter.

—Staff writer Rahul Rohatgi can be reached at rohatgi@fas.harvard.edu.

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