This was a week to remember heroism.
The teachers who used themselves as human shields in Newtown, Connecticut were heroes. Heroines, actually.
Victor Cruz, a Giant with a humble heart was a hero, making genuine efforts to ease the pain of a grieving family by visiting the parents of the little boy who was buried in a replica of his football jersey.
Senator Daniel Inouye was the most classic version of a hero, overcoming racism and unfounded suspicion to defend his country’s principles on the battlefield and later, in the Senate. He bore the physical scars of those first battles for the rest of his life.
Judge Robert Bork, a man who stood up for his conservative principles at a time when such things were unpopular and was martyred for it-at least in the judicial arena-was a hero.
And Barack Obama, who is possibly the most polarizing leader since, well, the guy he replaced is a hero to the extent that he put aside partisan differences and spoke to the nation with sincerity in a genuine attempt to help us mourn. To transcend politics, even for a brief moment, is heroic in this climate where everyone is supposed to have ulterior motives.
Only two of the above-referenced could earn a consensus on heroism. The women who faced down a crazed gunman with nothing more than love for the little children in their care, are the epitome of Christ. In giving of themselves for others, and doing so without calculating the risk, they will have their names forever etched on the eternal scroll.
Daniel Inouye watched as his country was attacked by the Japanese, even as he himself was considered an enemy alien by the government. Instead of bitterness, he found within himself desire and loyalty and petitioned that same government to let him fight. He did. In Italy, he stormed a set of German machine gun nests and neutralized them, losing his right arm in the process. The Medal of Honor he received nearly 50 years later was a belated thank you from a grateful nation.
The others mentioned above are more controversial. Some don’t believe that we should revere sports figures because they contribute little to the betterment of society. Some of those figures, like Charles Barkley, don’t even believe they themselves should be considered role models. But I think Victor Cruz deserves appreciation for putting himself in the shoes of devastated parents, something that he had recently become, and trying to show them their little boy Jack is still alive in his eyes.
Robert Bork had long since ceased being the ‘devil’ to the far Left, since they’d long moved on to other targets. But those who lived through his excruciating confirmation hearing know just how unfairly he was treated by the Democrats who made him pay for their anger at Reagan. They turned him into a caricature, ignored his brilliant mind, and guaranteed that the confirmation process would forever after become a political circus. The fact that President Obama is having trouble getting his own people on the bench is the sad legacy of that time. And yet, through it all, Bork never lost his dignity, even though he was personally embittered by the experience. And he continued to fight for his beliefs with integrity, instead of retreating into silence.
Which brings me to the President. After his speech last Friday in the wake of the horrific Newtown shootings, Obama gave what many, including this writer, thought was a truly moving speech. It was simple, unrehearsed and to the point. And yet, there were those who mocked his delivery and emotion, even to the point of questioning whether the tears he shed were legitimate. Anyone who could have taken sides in that moment of communal grief is impervious to true heroism. Because, I think, that is what the President showed.
Both Daniel Inouye and Robert Bork died this week. So, tragically, did the educators in Newtown. They are now with God, and have nothing to explain or apologize for. They have all earned their places among the angels.
The others are still with us, President Obama and Victor Cruz, as well as the countless other heroes like the first responders in Connecticut, the funeral directors who wipe their own tears while preparing a child to go home, the soldiers on the front lines who don’t have the luxury of stopping to grieve, and journalists like Richard Engel who risk their own safety to keep us aware of this dangerous world.
It is important to acknowledge the heroism that occurs on a daily basis. We are all too often focused on the villains among us, the people who make it unbearable to share this earthly space with them. People who make is almost impossible to believe that heroes can exist.
But they do. And they always will, as long as we let them.
Here’s some news we should have had weeks ago, that the government apparently had weeks ago, that Homeland Security had weeks ago. No, it has nothing to do with another Petraeus lover, or the fact that Al Qaeda was responsible for the Benghazi massacre.
This has to do with Bob Menendez. That’s Senator Bob Menendez to you and I. And one of the reasons that he is still Senator Bob Menendez is that he just won re-election. Of course, he won re-election before the incident that I’m about to tell you about happened.
According to AP reports, one of Menendez’s interns, an 18 year old Peruvian national, was just arrested for being illegally in the United States. He entered legally, but allowed his visitor’s visa to expire. In addition to being what some call ‘undocumented’ and others call ‘illegal,’ this young man named Luis Abraham Sanchez Zavaleta is reported to be a registered sex offender.
I’m always fascinated by how people can convince themselves that if it’s their ox getting gored it’s a civil rights catastrophe, but when it’s the other guy’s tuchus getting kicked he’s overreacting.
Case in point: the birth control mandate. A few weeks ago I wrote about how forcing a religious organization to subsidize activities and products that undermined its core beliefs violated the Free Exercise Clause (even though some federal judges hadn’t yet figured that out....more on this next week)
Given that fact that the most vocal opponents of the mandate have been Catholic, many of my readers responded with attacks on the church. My favorite comments were the ones about how a church that ‘regularly abuses little boys’ is also determined to keep women in servitude. Relevance and hyperbole aside, there is a lot of disinformation out there about what the First Amendment provides, and just because you think the Pope has no business poking his mitre under the connubial tent, that doesn’t mean the government gets to eviscerate two hundred and twenty-five years of religious protection.
But the secularists among us don’t think very highly of religion and, in fact, have been trying to diminish its impact on society for a very long time. They usually do it by claiming that the Free Exercise clause’s twin sister-the Establishment clause-erects an impenetrable wall between church and state. By this reasoning, anything that can vaguely be seen (or manipulated into being) religious oppression by a majority against a minority is seized upon, vilified and ultimately used to force-feed secularism down our collective throats.
A few years ago, just after Kermit Gosnell was arrested for murdering babies and pregnant women in his abortuary in West Philadelphia, pro-life advocates like myself went public with our outrage. After I wrote several articles decrying the type of society which gives birth (no pun intended) to such monstrous men and equally diabolical acts, I received the type of feedback you'd expect from the pro-choice crowd: I was exploiting a tragedy to advance my own agenda.
I won't deny that the Gosnell incident gave me an opportunity to talk about the dirty side of a procedure that has been sanitized in the press as a 'medical necessity' or, worse, a 'reproductive choice.' But to my knowledge, no one on my side of the argument ever said that Gosnell was the face of the pro-choice movement.
Fast forward to Sunday night. On prime-time television, smack dab between the two halves of a football game that the Eagles were destined to lose, Bob Costas pontificated about the evils of guns. Commenting on the murder-suicide of Kansas City Chief Javon Belcher and his pregnant girlfriend Kasandra Perkins, Costas noted implied that if Belcher didn't have a gun, his girlfriend would still be alive today.
When you write about religion, you can expect some feedback from the asylums.
This week was no exception.
In response to my recent column about the birth control mandate, several irate readers (who apparently get newspaper privileges between electro-shock therapy) took issue with my suggestion that the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment prohibited the government from forcing private organizations to directly or indirectly subsidize birth control if this violated their beliefs.
And so, the saga of the Boy Scouts continues.
The City of Brotherly Love, not content with a federal court decision ordering it to leave the kerchief-wearing, square knot-tying tykes alone, is back in court.
As anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock will recall, the city has been trying to evict the Cradle of Liberty Chapter of the Boy Scouts for a number of years, after failing to ‘convince’ them to drop a national policy that precludes openly gay members. The city has been stymied at every legal turn, losing at both the state and federal levels. But they’re not finished yet.
There’s been a lot of talk about ‘coming together’ in the wake of a very divisive election.
That’s disingenuous talk, especially from the mouths of those who voted for a man who used the politics of divide and conquer to win re-election.
But don’t listen to me. Listen to a hero, a man who spent seven years in a Prisoner of War camp in Vietnam. This is someone who knows what it means to long for freedom, and who has some specific ideas about peace as well.
When you tell someone that you don’t respect their choices, they tend to react with anger. That’s what happened last week, when I made a very public acknowledgement of my sorrow at the re-election of Barack Obama. The emails were numerous, many caustic, some unprintable in a family newspaper, and a few threatening. One fellow called me a “dirty cu*t,” another questioned my sanity and a third tried to use his law degree to shame me into silence. Note to the middle-aged male attorneys out there: save your arrogance for the pretty little things on bar stools who are more susceptible to your checkbook-er-charms.
Given the fact that I’m a conservative in a very liberal town, one in which there were precincts that registered zero votes for Mitt Romney (voter fraud? What voter fraud?) the hostility of my readers doesn’t surprise. What does, however, is the level of vitriol that spews from mouths and fingers when you say something that annoys.
I spent a good part of Thursday ‘unfriending’ people from Facebook, and not only the crass-and-crowing liberals. Some of the comments lobbed by suicidal conservatives made me realize that even among my fellow travelers there are extremes which should be avoided at all costs. Of course, the balance is always tipped in favor of liberals when it comes to offensive behavior; remember the nice things allegedly mature women said about Sarah Palin? Remember how they accused her of not being the mother of her Downs Syndrome child, the one a few shameless souls thought she should abort? And remember the deafening silence of the Democrats or, more specifically, female Democrats? The hatred was palpable.
I’m nowhere as important or ubiquitous as the comely and savvy governor, so my critics are both less vocal and less newsworthy. Still, it was with profound sadness that I read the emails in response to my piece last week, because they represented a hollowing-out of the human soul, a degradation of the spirit that separates sentient beings from damp clods of earth. I have learned that when someone is unable to defend his position, he resorts to ad hominem attacks with tangential topics. For example, there was the fellow who assured me I was racist because I refused to use the term “President Obama” in my column, even though I’d referred to him as “president.” There was the woman who said that she was a Catholic who believed in abortion, and don’t dare tell me that she wasn’t in good standing with the church (okay, I won’t. I’ll leave that to the Bishops.)
There was the gay man from San Francisco who, even though I hadn’t said anything about same-sex marriage in the piece, felt it necessary to tell me that his ‘husband’ was a much better “American” than I was because his “people” came over on the Mayflower. There was the black woman who said that Barack Obama was so much better than those mediocre white men who had been keeping her people down all these years. To her, I was moved to mention that mediocre white men had freed the slaves, passed the Civil Rights Act, ended segregation, and risked death at KKK road blocks like my father. I also reminded her that this president had come from the womb of a mediocre white woman
I could tell the comment was not appreciated by the response, which included several words not even Andrew Dice Clay could pronounce.
Some people actually tried to engage in civil discourse, but they were about as common as a bar of soap at an Occupy rally. Others mocked my sadness, going so far as to say that I should just jump in front of a Regional Rail car and be done with it. Given the problems SEPTA has in running its trains on time, this is probably not the most effective way to do myself in if I were so inclined.
And then there were those who were convinced that I hated Barack Obama, even though I said I didn’t. Apparently, when a white person doesn’t vote for the “First Black President” and then brazenly admits it in print, she must be hiding some crisp percale sheets in her linen closet. These were the most depressing emails, the ones that saw racism in the shadows and refused to believe that anyone could actually embrace a conservative without ulterior, sinister motives.
Every four years, there are winners and losers. But there is a bitter edge to it this time, a sense that we’ve been ripped along jagged lines that draw blood.
I’m not done fighting for my beliefs, not by a long shot. But I do seek an armistice of sorts. Not yielding, not compromising.
Just finding that place where, as Yeats wrote, “peace comes dropping slow.”