Not Yours to GiveFrom The Life of Colonel David Crockett, compiled by Edward S. Ellis
(Philadelphia: Porter & Coates, 1884)
Member of Congress 1827-31, 1832-35
One day in the House of Representatives, a bill was taken up appropriating money for the benefit of a widow of a distinguished naval officer. Several beautiful speeches had been made in it's support. The Speaker was just about to put the question when Crockett arose:
"Mr. Speaker-- I have as much respect for the memory of the deceased, and as much sympathy for the suffering of the living, if suffering there be, as any man in this House, but we must not permit our respect for the dead or our sympathy for a part of the living to lead us into an act of injustice to the balance of the living. I will not go into an argument to prove that Congress has no power to appropriate this money as an act of charity. Every member upon this floor knows it. We have the right, as individuals, to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity; but as members of Congress we have no right so to appropriate a dollar of the public money. Some eloquent appeals have been made to us upon the ground that it is debt due the deceased. Mr. Speaker, the deceased lived long after the close of the war; he was in office to the day of his death, and I have never heard that the government was in arrears to him. Every man in this House knows it is not a debt. We cannot, without the grossest corruption, appropriate this money as the payment of a debt. We have not the semblence of authority to appropriate it as a charity. Mr. Speaker, I have said we have the right to give as much money of our own as we please. I am the poorest man on this floor. I cannot vote for this bill, but I will give one week's pay to the object, and if every memeber of Congress will do the same, it will amount to more than the bill asks."
He took his seat. Nobody replied. The bill was put upon its passage, and, instead of passing unanimously, as was generally supposed, and as, no doubt it would, but for that speech, it received but few votes, and, of course, was lost. Later, when asked by a friend why he had opposed the appropriation, Crockett gave this explanation:
"Several years ago I was one evening standing on the steps of the Capitol with some other members of Congress, when our attention was attracted by a great light over in Georgetown. It was evidently a large fire. We jumped into a hack and drove over as fast as we could. In spite of all that could be done, many houses were burned and many families made homeless, and besides, some of them had lost all but the clothes they had on. The weather was very cold, and when I saw so many women and children suffering, I felt that something ought to be done for them. The next morning a bill was introduced appropriating $20,000 for their relief. We put aside all other business and rushed it through as soon as it could be done.
"The next summer, when it began to be time to think about the election, I concluded I would take a scout around among the boys of my district. I had no opposition there, but, as the election was some time off, I did not know what might turn up. When riding one day in a part of my district in which I was more of stranger than any other, I saw a man in a field plowing and coming toward the road. I gauged my gait so that we should meet as he came to the fence. As he came up, I spoke to the man. He replied politely, but, as I thought, rather coldly.
"I began: 'Well, friend, I am one of those unfortunate beings called candidates, and----'
"'Yes, I know you you are Colonel Crockett. I have seen you once before, and voted for you the last time you were elected. I suppose you are out electioneering now, but you had better not waste your time or mine. I shall not vote for you again.'
"This was a sockdolager....I begged him to tell me what was the matter.
"'Well, Colonel, it is hardly worth-while to waste time or words upon it. I do not see how it can be mended, but you gave a vote last winter which shows that either you have not capacity to understand the Constitution, or that you are wanting in honesty and firmness to be guided by it. In either case you are not the man to represent me. But I beg your pardon for expressing it in that way. I did not intend to avail myself of the privilege of the constituent to speak plainly to a candidate for the purpose of insulting or wounding you. I intended by it only to say that your understanding of the Constitution is very different from mine; and I will say to you what, but for rudeness, I should not have said, that I believe you to be honest...But an understanding of the Constitution different from mine I cannot overlook, because the Constitution, to be worth anything, must be held sacred, and rigidly observed in all its provisions. The man who wields power and misinterprets it is the more dangerous the more honest he is.'
"'I admit the truth of all you say, but there must be some mistake about it, For I do not remember that I gave any vote last winter upon any constitutional question.'
"'No, Colonel, there's no mistake. Though I live here in the back woods and seldom go from home, I take the papers from Washington and read very carefully all the proceedings in Congress. My papers say last winter you voted for a bill to appropriate $20,000 to some suffers by fire in Georgetown. Is that true?'
"'Well, my friend, I may as well own up. You have got me there. But certainly nobody will complain that a great and rich country like ours should give the insignificant sum of $20,000 to relieve it's suffering women and children, particularly with a full and overflowing Treasury, and I am sure, if you had been there, you would have done just as I did.'
"'It is not the amount, Colonel, that I complain of; it is the principle. In the first place, the government ought to have in the Treasury no more than enough for its legitimate purposes. But that has nothing to do with the question. The power of collecting and disbursing money at pleasure is the most dangerous power that can be intrusted to man, particularly under our system of collecting revenue by tariff, which reaches every man in the country, no matter how poor he may be, and the poorer he is the more he pays in proportion to his means. What is worse, it presses upon him without his knowledge where the weight centers, for there is not a man in the United States who can ever guess how much he pays to the government. So you see, that while you are contributing to relieve one, you are drawing it from thousands who are even worse off than he. If you had the right to give anything, the amount was simply a matter of discretion with you, and you had as much right to give $20,000,000 as $20,000. If you have the right to give to one, you have the right to give to all; and, as the Constitution neither defines charity nor stipulates the amount, you are at liberty to give to anything and everything which you may believe, or profess to believe, is a charity, and to any amount you may think proper. You will very easily perceive what a wide door this would open for fraud and corruption and favortism, on the one hand, and for robbing the people on the other. No, Colonel, Congress has no right to give charity. Individual members may give as much of their own money as they please, but they have no right to touch a dollar of the public money for that purpose. If twice as many houses had been burned in this county as in Georgetown, neither you nor any other member of Congress would have thought of appropriating a dollar for our relief. There are about two hundred and forty members of Congress. If they had shown their sympathy for the suffers by contributing each one week's pay, it would have made over $13,000. There are plenty of men in and around Washington who could have given $20,000 without depriving themselves of even a luxury of life. The congressmen chose to keep their own money, which, if reports be true, some of them spend not very creditable; and the people about Washington, no doubt, applauded you for relieving them from the necessity of giving by giving what was not yours to give. The people have delegated to Congress, by the Constitution, the power to do certain things. To do these, it is authorized to collect and pay moneys, and for nothing else. Everything beyond this is usurpation, and a violation of the Constitution.
"'So you see, Colonel, you have violated the Constitution in what I consider a vital point. It is a precedent fraught with danger to the country, for when Congress once begins to stretch it's power beyond the limits of the Constitution, there is no limit to it, and no security for the people. I have no doubt you acted honestly, but that does not make it any better, except as far as you are personally concerned, and you see that I cannot vote for you...'
"I tell you I felt streaked. I saw if I should have opposition, and this man should go talking, he would set others to talking, and in that district I was a gone fawn-skin. I could not answer him, for the fact is, I was so fully convinced that he was right, I did not want to. But I must satisfy him, and I said to him:
"'Well, my friend, you hit the nail upon the head, when you said I had not sense enough to understand the Constitution. I intended to be guided by it, and thought I had studied it fully, I have heard many speeches in congress about the powers of the Congress, but what you have said here at your plow has got more hard, sound sense in it than all the fine speeches I ever heard. If I had ever taken the view of it that you have, I would have put my head into the fire before I would have given that vote; and if you will forgive me and vote for me again, if I ever vote for another unconstitutional law I wish I may be shot.'
"He laughingly replied: 'Yes Colonel, you have sworn to that once before, but I will trust you again upon one condition. You say that you are convinced that your vote was wrong. Your acknowledgment of it will do more good than beating you for it. If, as you go around the distict, you will tell people about this vote, and that you are satisfied it was wrong, I will not only vote for you, but will do what I can to keep down opposition, and perhaps, I may exert some little influence in that way.'
"'If I don't,' said I, 'I wish I may be shot; and to convince you that I am in earnest in what I say I will come back this way in a week or ten days, and if you will get up a gathering of the people, I will make a speech to them. Get up a barbeque, and I will pay for it.'
"'No Colonel, we are not rich people in this section, but we have plenty of provisions to contribute for a barbeque, and some to spare for those who have none. The push of crops will be over in a few days, and we can then afford a day for a barbeque. This is Thursday; I will see to getting up on Saturday week. Come to my house on Friday, and we will go together, and I promise you a very respectable crowd to see and hear you.'
"'Well, I will be here. But one thing more before I say good-by. I must know your name.'
"'My name is Bunce.'
"'Not Horatio Bunce?'
"'Well, Mr. Bunce, I never saw you before though you say you have seen me, but I know you very well. I am glad I have met you, and very proud that I may hope to have you for my friend.'"
"It was one of the luckiest hits of my life that I met him. He mingled but little with the public, but was widely known for a heart brimful and running over with kindness and benevolence, which showed themselves not only in words but in acts. He was the oracle of the whole country around him, and his fame had extended far beyond the circle of his immediate acquaintance. Though I had never met him before, I had heard much of him, and but for this meeting it is very likely I should have had opposition, and had been beaten. One thing is very certain, no man could now stand up in that district under such a vote.
"At the appointed time I was at his house, having told our conversation to every crowd I had met, and to every man I stayed all night with, and I found that it gave the people an interest and a confidence in me stronger than I had ever seen manifested before.
"Though I was considerably fatigued when I reached his house, and, under ordinary circumstances, should have gone early to bed, I kept up until midnight, talking about the principles and affairs of government and got more real, true knowledge of them than I had got all my life before.
"I have known and seen much of him since, for I respect him --- no, that is not the word -- I reverence and love him more than any living man, and I go to see him two or three times a year; and I will tell you sir, if everyone who professes to be a Christian, lived and acted and enjoyed it as he does, the religion of Christ would take the world by storm.
"But to return to my story. The next morning we went to the barbecue, and, to my surprise, found about a thousand men there. I met a good many whom I had not known before, and they and my friend introduced me around until I had got pretty well acquainted---at least, they all knew me.
"In due time notice was given that I would speak to them. They gathered up around a stand that had been erected. I opened my speech by saying:
"Fellow-citizens --- I present myself before you today feeling like a new man. My eyes have lately been opened to truths which ignorance or prejudice, or both, had heretofore hidden from my view. I feel that I can today offer you the ability to render you more valuable service than I have ever been able to render before. I am here today more for the purpose of acknowledging my error than to seek your votes. That I should make this acknowledgement is due to myself as well as to you. Whether you will vote for me is a matter for your consideration only.'
"I went on to tell them about the fire and my vote for the appropriation and then told them why I was satisfied it was wrong. I closed by saying:
"'And now, fellow-citizens, it remains only for me to tell you that the most of the speech you have listened to with so much interest was simply a repetition of the arguments by which your neighbor, Mr. Bunce, convinced me of my error.
"'It is the best speech I ever made in my life, but he is entitled to the credit for it. And now I hope he is satisfied with his convert and that he will get up here and tell you so.'
"He came upon the stand and said:
"'Fellow-citizens --- It affords me great pleasure to comply with the request of Colonel Crockett. I have always considered him a thoroughly honest man, and I am satisfied that he will faithfully perform all that he has promised you today.'
"He went down, and there went up from that crowd such a shout for Davy Crockett as his name never called forth before.
"I am not much given to tears, but I was taken with a choking then and felt some big drops rolling down my cheeks. And I tell you now that the rememberance of those few words spoken by such a man, and the honest, hearty shout they produced, is worth more to me than all the reputation I have ever made, or shall ever make, as a member of Congress.
"Now, sir," concluded Crockett, "you know why I made that speech yesterday.
"There is one thing now to which I will call your attention. You remember that I proposed to give a week's pay. There are in that House many very wealthy men-- men who think nothing of spending a week's pay, or a dozen of them, for a dinner or a wine party when they have something to accomplish by it. Some of those same men made beautiful speeches upon the great debt of gratitude which the country owed the deceased -- a debt which could not be paid by money --- and the insignificant and worthlessness of money, particularly so insignificant a sum as $10,000, when weighed against the honor of the nation. Yet not one of them reponded to my proposition. Money with them is nothing but trash when it is to come out of the people. But it is the one great thing for which most of them are striving, and many of them sacrifice honor, intergrity, and justice to obtain it."
Winning The Cultural WarSpeech by Charlton Heston at Harvard
Harvard Law School Forum
Tuesday, 16 February 1999
I remember my son when he was five, explaining to his kindergarten class what his father did for a living."My Daddy," he said, "pretends to be people."
There have been quite a few of them. Prophets from the Old and New Testaments, a couple of Christian saints, generals of various nationalities and different centuries, several kings, three American presidents, a French cardinal and two geniuses, including Michelangelo. If you want the ceiling re-painted I'll do my best. There always seem to be a lot of different fellows up here. I'm never sure which one of them gets to talk. Right now, I guess I'm the guy.
As I pondered our visit tonight it struck me: If my Creator gave me the gift to connect you with the hearts and minds of those great men, then I want to use that same gift now to re-connect you with your own sense of liberty ... your own freedom of thought ... your own compass for what is right.
Dedicating the memorial at Gettysburg, Abraham Lincoln said of America, "We are now engaged in a great Civil War, testing whether this nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure."
Those words are true again. I believe that we are again engaged in a great civil war, a cultural war that's about to hijack your birthright to think and say what resides in your heart. I fear you no longer trust the pulsing lifeblood of liberty inside you ... the stuff that made this country rise from wilderness into the miracle that it is.
Let me back up. About a year ago I became president of the National Rifle Association, which protects the right to keep and bear arms. I ran for office, I was elected, and now I serve ... I serve as a moving target for the media who've called me everything from "ridiculous" and "duped" to a "brain-injured, senile, crazy old man." I know ... I'm pretty old...but I sure Lord ain't senile.
As I have stood in the crosshairs of those who target Second Amendment freedoms, I've realized that firearms are not the only issues. No, it's much, much bigger than that. I've come to understand that a cultural war is raging across our Land, in which, with Orwellian fervor, certain acceptable thoughts and speech are mandated.
For example, I marched for civil rights with Dr. King in 1963 -- Long before Hollywood found it fashionable. But when I told an audience last year that white pride is just as valid as black pride or red pride or anyone else's pride, they called me a racist. I've worked with brilliantly talented homosexuals all my life. But when I told an audience that gay rights should extend no further than your rights or my rights, I was called a homophobe. I served in World War II against the Axis powers. But during a speech, when I drew an analogy between singling out innocent Jews and singling out innocent gun owners, I was called an anti-Semite.
Everyone I know knows I would never raise a closed fist against my country. But when I asked an audience to oppose this cultural persecution, I was compared to Timothy McVeigh.
From Time magazine to friends and colleagues, they're essentially saying, "Chuck, how dare you speak your mind. You are using language not authorized for public consumption!"
But I am not afraid. If Americans believed in political correctness, we'd still be King George's boys-subjects bound to the British crown.
In his book, "The End of Sanity," Martin Gross writes that "Blatantly irrational behavior is rapidly being established as the norm in almost every area of human endeavor. There seem to be new customs, new rules, and new anti-intellectual theories regularly foisted on us from every direction. Underneath, the nation is roiling. Americans know something without a name is undermining the nation, turning the mind mushy when it comes to separating truth from falsehood and right from wrong. And they don't like it."
Let me read a few examples.
At Antioch college in Ohio, young men seeking intimacy with a coed must get verbal permission at each step of the process from kissing to petting to final copulation ... all clearly spelled out in a printed college directive.
In New Jersey, despite the death of several patients nationwide Who had been infected by dentists who had concealed their AIDs --- the state commissioner announced that health providers who are HIV-positive need not... need not ... tell their patients that they are infected.
At William and Mary, students tried to change the name of the school team "The Tribe" because it was supposedly insulting to local Indians, only to learn that authentic Virginia chiefs truly like the name.
In San Francisco, city fathers passed an ordinance protecting the rights of transvestites to cross-dress on the job, and for transsexuals to have separate toilet facilities while undergoing sex change surgery.
In New York City, kids who don't speak a word of Spanish have been placed in bilingual classes to learn their three R's in Spanish solely because their last names sound Hispanic.
At the University of Pennsylvania, in a state where thousands died at Gettysburg opposing slavery, the president of that college officially set up segregated dormitory space for black students.
Yeah, I know ... that's out of bounds now. Dr. King said "Negroes." Jimmy Baldwin and most of us on the March said, "black." But it's a no-no now. For me, hyphenated identities are awkward ... particularly "Native-American." I'm a Native American, for God's sake. I also happen to be a blood-initiated brother of the Miniconjou Sioux. On my wife's side, my grandson is a thirteenth generation native American ... with a capital letter on "American."
Finally, just last month ... David Howard, head of the Washington D.C. Office of Public Advocate, used the word "niggardly" while talking to colleagues about budgetary matters. Of course, "niggardly" means stingy or scanty. But within days Howard was forced to publicly apologize and resign.
As columnist Tony Snow wrote: "David Howard got fired because some people in public employ were morons who (a) didn't know the meaning of niggardly,' (b) didn't know how to use a dictionary to discover the meaning, and (c) actually demanded that he apologize for their ignorance."
What does all of this mean? It means that telling us what to think has evolved into telling us what to say, so telling us what to do can't be far behind. Before you claim to be a champion of free thought, tell me: Why did political correctness originate on America's campuses? And why do you continue to tolerate it? Why do you, who're supposed to debate ideas, surrender to their suppression? Let's be honest. Who here thinks your professors can say what they really believe? It scares me to death, and should scare you too, that the superstition of political correctness rules the halls of reason.
You are the best and the brightest. You, here in the fertile cradle of American academia, here in the castle of learning on the Charles River, you are the cream. But I submit that you, and your counterparts across the land, are the most socially conformed and politically silenced generation since Concord Bridge. And as long as you validate that ... and abide it ... you are - by your grandfathers' standards - cowards.
Here's another example. Right now at more than one major university, Second Amendment scholars and researchers are being told to shut up about their findings or they'll lose their jobs. Why? Because their research findings would undermine big-city mayor's pending lawsuits that seek to extort hundreds of millions of dollars from firearm manufacturers. I don't care what you think about guns. But if you are not shocked at that, I am shocked at you. Who will guard the raw material of unfettered ideas, if not you? Who will defend the core value of academia, if you supposed soldiers of free thought and expression lay down your arms and plead, "Don't shoot me."?
If you talk about race, it does not make you a racist. If you see distinctions between the genders, it does not make you a sexist. If you think critically about a denomination, it does not make you anti-religion. If you accept but don't celebrate homosexuality, it does not make you a homophobe. Don't let America's universities continue to serve as incubators for this rampant epidemic of new McCarthyism.
But what can you do? How can anyone prevail against such pervasive social subjugation? The answer's been here all along. I learned it 36 years ago, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C., standing with Dr. Martin Luther King and two hundred thousand people.
You simply ... disobey. Peaceably, yes. Respectfully, of course. Nonviolently, absolutely. But when told how to think or what to say or how to behave, we don't. We disobey social protocol that stifles and stigmatizes personal freedom. I learned the awesome power of disobedience from Dr.King ... who learned it from Gandhi, and Thoreau, and Jesus, and every other great man who led those in the right against those with the might.
Disobedience is in our DNA. We feel innate kinship with that Disobedient spirit that tossed tea into Boston Harbor, that sent Thoreau to jail, that refused to sit in the back of the bus, that protested a war in VietNam. In that same spirit, I am asking you to disavow cultural correctness with massive disobedience of rogue authority, social directives and onerous law that weaken personal freedom.
But be careful ... it hurts. Disobedience demands that you put yourself at risk. Dr. King stood on lots of balconies. You must be willing to be humiliated ... to endure the modern-day equivalent of the police dogs at Montgomery and the water cannons at Selma. You must be willing to experience discomfort. I'm not complaining, but my own decades of social activism have taken their toll on me.
Let me tell you a story. A few years back I heard about a rapper named Ice-T who was selling a CD called "Cop Killer" celebrating ambushing and murdering police officers. It was being marketed by none other than Time/Warner, the biggest entertainment conglomerate in the world. Police across the country were outraged. Rightfully so - at least one had been murdered. But Time/Warner was stonewalling because the CD was A cash cow for them, and the media were tiptoeing around it because the rapper was black.
I heard Time/Warner had a stockholders meeting scheduled in Beverly Hills. I owned some shares at the time, so I decided to attend. What I did there was against the advice of my family and colleagues I asked for the floor. To a hushed room of a thousand average American stockholders, I simply read the full lyrics of "Cop Killer" - every vicious, vulgar, instructional word.
"I GOT MY 12 GAUGE SAWED OFF
I GOT MY HEADLIGHTS TURNED OFF
I'M ABOUT TO BUST SOME SHOTS OFF
I'M ABOUT TO DUST SOME COPS OFF..."
It got worse, a lot worse. I won't read the rest of it to you. But trust me, the room was a sea of shocked, frozen, blanched faces. The Time/Warner executives squirmed in their chairs and stared at their shoes. They hated me for that.
Then I delivered another volley of sick lyric brimming with racist filth, where Ice-T fantasizes about sodomizing two 12-year old nieces of Al and Tipper Gore.
"SHE PUSHED HER BUTT AGAINST MY ... ."
Well, I won't do to you here what I did to them. Let's just say I left the room in echoing silence. When I read the lyrics to the waiting press corps, one of them said "We can't print that." "I know," I replied,"but Time/Warner's selling it." Two months later, Time/Warner terminated Ice-T's contract. I'll never be offered another film by Warners, or get a good review from Time magazine. But disobedience means you must be willing to act, not just talk.
When a mugger sues his elderly victim for defending herself ... jam the switchboard of the district attorney's office.
When your university is pressured to lower standards until 80% of the students graduate with honors ... choke the halls of the board of regents.
When an 8-year-old boy pecks a girl's cheek on the playground and gets hauled into court for sexual harassment ... march on that school and block its doorways.
When someone you elected is seduced by political power and betrays you...petition them, oust them, banish them.
When Time magazine's cover portrays millennium nuts as deranged, Crazy Christians holding a cross as it did last month ... boycott their magazine and the products it advertises.
So that this nation may long endure, I urge you to follow in the hallowed footsteps of the great disobediences of history that freed exiles, founded religions, defeated tyrants, and yes, in the hands of an aroused rabble in arms and a few great men, by God's grace, built this country.
If Dr. King were here, I think he would agree. Thank you.
The Fourteenth House Manager's Closing Argumentby Steffan M. Bertsch
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Senate, I have been given an ominous task. I don't represent any particular district, as do the other house managers. I have been asked to present the closing argument for all the Sons and Daughters of Liberty, a dying breed, but one that has many constituents within the borders and beyond the shores of the United States of America. This is perhaps the most weighty job I have ever undertaken.
Much eloquence has been spoken from both sides of the argument for and against the impeachment of the president. Such has been the adroitness of the presenters, that I figured to adequately represent Maid Liberty, I must call upon the Greatest Wisdom, the Highest Truth, the Truest Honor. In attempting to reach such lofty goals, I remembered that Hillary Clinton was reported to have had conversations with Eleanor Roosevelt, so I thought I might try to follow suit.
Since the question before the Senate is one of grave constitutional significance, I reflected upon which Founding Father I could speak with to answer the question of whether perjury, witness tampering, and obstruction of justice, all for personal gain, rose to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors and therefore mandated a dismissal of the president.
My first thought was Thomas Jefferson, but, alas, he was in Paris when the Constitution was written. I also dismissed calling upon Benjamin Franklin because he was ever so close to death by the time the Constitution was ratified. As I ticked off the list of some of my favorite Americans, such as Patrick Henry and Richard Henry Lee, I had to scratch them because they opposed the Constitution out of fear that a despotic federal government would arise from the document. I feared all I would hear from one of them would be a resounding, "I told you so!"
Then, an inspiration hit me ... I knew who to contact ... but, was uncertain as to how. What would be the first step in conjuring up a Founding Father? As I contemplated this problem, I went into a deep trance ... or did I fall asleep? Regardless, my recollection of the events is as clear as if I had been fully awake.
This is how it happened, the strange event, so powerful was it that I need not follow my colleagues and make comparisons of Clinton to Marlon Brando in The Godfather, or allude to literary figures like the character in The Prince by Machiavelli, or even compare Clinton to some Roman emperor, such as Caligula. I would experience the real thing ... take my answer right from a Founding Father ... there would be no metaphors or similes for me!
As I lay in an odd state of stupor, where I was alert, yet also uncertain of whether I was conscious or having a lucid dream, concentrating with all my energy upon the Founding Father I had chosen to assist in the troublesome task, I heard a loud knock, arose, and answered the door. Standing on my porch was a diminutive man, nearly a foot shorter than I, with unruly hair whose appearance astonished me. His clothing fit tightly about him, with frills on his sleeves and collar flowing out from his burnt-orange coat. As I stood dumbfounded and wondering what this costumed clown was doing at my door, I looked into his eyes and recognized an intelligence beyond any I have ever encountered, so I invited him into my house.
"What may I do for you?" I asked, to which he replied that I had sent for him. I scratched my head, and said I doubted that very much. He laughed and said that he was actually a substitute for whom I had requested. Then it hit me, I had requested the assistance of John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, but he was apparently not available. I introduced myself and inquired as to who was in my home.
"James Madison, at your service."
Nothing could have shocked me more than his introduction. I had always known Madison to have been such a giant of an intellect that I had wrongly assumed that such a magnificent mind could not be packaged in such a tiny body, and I told him so. His response did nothing to allay my amazement.
"My mind is smaller than a mustard seed," said he, "but it is tied to the greatest network of intelligence that you could imagine."
Wanting dearly to explore the metaphysical implications of his comment, but now remembering my task at hand, I changed the subject. "Sir, could you assist me in a grave task? The House of Representatives has impeached our 42nd president, and I have been asked to give a closing argument at the impeachment trial in the Senate."
Madison's cheerful eyes turned black as he contemplated what I had said.
"How dark it must be in America that you are impeaching the president!" he exclaimed.
"Oh, the president's defenders say it is not dark at all, but that we, the prosecutors have too dark a view of the republic. They point to many things, claiming the economy has been great under this president, that there are few wars, that the people
love the man, so, his defenders say, he should not be removed."
"What wrong is your president charged with?" asked Madison.
I laid out the details, the allegations of perjury, of obstructing justice, and concluded with this question: "So, Mr. President, you were the chief author of the Constitution, the writer of 29 of the Federalist
Papers which you signed 'Publius,' and a Founding Father of this republic. Do perjury and obstruction of justice under these sordid circumstances arise to a high crime or misdemeanor as contemplated in Article II, Section 4 and mandate the president's removal from office?"
The little man fell inot a chair, dropped his head into his palms, and wept. His tears were so large that they poured through the crevices of his hands and dripped onto his pant legs. He sniffed. He coughed. And, he cried for several minutes before looking at me with tear-soaked eyes."Is ... is ... that what America's come to? Has she fallen that far?"
He wheezed again, and then, miraculously, this little man who had just been bawling jumped to life. His eyes dried, his countenance lightened, and he was ready."If that's what you're about, we better get to work," he said."How is the vote estimated to go."
"Well, we now have fifty states, so there are one hundred senators." This piece of information seemed to cheer Madison up and he showed a tinge of pride in his expression."It's going to break down on party lines, fifty-five Republicans will probably vote to convict. The forty- five Democrats will vote to acquit."
"What!?" he screamed."Democrats? Where did a party get a name like that?"
I gulped."Well, you see, the media and the history books all tell that this country is a democracy, so the party is named to signify the followers of a democracy."
"No!" shouted Madison."We had Democratic-Republicans in my day. But, Democrats! No! Never! This is not a democracy! That is a base lie! We considered whether to form a democracy and rejected the concept flatly. Both democracy and monarchy were evaluated and smitten. This country is a REPUBLIC. Where in the Constitution is found the word 'democracy' I ask you? Nowhere, and I know, I wrote most of the document. This is terrible. You people will perish for lack of knowledge."
I shrugged, and nodded.
"Okay, let's keep working. Do you have transcripts of the witnesses who testified in the trial?" asked Madison.
"Why not? How are we going to put together a closing argument if we don't know the testimony?"
"You see," I stammered, "the Senate didn't allow us to call a single witness into the trial."
Madison stamped his feet and screamed, "A trial with no witnesses! What kind of a mockery is going on in that infernal Senate?"
I then explained the horrific rulings the Senate had made, how it had restricted us from prosecuting the president, explained the sham in its full ugliness.
"This reminds me of the tragedy brought upon this republic when Chief Justice John Marshall rigged the trial for that traitor, Aaron Burr. Which reminds me, what has the current Chief Justice been doing during this mock trial?"
"Next to nothing," I said."He might as well be a puppet for the Senate doing their bidding."
"So, the Senate's corrupt, as is the Supreme Court. Lucky there is still a House of the people." Madison paced a moment, then looked out my window, before smiling almost gleefully."I know just the answer for such a travesty of justice. We'll cut it off right now! We'll just have to notify the legislatures of those fifty states to recall the senators because of the sham that is ongoing."
"Why so glum," asked Madison."I know it's a lot of work, but after one state sees the light, they'll all follow suit. We'll have a whole new Senate in no time at all."
"The states don't have any control over the Senate. In 1913, under the Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution, the members of the Senate are no longer elected by the legislatures of the various states, but instead, by popular vote of the people."
"No! No! No! You've got to be kidding. Did the people not read Federalist Papers 62 and 63? The greatest fear of everyone in my day was that the Senate would become an elite group of tyrants because their terms were six long years. The only check on this was that all senators were subject to recall by their state legislatures, so it was presumed that all senators would only do bidding that benefitted the state they represented. Without this check, the federal power could destroy all of the states' rights."
"It already has," I admitted.
"Tell me, does the president have much power today?" he asked, not seeming to hear my comment.
"A great deal."
"Well, he is commander-in-chief of the most powerful military on the earth. He commands the Navy, Marines, Air Force and the Army."
"I don't know what a air force is, but do you have a standing army?"
He ripped my copy of the Constitution from my hands and shouted, "Where does this document authorize a standing army?"
"What other powers has he?"
"He commands the federal police force, the FBI, the internal revenue officers, the IRS, the covert operations, the CIA ..."
"Stop! Where did he get these powers?"
"I--I think mostly from the commerce clause, and the Sixteenth Amendment authorizing a tax on incomes."
Madison stared in disbelief."The commerce clause? The commerce clause? And a tax on incomes! Don't you realize that if you tax incomes that you have opened up your affairs to the government? Don't you understand that such a tax violates every fiber of the Fourth Amendment? Don't you realize that without a warrant sworn on probable cause that the government cannot look at your personal papers and records? Of course, from the sounds of it, who cares about oaths today . . . certainly not the current president."
"Oh," I smiled."The government and the IRS gets around the Fourth Amendment by declaring that the income tax is voluntary."
"That's a relief," said Madison."So, people only pay the income tax if they want to do so."
"Not quite," I said."When a person neglects or refuses to pay the income tax, their property is seized and sometimes they are thrown in jail."
"Atrocious! How could you have let this happen! You have a virtual dictator in this president! You have built a monster!"
I gulped."It's a little worse than that. He writes executive orders and thereby has legislative powers to do as he pleases."
"How?" Madison shoved the Constitution in my face."Where does he have that power? Is there another that I need to know about?"
"In 1933, the sitting president declared that the economic depression was so deep that it must be fought with all the powers a president would have in an actual state of war. Our Congress declared war on the depression and made the president omnipotent."
"But that was 65 years ago." said Madison.
"The War Powers Act has never been repealed. Since 1933, the presidents have all the war powers at their disposal, and they have used those powers to fight wars in Vietnam, in Iraq, in Korea, and many, many other countries without acquiring a formal declaration of war from Congress. We currently have troops and or agents overtly or covertly stationed in over 100 nations doing mischief in many, and all done without declarations of war."
"Did nobody read the farewell address of General Washington? Did the General not warn us that wars would trouble everyone throughout the world and that our only defense against these wars was to isolate ourselves from them? To refuse to be a part of them?"
I tried to smile, but couldn't."Mr. President, we have been suckered into many wars in the name of God. Our politicians always claim that God would never allow us to sit quietly by as our brethren are killed by tyrants."
"God?" asked Madison."Which God?"
"I thought there was only One."
"In a sense, you're right. There is but One Creator, the Divine God of Love, Justice, Truth, Wisdom and Honor. But, there is another, a pretender, a fraud, a liar, a murderer, who goes by many names, but you probably know him best as Mammon, since your country seems to run on this ... this commerce clause."
There was a long silence as I reflected upon what Madison had just said.
I knew well which god would have created a fraudulent money system, a fraudulent tax system, a fraudulent war on the economy, a fraudulent Senate, a fraudulent trial of impeachment, a fraudulent involvement in Vietnam, a fraudulent war on drugs. I had to admit that the US of A no longer worshiped the God of our Founding Fathers, but instead followed Mammon. I breathed in quite deeply.
Madison turned toward the door and began to let himself out. I stopped him and said, "Wait, do perjury and obstruction of justice rise to high crimes and misdemeanors?"
Madison's face flushed, and, again he ripped the Constitution from my hands. His eyes bulged as he exclaimed, "Under the original . . . Yes ... Absolutely Yes! Under this thing that you now have ..." His voice trailed as he sneered in disgust ... then he reached into his belt and withdrew a dirk and stuck the Constitution to my wall ... "Under this abortion you follow, Mammon only knows! What have you wrought?" With that, the angered man stormed out of my house.
The next thing I remember, I was sitting in a chair wiping slee from my eyes, realizing that I must have had a bad dream. As I arose, I noticed my copy of the Constitution affixed to the wall, held there by an ancient looking dagger.
And that, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Senate is why I, the fourteenth house manager speaking on behalf of Maid Liberty, no longer give a damn how you vote.
Kosovo - The Big MuddyDr. William R. Forstchen is a professor of history at Montreat College.
Those of you old enough to remember might recall the anti-war song from the 1960s called "The Big Muddy." The song is supposedly based on a true incident about a group of army recruits who are sent into a swamp called the Big Muddy by a crazy drill sergeant.
The drill sergeant keeps ordering them deeper in. The recruits tell him its nuts and the refrain of the song declares "and the damn fool said to move on." In the end they all drown. The song was suppose to be an analogy for Viet Nam. I fear its an analogy for our war in Kosovo.
In order to understand Kosovo in the spring of 1999 we have to go back more than sixteen hundred years. So I hope you bear with me and read on. Early in the 4th century Emperor Constantine of the Roman Empire decided to administratively divide the Empire in half. It just so happened that this dividing line cut straight through the region now in question. As Christianity came into the region those east of the line became Orthodox and used the Greek alphabet, those west of the line Catholic who used the Roman alphabet.
In 1389 the Ottoman Turks arrived. The Serbs made a heroic stand in Kosovo and went down to bloody defeat. In Serbian historical tradition this defeat is the stuff of mythology, as important to them as the story of the Alamo is to Texans and Masada to the people of Israel. The survivors and their families retreated north into the mountains of what is now modern Serbia. They would continue to resist for the next five hundred years. Five hundred years. This is not a two week bombing campaign, or even a four year Civil War, it is a five hundred year long war of resistance, guerilla action and bitter reprisals.
Some of the Slavic people, however, eventually converted to Islam, these are the ancestors of the modern day Bosnian and Albanian Moslems of the region.
The Turkish advance was finally stopped in what is now modern Slovenia, Croatia and northern Bosnia. Here was the other battle front, a centuries long conflict pitting the Austrian Hapsburgs, who were Catholic, against the Turks, and their new allies the local Slavic population converted to Islam. What resulted was a three way war of Catholics, Orthodox and Moslems.
The next layer of complexity is Russia. In the late 17th century, under the rule of Peter the Great, Russia emerged as an international power. The Russians came to believe in a two fold mission that will become known as "Pan-Slavic Nationalism." First, they saw themselves as the defenders of the Orthodox faith since the holy city of Constantinople was under Turkish rule. Second, they came to believe that they were defenders of the entire Slavic race.
Three centuries ago Russia went to war against the Turks with the stated goal of freeing the Serbians from the infidels. They lost that particular war but the defeat did not dampen this spirit of a "Slavic brotherhood," and from Peter the Great to Yeltsin, the Russians believe themselves to be the defenders of Serbia.
I hope this isn't sounding too much like a boring history 101 lecture, but what I'm trying to demonstrate here is that there is no easy answer to this crisis nor is this a black and white situation. Anyhow, let's move into more modern times.
By the early 20th century the power of the Ottoman Turks was waning. The Serbs who had fled the Kosovo region centuries earlier had finally won their independence in the northern mountains of the region and established the nation of Serbia. As the Turks retreated, however, it was now the Austrian-Hungarian Empire that moved into the power vacuum, seizing Bosnia-Herzegovina in an outright display of imperialism.
Resentment in this region was boiling over. The people of Bosnia were divided into Orthodox, Catholic, and Moslem, all three groups sharing a mutual bitterness that dated back for centuries. It was like a Hatfield and McCoys feud gone amok and a hundred times worst. In 1914 the Austrians, in an incredible display of stupidity, sent their heir to the throne to Sarajevo for some foolish civic function and a Bosnian Serb nationalist put a bullet in him. You might recall from your old history classes that this triggered World War I.
The Austrians used the incident as an excuse to go after Serbia, the Russians, pumped up on pan-Slavic nationalism came to Serbia's aid, the Germans allied with the Austrians, the French and British allied with Russia and we finally got dragged into the fight as well and lost over 100,000 men before it was over, "over there."
Now comes the next step in the mad folly. President Wilson, perhaps our most idealistic (and thus unrealistic) President in history sat down with a map at the Versailles peace conference of 1919 and drew up some boundaries. Lo and behold a new nation emerges...Yugoslavia.
Yugoslavia, well as far as nations go, its like a Yugo car, something that never should have been allowed off the assembly line. It bunches together Croatia and Slovenia. Adds in Bosnia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Kosovo, and combines them all with Serbia. Thus under one roof we have three different religious groups and a half dozen ethnic groups, all with profound hatreds dating back for centuries. By comparison it would make a merger between the Klan and Louis Farrakhan's group look like a Sunday school picnic.
How the nation even held together from 1919 to 1941 is a mystery. The next step...1941. When Americans think of World War II there is almost a hazy nostalgia to it now. It was a time when we were all united to a common cause that we knew was right. I teach a course on World War II and believe me, when I have veterans speak to my class my students sit in reverent awe. It is the war of "Saving Private Ryan." Here in Asheville we look at men like Captain Morgan of the "Memphis Belle," and know that we are in the presence of moral giants who saved the world from tyranny. It was, as the author Studs Terkel put it, "the good war."
World War II in Yugoslavia, in contrast, was the lower depths of hell. My graduate school mentor is a German Jew who fled to Palestine in 1940. There he was recruited by the British army and eventually became a commando and was dropped into Yugoslavia. The only time he ever spoke of it to me he said it was a war of barbarism, something out of the dark ages. He often told stories about North Africa and Italy but on the subject of Yugoslavia he was silent. He fought there for over a year, serving as part of a liaison team to Tito's communist partisans. He said that after Yugoslavia his future adventures fighting in Italy, and later in the Israel War of Independence and Korea were mild in comparison.
The Germans and Italians invaded Yugoslavia in 1941 and immediately the old animosities exploded, this time fracturing not only along ethnic lines but also along ideological fault lines as well. Basically two groups formed, the Chetniks and the Partisans. The Partisans, who we eventually came to recognize and support were the communists led by Tito. The Chetniks, who were the real losers in this conflict, were Serbian nationalists and supporters of the now defunct monarchy which had ruled Yugoslavia during the inter-war years. In addition some of the Bosnian and Albanian Moslems came to ally themselves with the Germans.
Yet again we had a three way war. At times the Chetniks and Partisan were at each other's throats, and would even ally with Italian or German forces against their local foes. A little known but truly bizarre incident was the formation, in 1944, of a Bosnian/Albanian SS Regiment. Yes, the SS recruited a Moslem regiment in the region. It was disbanded months later. The reason? Excessive cruelty and lack of discipline! Excessive cruelty results in the disbanding of an SS regiment; one of the most surreal events of World War II. Imagine Satan himself one day going out into the pits of the infernal regions, dragging a group of devils aside and telling them they're fired, the reason...they're being too cruel to the clientele of hell.
On all sides torture, rape, impaling, castration, became the accepted tools of war. This was no war of "Saving Private Ryan." This was war as it was fought in the Stone Age. Hitler would eventually commit over thirty divisions into the region, including armor and elite Waffen SS divisions. After four years they literally crawled out of Yugoslavia and suffered over half a million casualties. Uncounted millions of Yugoslavians, both military and civilian died as well. Thirty divisions of the Nazi war machine were defeated, in comparison a couple of hundred planes and cruise missiles are nothing but an annoying pin prick.
I should add that part of what is being played out today is pay back for that war. It is the old madness that my father, a Serbian Chetnik, was murdered by your father, a Moslem SS soldier and now its time to get even. But back to the historical narrative. Its now 1945. Tito, a communist supported by us is in control. Even Stalin fears this region in spite of old dreams of pan-Slavic nationalism. Tito makes it clear that Soviet troops can move through the region in pursuit of the Nazis but if they should decide to linger too long...well it will be time to hunt some Russians as well. Yugoslavia is the only European country to successfully liberate itself from the Nazis and avoid occupation by allied troops, Western or Soviet. And Tito takes over with an iron hand. Its estimated that at least a half million citizens were executed immediately after the war, an action which our government knew about then, yet did not see as reason to intervene over at that time. Some of our government officials even declared support for this round of ethnic cleansing. Tens of thousands of Moslem supporters of the Fascists die, as do nearly every Chetnik who had fought against the Fascists as well.
Tito will rule for nearly forty years. He was very much like the school yard bully, who once he has clawed his way to the top of the heap then imposes an uneasy peace, banning all fighting. Even Stalin did not want to tangle with him and though defined as communist Yugoslavia was usually that "pink" country on the map in our school rooms surrounded by a sea of red. Now we're finally getting up to modern times with this brief tale, and this is indeed a brief run down, the full story of the region would take up this entire paper and every issue for the next year. An analogy I've been using a lot over the last couple of days is that trying to understand the Balkans is like watching one episode of "Days of Our Lives," and then claiming you know every plot detail for the last ten years.
After Tito's death back in the 1980s Yugoslavia managed to hold together for several years until finally Croatia and Slovenia broke away. Since we're in to modern times I think we can all recall how the nightmare fully explodes in Bosnia, yet again the three way struggle between Catholic, Orthodox and Moslem. Something that seems to be forgotten though is that originally our foreign policy for the region was to impose an arms embargo. This rendered a fair part of the population defenseless and ironically in the end meant that UN forces would intervene to protect the supposedly defenseless Moslems of the region. So much for gun control.
The additional irony was that the Moslems we were defending were, at the same time "secretly" receiving aid from Iranian trained terrorists groups...yet again the region makes for strange bedfellows. You might recall that "ethnic cleansing" became a hot button issue in the 1992 elections, with Clinton declaring that Republicans were soft on the issue. We should recall that ethnic cleansing also included Croatians and Slovenians driving out ethnic Serbs as well.
That reminds me ... This little side story though worth a laugh, scares me for it shows just how incredibly stupid some of our policy makers truly are. Shortly after the 1992 Democratic sweep, "Spy Magazine" called up forty newly elected members of Congress and asked them a series of questions about their political opinions. One of the questions was..."how do you feel about the problem of ethnic cleansing in Freedonia?"
Every single one bitterly denounced this horrible crime. A number of them even declared they'd vote to send our military in to stop this outrage.
There's only one little problem here... Freedonia doesn't exist, except in the imagination of the Marx Brothers and their black comedy movie about Balkan politics, "Duck Soup," made back in the 1930s. Think about that when you consider our current foreign policy. Many of the bozos who fell for the Freedonia scam are still in office and even now are cheering on the bombing raids. (No joking, that story is true. A Democratic Congresswomen, from Florida, when asked about her level of stupidity, which was worthy of a Darwin Award, angrily replied that she felt that compassion was far more important that a knowledge of geography.)
So, it seems that in our government, compassion is far more important than a knowledge of geography, or history. Serb nationalists see Kosovo as land that was once theirs and still is. They can point to our support of Israel and ask why we agree that after two thousand years we support the idea that Jews have a right to return to land that the Romans drove them out of in the 2nd century. The Serbs could also ask why we support the Turks in spite of their continued war of genocide against the Kurds who lived in that region long before the Turks came tearing in a thousand years ago. Or even more recently the bitter tribal warfare in central Africa where millions have died in a barbaric cycle of ethnic cleansing, why are we not bombing there?
I am not stating here that I support the Serb actions in Kosovo, but on the other side of the coin I do have to ask is what we are doing an answer?
There's an old saying that in Europe a hundred miles is a long distance, while in America a hundred years is ancient history. Our current policy seems to have been formed without a true grasp of the historic depth behind this war. It displays, as well, a remarkable arrogance that we can toss around a few bombs and by doing so defuse animosities that date back not just centuries, but across milleniums. It is also a frightful display of recklessness when it comes to our own foreign policy. The purpose of our federal government, as defined in the Constitution, is to provide for the common defense. Is our military involvement in Kosovo truly providing for that common defense? We have committed military forces into a region that Russia sees as its front porch. Turn the table around and look at it from the other side. We nearly went to nuclear war over the Russians moving in on Cuba. We fought a bitter twilight war in Central America to combat communist expansion in that region. We seem to have forgotten how Clinton and his current followers branded Reagan's action in that region as criminal, and that Reagan was a warmonger gone berserk. From the Russian side of the table, is Kosovo any different than El Salvador was for us?
I haven't even thrown in here yet the other variables. What if the Russians fly military equipment into Serbia? What about the Russian military units in Bosnia who are part of the peace keeping force there? Lets now add in the Greeks who have eyes on Macedonia which adjoins Kosovo and the potential Turkish response if Greece is dragged into the conflict. Now add in Islamic radicals eager to support the Albanians. And don't forget that the Albanians in Kosovo and their military force, the KLA, aren't exactly innocent doves...a fair part of their funding comes from drug dealing. I guess you can see what I'm driving at here.
And there is yet another irony, that its the old draft dodger himself who is leading this policy. What ever happened to all the weeping rhetoric about "give peace a chance," and the posters declaring that "war is bad for children and flowers?" What ever happened to the solemn absolutes of the 60s liberals crying that all war is evil? I guess when it comes to liberals all war is evil unless they themselves start it. I find, that as I wrap this article up that I've violated one of the cardinal rules I set down for myself...if you are going to criticize, have a solution. That rule was formed after having to endure decades of liberal whiners who when you finally cornered them never had an answer for what they were whining about.
Well on this one I have to confess I just don't know. If I had the magic answer to peace in the Balkans believe me I'd write it up, send it to the New York Times and then buy a tuxedo in preparation for receiving my Nobel Prize. I wish that stupid Beatles movie, "Yellow Submarine" was true, that we could broadcast "All You Need is Love," to the region via satellite and the following day Albanians and Serbs would sit down and eat granola together. Folks it simply isn't going to happen.
All I do know for certain is that history shows that it is a region of madness. The Turks tried for five hundred years and were finally driven out. The Austrian-Hungarians lost an entire empire when they tried to move in on the place. The Nazis crawled out leaving a trail of blood. To think we can do any different goes against all that history has taught us. I just hope that Clinton gets us the hell out of there, the true mother of all "Big Muddies" before it swallows us up as well. Perhaps they should erect a sign over Kosovo..."All hope abandon, ye who enter here."
Columbine High Schoolby Paul Harvey
For the life of me, I can't understand what could have gone wrong in Littleton, Colo. If only the parents had kept their children away from the guns, we wouldn't have had such a tragedy. Yeah, it must have been the guns.
It couldn't have been because of half our children being raised in broken homes.
It couldn't have been because our children get to spend an average of 30 seconds in meaningful conversation with their parents each day. After all, we give our children quality time.
It couldn't have been because we treat our children as pets and our pets as children.
It couldn't have been because we place our children in day care centers where they learn their socialization skills among their peers under the law of the jungle while employees who have no vested interest in the children look on and make sure that no blood is spilled.
It couldn't have been because we allow our children to watch, on average, seven hours of television a day filled with the glorification of sex and violence that isn't fit for adult consumption.
It couldn't have been because we allow (or even encourage) our children to enter into virtual worlds in which, to win the game, one must kill as many opponents as possible in the most sadistic way possible.
It couldn't have been because we have sterilized and contracepted our families down to sizes so small that the children we do have are so spoiled with material things that they come to equate the receiving of thematerial with love.
It couldn't have been because our children, who historically have been seen as a blessing from God, are now being viewed as either a mistake created when contraception fails or inconveniences that parents try to raise in their spare time.
It couldn't have been because we give two-year prison sentences to teen-agers who kill their newborns.
It couldn't have been because our school systems teach the children that they are nothing but glorified apes who have evolutionized out of some primordial soup of mud.
It couldn't have been because we teach our children that there are no laws of morality that transcend us, that everything is relative and that actions don't have consequences.
What the heck, the president gets away with it.
Nah, it must have been the guns.
The New Bill of Rights
We, the sensible people of the United States, in an attempt to help everyone get along, restore some semblance of justice, avoid any more riots, keep our nation safe, promote positive behavior and secure the blessings of debt-free liberty to ourselves and our great-great-great grandchildren, hereby try one more time to ordain and establish some common sense guidelines for the terminally whiny, guilt-ridden, delusional and other liberal, bedwetters. We hold these truths to be self-evident: that a whole lot of people were confused by the Bill of Rights and are so dim that they require a Bill of No
You do not have the right to a new car, big screen TV or any other form of wealth. More power to you if
you can legally acquire them, but no one is guaranteeing anything.
You do not have the right to never be offended. This country is based on freedom, and that means freedom for everyone not just you! You may leave the room, turn the channel, express a different opinion, etc., but the world is full of idiots, and probably always will be.
You do not have the right to be free from harm. If you stick a screwdriver in your eye, learn to be more careful, do not expect the tool manufacturer to make you and all your relatives independently wealthy.
You do not have the right to free food and housing. Americans are the most charitable people to be found, and will gladly help anyone in need, but we are quickly growing weary of subsidizing generation after generation of professional couch potatoes who achieve nothing more than the creation of another generation of professional couch potatoes.
You do not have the right to free health care. That would be nice, but from the looks of public housing, we're just not interested in public health care.
You do not have the right to physically harm other people. If you kidnap, rape, intentionally maim or kill someone, don't be surprised if the rest of us want to see you fry in the electric chair.
You do not have the right to the possessions of others. If you rob, cheat or coerce away the goods or services of other citizens, don't be surprised if the rest of us get together and lock you away in a place where you still won't have the right to a big-screen color TV or a life of leisure.
You don't have the right to demand that our children risk their lives in foreign wars to soothe your aching conscience. We hate oppressive governments and won't lift a finger to stop you from going to fight if you'd like; however, we do not enjoy parenting the entire world, and do not want to spend so much of our time battling each and every little tyrant with a military
uniform and a funny hat.
You don't have the right to a job. All of us sure want all of you to have one, and will gladly help you along in hard times, but we expect you to take advantage of the opportunities of education and vocational training laid before you to make yourself
You do not have the right to happiness. Being an American means that you have the right to pursue happiness - which by the way, is a lot easier if you are unencumbered by an over abundance of idiotic laws created by those of you who were confused by the Bill of Rights.
Call it The Age Of Reason revisited.
What Happened?Clarence Schultz, minister and retired Navy chaplain
Let's see...I think it started when Madeline Murray O'Hare complained that she didn't want any prayer in our schools, and we said OK.
Then someone said you had better not read the Bible in school (the Bible that says thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor as yourself). And we said, OK.
Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn't spank our children when they misbehave because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem. And we said, an expert should know what he's talking about so we won't spank them anymore.
Then someone said that teachers and principals better not discipline our children when they misbehave. And the school administrators said no faculty member in this school better touch a student when they misbehave because we don't want any bad publicity, and we surely don't want to be sued. And we accepted their reasoning.
Then someone said, let's let our daughters have abortions if they want, and they won't even have to tell their parents. And we said, that's a grand idea.
Then some wise school board member said, since boys will be boys and they're going to "do it" anyway, let's give our sons all the condoms they want, so they can have all the "fun" they desire, and we won't have to tell their parents they got them at school. And we said, that's another great idea.
And then some of our top elected officials said that it doesn't matter what we do in private as long as we do our jobs. And agreeing with them, we said it doesn't matter to me what anyone, including the President, does in private as long as I have a job and the economy is good.
And then someone said let's print magazines with pictures of nude women and call it wholesome down-to-earth appreciation for the beauty of the female body. And we said we have no problem with that.
And someone else took that appreciation a step further and published pictures of nude children and then stepped further still by making them available on the Internet. And we said they're entitled to their free speech.
And the entertainment industry said, let's make TV shows and movies that promote profanity, violence, and illicit sex. And let's record music that encourages rape,drugs, murder, suicide, and satanic themes. And we said it's just entertainment, it has no adverse effect, and nobody takes it seriously anyway, so go right ahead.
Therefore, now we're asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don't know right from wrong, and why it doesn't bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves. Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out. I think it has a great deal to do with..."we reap what we sow."
Frugal Governmentby Thomas Jefferson
"A wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicity."
"If we were directed from Washington when to sow and when to reap, we would soon want for bread."
"No nation was ever drunk when wine was cheap."
"Our liberty depends on freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost."
"Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations - entangling alliance with none."
"Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question."
"That government is best which governs the least, because its people discipline themselves."
"The care of every man's soul belongs to himself. But what if he neglect the care of it? Well what if he neglect the care of his health or his estate, which would more nearly relate to the state. Will the magistrate make a law that he not be poor or sick? Laws provide against injury from others; but not from ourselves. God himself will not save men against their wills."
"I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever, in religion, in philosophy, in politics or in anything else, where I was capable of thinking for myself. Such an addiction is the last degradation of a free and moral agent. If I could not go to Heaven but with a party, I would not go there at all."
"History I believe furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance, of which their political as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purpose."
"It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."
"The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government."
Tax CutsDavid R. Kamerschen, Ph.D
Distinguished Professor of Economics
536 Brooks Hall, University of Georgia
Let's put tax cuts in terms everyone can understand. Suppose that every day, ten men go out for dinner. The bill for all ten comes to $100.
If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this: -The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing -The fifth would pay $1 -The sixth would pay $3 -The seventh $7 -The eighth $12 -The ninth $18 -The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.
So, that's what they decided to do.
The ten men ate dinner in the restaurant every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve.
"Since you are all such good customers," he said, "I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily meal by $20."
So now dinner for the ten only cost $80.
The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes. So the first four men were unaffected. They would still eat for free. But what about the other six, the paying customers? How could they divvy up the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his "fair share?" The six men realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being "paid" to eat their meal.
So the restaurant owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.
And so: -The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings) -The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33% savings) -The seventh now paid $5 instead of $7 (28% savings) -The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings) -The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% savings) -The tenth now paid $49 instead $59 (16% savings)
Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to eat for free. But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings.
"I only got a dollar out of the $20," declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth."But he got $10!"
"Yeah, that's right," exclaimed the fifth man. "I only saved a dollar, too. It's unfair that he got ten times more than me!"
"That's true!" shouted the seventh man. "Why should he get $10 back when I got only $2? The wealthy get all the breaks!"
"Wait a minute," yelled the first four men in unison."We didn't get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!" The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.
The next night the tenth man didn't show up for dinner, so the nine sat down and ate without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn't have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!
And that, boys and girls, journalists and college professors, is how our tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction.
Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up at the table anymore. There are lots of good restaurants in Europe and the Caribbean.
CommencementNeal Boortz Texas A & M Commencement Address: [that he never delivered]
I am honored by the invitation to address you on this august occasion. It's about time. Be warned, however, that I am not here to wow you; you'll have enough smoke blown your way today. And you can bet your tassels I'm not here to impress the faculty and administration.
You may not like much of what I have to say, and that's fine. You will remember it though. Especially after about 10 years out there in the real world. This, it goes without saying, does not apply to those of you who will seek your careers and your fortunes as government employees.
This gowned gaggle behind me is your faculty. You've heard the old saying that those who can -- do. Those who can't -- teach. That sounds deliciously insensitive. But there is often raw truth in insensitivity, just as you often find feel-good falsehoods and lies in compassion. Say good-bye to your faculty, because now you are getting ready to go out there and do. These folks behind me are going to stay right here and teach.
By the way, just because you are leaving this place with a diploma doesn't mean the learning is over. When an FAA flight examiner handed me my private pilot's license many years ago, he said, 'Here, this is your ticket to learn.' The same can be said for your diploma. Believe me, the learning has just begun.
Now, I realize that most of you consider yourselves Liberals. In fact, you are probably very proud of your liberal views. You care so much. You feel so much. You want to help so much. After all, you're a compassionate and caring person, aren't you now? Well, isn't that just so extraordinarily special. Now, at this age, is as good a time as any to be a Liberal; as good a time as any to know absolutely everything.You have plenty of time, starting tomorrow, for the truth to set in. Over the next few years, as you begin to feel the cold breath of reality down your neck, things are going to start changing pretty fast...including your own assessment of just how much you really know.
So here are the first assignments for your initial class in reality: Pay attention to the news, read newspapers, and listen to the words and phrases that proud Liberals use to promote their causes. Then compare the words of the left to the words and phrases you hear from those evil, heartless, greedy conservatives. From the Left you will hear "I feel." From the Right you will hear "I think." From the Liberals you will hear references to groups -- The Blacks, The Poor, The Rich, The Disadvantaged, The Less Fortunate." From the Right you will hear references to individuals. On the Left you hear talk of group rights; on the Right, individual rights.
That about sums it up, really: Liberals feel. Liberals care. They are pack animals whose identity is tied up in group dynamics. Conservatives and Libertarians think -- and, setting aside the theocracy crowd, their identity is centered on the individual. Liberals feel that their favored groups have enforceable rights to the property and services of productive individuals. Conservatives and Libertarians (myself among them I might add), think that individuals have the right to protect their lives and their property from the plunder of the masses.
In college you developed a group mentality, but if you look closely at your diplomas you will see that they have your individual names on them. Not the name of your school mascot, or of your fraternity or sorority, but your name. Your group identity is going away. Your recognition and appreciation of your individual identity starts now.
If, by the time you reach the age of 30, you do not consider yourself to be a libertarian or a conservative, rush right back here as quickly as you can and apply for a faculty position. These people will welcome you with open arms. They will welcome you, that is, so long as you haven't developed an individual identity. Once again you will have to be willing to sign on to the group mentality you embraced during the past four years.
Something is going to happen soon that is going to really open your eyes. You're going to actually get a full time job! You're also going to get a lifelong work partner. This partner isn't going to help you do your job. This partner is just going to sit back and wait for payday.This partner doesn't want to share in your effort, but your earnings.
Your new lifelong partner is actually an agent. An agent representing a strange and diverse group of people. An agent for every teenager with an illegitimate child. An agent for a research scientist who wanted to make some cash answering the age-old question of why monkeys grind their teeth. An agent for some poor demented hippie who considers herself to be a meaningful and talented artist, but who just can't manage to sell any of her artwork on the open market.
Your new partner is an agent for every person with limited, if any, job skills ....but who wanted a job at City Hall. An agent for tinhorn dictators in fancy military uniforms grasping for American foreign aid. An agent for multi-million-dollar companies who want someone else to pay for their overseas advertising. An agent for everybody who wants to use this agent's unimaginable power for their own personal enrichment and benefit.
That agent is our wonderful, caring, compassionate, oppressive government. Believe me, you will be awed by the unimaginable power this agent has. Power that you do not have. A power that no individual has, or will have. This agent has the legal power to use force, deadly force, to accomplish its goals.
You have no choice here. Your new friend is just going to walk up to you, introduce itself rather gruffly, hand you a few forms to fill out, and move right on in. Say hello to your own personal one-ton gorilla. It will sleep anywhere it wants to. Now, let me tell you, this agent is not cheap. As you become successful, it will seize about 40% of everything you earn. And no, I'm sorry, there just isn't any way you can fire this agent of plunder, and you can't decrease it's share of your income. That power rests with him, not you.
So, here I am saying negative things to you about government. Well, be clear on this: It is not wrong to distrust government. It is not wrong to fear government. In certain cases it is not even wrong to despise government -- for government is inherently evil. Yes, a necessary evil, but dangerous nonetheless ... somewhat like a drug. Just as a drug that in the proper dosage can save your life, an overdose of government can be fatal.
Now let's address a few things that have been crammed into your minds at this university. There are some ideas you need to expunge as soon as possible. These ideas may work well in the academic environment, but they fail miserably out there in the real world.
First, that favorite buzz word of the media, government and academia: Diversity!
You have been taught that the real value of any group of people -- be it a social group, an employee group, a management group, whatever -- is based on diversity. This is a favored liberal ideal because diversity is based not on an individual's abilities or character, but on a person's identity and status as a member of a group. Yes, it's that liberal group identity thing again. Within the great diversity movement, group identification -- be it racial, gender based, or some other minority status -- means more than the individual's integrity, character or other qualifications.
Brace yourself. You are about to move from this academic atmosphere where diversity rules, to a workplace and a culture where individual achievement and excellence actually count. No matter what your professors have taught you over the last four years, you are about to learn that diversity is absolutely no replacement for excellence, ability, and individual hard work.
From this day forward, every single time you hear the word "diversity" you can rest assured that there is someone close by who is determined to rob you of every vestige of individuality you possess.
We also need to address this thing you seem to have about "rights." We have witnessed an obscene explosion of so-called "rights" in the last few decades, usually emanating from college campuses.
You know the mantra: You Have The Right To A Job. The right to a place to live. The right to a living wage. The right to health care. The right to an education. You probably even have your own pet right -- the right to a Beemer, for instance, or the right to have someone else provide for that child you plan on downloading in a year or so.
Forget it. Forget those rights! I'll tell you what your rights are! You have a right to live free, and to the results of your labor. I'll also tell you have no right to any portion of the life or labor of another.
You may, for instance, think that you have a right to health care. After all, Hillary said so, didn't she? But you cannot receive health care unless some doctor or health practitioner surrenders some of his time - his life - to you. He may be willing to do this for compensation, but that's his choice. You have no "right" to his time or property. You have no right to his or any other person's life or to any portion thereof.
You may also think you have some "right" to a job; a job with a living wage, whatever that is. Do you mean to tell me that you have a right to force your services on another person, and then the right to demand that this person compensate you with their money? Sorry, forget it. I am sure you would scream if some urban outdoorsmen (that would be "homeless person" for those of you who don't want to give these less fortunate people a romantic and adventurous title) came to you and demanded his job and your money.
The people who have been telling you about all the rights you have are simply exercising one of theirs - the right to be imbeciles. Their being imbeciles didn't cost anyone else either property or time. It's their right, and they exercise it brilliantly.
By the way, did you catch my use of the phrase "less fortunate" a bit ago, when I was talking about the urban outdoorsmen? That phrase is a favorite of the Left. Think about it, and you'll understand why. To imply that one person is homeless, destitute, dirty, drunk, spaced out on drugs, unemployable, and generally miserable because he is "less fortunate" is to imply that a successful person - one with a job, a home and a future - is in that position because he or she was "fortunate. "The dictionary says that fortunate means "having derived good from an unexpected place." There is nothing unexpected about deriving good from hard work. There is also nothing unexpected about deriving misery from choosing drugs, alcohol, and the street.
If the Left can create the common perception that success and failure are simple matters of "fortune" or "luck," then it is easy to promote and justify their various income redistribution schemes. After all, we are just "evening out the odds" a little bit. This "success equals luck" idea the liberals like to push is seen everywhere. Democratic presidential candidate Richard Gephardt refers to high-achievers as "people who have won life's lottery." He wants you to believe they are making the big bucks because they are lucky.
It's not luck, my friends. It's choice. One of the greatest lessons I ever learned was in a book by Og Mandino, entitled "The Greatest Secret in the World." The lesson? Very simple: "Use wisely your power of choice."
That bum sitting on a heating grate, smelling like a wharf rat? He's there by choice. He is there because of the sum total of the choices he has made in his life. This truism is absolutely the hardest thing for some people to accept, especially those who consider themselves to be victims of something or other - victims of discrimination, bad luck, the system, capitalism, whatever. After all, nobody really wants to accept the blame for his or her position in life. Not when it is so much easier to point and say, "Look! He did this to me!" than it is to look into a mirror and say, "You S.O.B.! You did this to me!"
The key to accepting responsibility for your life is to accept the fact that your choices, every one of them, are leading you inexorably to either success or failure, however you define those terms.
Some of the choices are obvious: whether or not to stay in school. Whether or not to get pregnant. Whether or not to hit the bottle. Whether or not to keep this job you hate until you get another better-paying job. Whether or not to save some of your money, or saddle yourself with huge payments for that new car.
Some of the choices are seemingly insignificant: Whom to go to the movies with. Whose car to ride home in. Whether to watch the tube tonight, or read a book on investing. But, and you can be sure of this, each choice counts. Each choice is a building block - some large, some small. But each one is a part of the structure of your life. If you make the right choices, or if you make more right choices than wrong ones, something absolutely terrible may happen to you. Something unthinkable. You, my friend, could become one of the hated, the evil, the ugly, the feared, the filthy, the successful, the rich. Quite a few people have made that mistake.
The rich basically serve two purposes in this country. First, they provide the investments, the investment capital, and the brains for the formation of new businesses. Businesses that hire people. Businesses that send millions of paychecks home each week to the un-rich.
Second, the rich are a wonderful object of ridicule, distrust, and hatred. Few things are more valuable to a politician than the envy most Americans feel for the evil rich.
Envy is a powerful emotion. Even more powerful than the emotional minefield that surrounded Bill Clinton when he reviewed his last batch of White House interns. Politicians use envy to get votes and power. And they keep that power by promising the envious that the envied will be punished: "The rich will pay their fair share of taxes if I have anything to do with it." The truth is that the top 10% of income earners in this country pays almost 50% of all income taxes collected. I shudder to think what these job producers would be paying if our tax system were any more "fair."
You have heard, no doubt, that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Interestingly enough, our government's own numbers show that many of the poor actually get richer, and that quite a few of the rich actually get poorer. But for the rich who do actually get richer, and the poor who remain poor.... there's an explanation -- a reason. The rich, you see, keep doing the things that make them rich; while the poor keep doing the things that make them poor.
Speaking of the poor, during your adult life you are going to hear an endless string of politicians bemoaning the plight of the poor. So, you need to know that under our government's definition of "poor" you can have a $5 million net worth, a $300,000 home and a new $90,000 Mercedes, all completely paid for. You can also have a maid, cook, and valet, and $1 million in your checking account, and you can still be officially defined by our government as "living in poverty." Now there's something you haven't seen on the evening news.
How does the government pull this one off? Very simple, really. To determine whether or not some poor soul is "living in poverty," the government measures one thing - just one thing. Income. It doesn't matter one bit how much you have, how much you own, how many cars you drive or how big they are, whether or not your pool is heated, whether you winter in Aspen and spend the summers in the Bahamas, or how much is in your savings account. It only matters how much income you claim in that particular year.
This means that if you take a one-year leave of absence from your high-paying job and decide to live off the money in your savings and checking accounts while you write the next great American novel, the government says you are 'living in poverty."
This isn't exactly what you had in mind when you heard these gloomy statistics, is it? Do you need more convincing? Try this. The government's own statistics show that people who are said to be "living in poverty" spend more than $1.50 for each dollar of income they claim. Something is a bit fishy here. Just remember all this the next time Peter Jennings puffs up and tells you about some hideous new poverty statistics.
Why has the government concocted this phony poverty scam? Because the government needs an excuse to grow and to expand its social welfare programs, which translates into an expansion of its power. If the government can convince you, in all your compassion, that the number of "poor" is increasing, it will have all the excuse it needs to sway an electorate suffering from the advanced stages of Obsessive-Compulsive Compassion Disorder.
I'm about to be stoned by the faculty here. They've already changed their minds about that honorary degree I was going to get. That's OK, though. I still have my Ph.D. in Insensitivity from the Neal Boortz Institute for Insensitivity Training. I learned that, in short, sensitivity sucks. It's a trap. Think about it - the truth knows no sensitivity. Life can be insensitive. Wallow too much in sensitivity and you'll be unable to deal with life, or the truth. So, get over it.
Now, before the dean has me shackled and hauled off, I have a few random thoughts.
- You need to register to vote, unless you are on welfare. If you are living off the efforts of others, please do us the favor of sitting down and shutting up until you are on your own again.
- When you do vote, your votes for the House and the Senate are more important than your vote for president. The House controls the purse strings, so concentrate your awareness there.
- Liars cannot be trusted, even when the liar is the president of the United States. If someone can't deal honestly with you, send them packing.
- Don't bow to the temptation to use the government as an instrument of plunder. If it is wrong for you to take money from someone else who earned it -- to take their money by force for your own needs -- then it is certainly just as wrong for you to demand that the government step forward and do this dirty work for you.
- Don't look in other people's pockets. You have no business there. What they earn is theirs. What you earn is yours. Keep it that way!
- Nobody owes you anything, except to respect your privacy and your rights, and leave you the hell alone.
- Speaking of earning, the revered 40-hour workweek is for losers. Forty hours should be considered the minimum, not the maximum. You don't see highly successful people clocking out of the office every afternoon at five. The losers are the ones caught up in that afternoon rush hour. The winners drive home in the dark.
- Free speech is meant to protect unpopular speech. Popular speech, by definition, needs no protection.
- Finally (and aren't you glad to hear that word), as Og Mandino wrote: Proclaim your rarity. Each of you is a rare and unique human being. Use wisely your power of choice.
Go the extra mile. Drive home in the dark. Oh, and put off buying a television set as long as you can.
Now, if you have any idea at all what's good for you, you will get the hell out of here and never come back.
Monday Night at Morton's
For many years Ben Stein has written a biweekly column for the online website called "Monday Night At Morton's." (Morton's is a famous chain of Steakhouses known to be frequented by movie stars and famous people from around the globe.) Now, Ben is terminating the column to move on to other things in his life. Reading his final column is worth a few minutes of your time.
How Can Someone Who Lives in Insane Luxury Be a Star in Today's World?
As I begin to write this, I "slug" it, as we writers say, which means I put a heading on top of the document to identify it. This heading is "eonlineFINAL," and it gives me a shiver to write it. I have been doing this column for so long that I cannot even recall when I started. I loved writing this column so much for so long I came to believe it would never end.
It worked well for a long time, but gradually, my changing as a person and the world's change have overtaken it. On a small scale, Morton's, while better than ever, no longer attracts as many stars as it used to. It still brings in the rich people in droves and definitely some stars. I saw Samuel L. Jackson there a few days ago, and we had a nice visit, and right before that, I saw and had a splendid talk with Warren Beatty in an elevator, in which we agreed that Splendor in the Grass was a super movie. But Morton's is not the star galaxy it once was, though it probably will be again.
Beyond that, a bigger change has happened. I no longer think Hollywood stars are terribly important. They are uniformly pleasant, friendly people, and they treat me better than I deserve to be treated. But a man or woman who makes a huge wage for memorizing lines and reciting them in front of a camera is no longer my idea of a shining star we should all look up to.
How can a man or woman who makes an eight-figure wage and lives in insane luxury really be a star in today's world, if by a "star" we mean someone bright and powerful and attractive as a role model? Real stars are not riding around in the backs of limousines or in Porsches or getting trained in yoga or Pilates and eating only raw fruit while they have Vietnamese girls do their nails.
They can be interesting, nice people, but they are not heroes to me any longer. A real star is the soldier of the 4th Infantry Division who poked his head into a hole on a farm near Tikrit, Iraq. He could have been met by a bomb or a hail of AK-47 bullets. Instead, he faced an abject Saddam Hussein and the gratitude of all of the decent people of the world.
A real star is the U.S. soldier who was sent to disarm a bomb next to a road north of Baghdad. He approached it, and the bomb went off and killed him.
A real star, the kind who haunts my memory night and day, is the U.S. soldier in Baghdad who saw a little girl playing with a piece of unexploded ordnance on a street near where he was guarding a station. He pushed her aside and threw himself on it just as it exploded. He left a family desolate in California and a little girl alive in Baghdad.
The stars who deserve media attention are not the ones who have lavish weddings on TV but the ones who patrol the streets of Mosul even after two of their buddies were murdered and their bodies battered and stripped for the sin of trying to protect Iraqis from terrorists.
We put couples with incomes of $100 million a year on the covers of our magazines. The noncoms and officers who barely scrape by on military pay but stand on guard in Afghanistan and Iraq and on ships and in submarines and near the Arctic Circle are anonymous as they live and die.
I am no longer comfortable being a part of the system that has such poor values, and I do not want to perpetuate those values by pretending that who is eating at Morton's is a big subject.
There are plenty of other stars in the American firmament...the policemen and women who go off on patrol in South Central and have no idea if they will return alive; the orderlies and paramedics who bring in people who have been in terrible accidents and prepare them for surgery; the teachers and nurses who throw their whole spirits into caring for autistic children; the kind men and women who work in hospices and in cancer wards.
Think of each and every fireman who was running up the stairs at the World Trade Center as the towers began to collapse. Now you have my idea of a real hero.
We are not responsible for the operation of the universe, and what happens to us is not terribly important. God is real, not a fiction; and when we turn over our lives to Him, He takes far better care of us than we could ever do for ourselves. In a word, we make ourselves sane when we fire ourselves as the directors of the movie of our lives and turn the power over to Him.
I came to realize that life lived to help others is the only one that matters. This is my highest and best use as a human. I can put it another way. Years ago, I realized I could never be as great an actor as Olivier or as good a comic as Steve Martin...or Martin Mull or Fred Willard--or as good an economist as Samuelson or Friedman or as good a writer as Fitzgerald. Or even remotely close to any of them.
But I could be a devoted father to my son, husband to my wife and, above all, a good son to the parents who had done so much for me. This came to be my main task in life. I did it moderately well with my son, pretty well with my wife and well indeed with my parents (with my sister's help). I cared for and paid attention to them in their declining years. I stayed with my father as he got sick, went into extremis and then into a coma and then entered immortality with my sister and me reading him the Psalms.
This was the only point at which my life touched the lives of the soldiers in Iraq or the firefighters in New York. I came to realize that life lived to help others is the only one that matters and that it is my duty, in return for the lavish life God has devolved upon me, to help others He has placed in my path. This is my highest and best use as a human.
Faith is not believing that God can. It is knowing that God will.