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First they came for the communists, but I was not a communist, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the socialists and the trade unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew, so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.
– Pastor Martin Niemoeller.

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There are 819 News Items in 819 pages and you are on page number 581

 

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Mission Very Difficult - Thursday, May 11, 2006
 

Tom Cruise or Todd Beamer?

Mission Very Difficult

David C. Stolinsky, M.D.
May 11, 2006

"Mission Impossible III" starring Tom Cruise opens in first place, grossing $48 million. "United 93," story of real 9/11 heroes who, led by Todd Beamer, rebelled against the hijackers, drops to fifth place with $5 million.
News item

Everyone needs role models. Some choose Tom Cruise portraying a fictional hero. Others choose Todd Beamer saying, "Let’s roll!"

"Mission Impossible III" made $48 million in its first weekend, after a huge publicity campaign that had Tom Cruise appearing virtually everywhere in the electronic and print media. A phony hero vanquishing phony villains, accompanied by phony gunshots and explosions, brings in big audiences.

Meanwhile, "United 93" brings in mediocre audiences. Real heroes vanquishing real villains, accompanied by real plane crashes, is just too – well, real. A caller to Dennis Prager’s talk show said she wouldn’t see the film, explaining, "I don’t want to be upset." The host replied, "Is that the purpose of life – not to be upset?"

The caller’s attitude is narcissistic: Seeing what really happened on 9/11 would upset me. Seeing hijackers murder flight crew and passengers would bother me. Seeing how merciless our enemies are would alarm me. Seeing terrified passengers would frighten me. Watching passengers praying and phoning loved ones for the last time would disturb me. Even seeing heroic passengers attack the hijackers would distress me. My role in life is not to do good by helping others and fighting evil. No, my role in life is to make things comfortable for me.

For many people, not being upset is a major purpose of life. No one wants to be upset, but realists recognize that life inevitably contains upsetting events. Not being upset by upsetting events may indicate cool heroism in the face of adversity. But more often, it indicates cold indifference to the suffering of others.

There’s a big difference between coolness and coldness.

A wish not to be upset can easily morph into a wish not to see reality. And if we don’t see reality, we can’t deal with it. This can be dangerous for ourselves, and for others as well. People who don’t want to deal with reality tend to elect politicians who also don’t want to deal with reality. This can be fatal for a nation.

To paraphrase "Mission Impossible," our mission, should we choose to accept it, is to confront reality, and to help others to confront it. This mission isn’t impossible, but it is very difficult. For many people, especially liberals, there is strong resistance to seeing reality. Reality would break down their delusional system where "war is not the answer" and "violence never settles anything." Reality would force them to face the fact that if they disarm, their enemies won’t follow their example. As the caller said, reality is often upsetting.

Many liberals act as if it’s still Sept. 10, 2001, and 9/11 never happened. They turn away from the collapsing Twin Towers, the smoking ruins and the 3000 dead. They turn away from the ongoing grief of the survivors. They turn away from the obscene joy of the thousands who danced in the streets of the Middle East. They even turn away from the heroic firefighters and police who ran into the buildings everyone else was running out of. They even turn away from the heroic passengers of United 93.

But their refusal to confront reality didn’t begin on 9/11. It developed slowly, over years:

  • Our embassy in Iran was seized in 1979, legally an act of war. Our diplomats were imprisoned and mistreated for 444 days. Our response was a feeble rescue attempt, and boycotting the 1980 Olympics. We punished our athletes, not the hostage takers.
  • Our Marine barracks in Beirut was bombed in 1983, killing 241 Americans who were there to protect Yasser Arafat’s PLO. Our response was to lob a few shells into the hills and withdraw. The lesson was clear – kill some Americans and the rest will run away.
  • The cruise ship Achille Lauro was hijacked in 1985, and an American in a wheelchair was shot and thrown overboard. The hijackers escaped on a plane, but through the efforts of Oliver North it was forced to land in Italy by U.S. fighter planes. Regrettably, Italy released the lead hijacker, who fled to Iraq – where he was sheltered by Saddam.
  • The USS Stark was hit by two missiles "accidentally" fired by an Iraqi plane in 1987, killing 37 crewmembers and wounding 21 others. Saddam's response was to promote the pilot and reward him with a Mercedes. Our response was to launch an inquiry and accept the Iraqi "apology." This act of war was simply ignored.
  • The first World Trade Center attack occurred in 1993, when six died and over 1000 were injured, but the buildings did not collapse as planned. Those directly responsible were arrested, but the attack was treated as a domestic crime. Our response was as weak as possible.
  • The Khobar Towers barracks was bombed in 1996, killing 19 Americans and injuring many more. Our troops were there to protect Saudi Arabia from Saddam. Our response was to indict low-level suspects. This attack on our military was treated as a crime, not an act of war. Even then, those who directed the operation were not identified, much less punished.
  • U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed in 1998 – again acts of war – causing hundreds of deaths. Our response was to arrest a suspect and sentence him to life in prison, and to launch cruise missiles at a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan and at Afghanistan. We bounced some rocks in the desert and frightened some camels. We didn’t harm the terrorists – unless some of them died laughing.
  • Suicide bombers attacked the USS Cole in October 2000 as it docked in Yemen. The ship almost sank, 17 sailors were killed and many wounded. FBI bomb experts were called, a reward was offered, and Yemen arrested suspects – who later "escaped" from prison. An attack on a U.S. warship in foreign waters was treated as if it were a bank robbery in Omaha, not an act of war.
  • A suicide bomber destroyed New York-based Sbarro’s pizzeria in Jerusalem in August 2001, killing 16 and injuring over 90. Among the dead was a visiting American. She was pregnant, so two Americans were killed. Terrorists attacked an American business, and Americans were killed. But our government did nothing to show that it takes a dim view of the murder of its citizens. We didn’t even pretend to do anything. The bombing was ordered by Hamas, which won the recent Palestinian election. If you wonder why we don’t like Hamas, ask the survivors of the Americans that organization has murdered.

A month later came 9/11. That catastrophe was too huge to be ignored by people who weren’t experts. But after years of practice, many people became so skilled that they could ignore even 9/11. After all, it was just too upsetting.

And even now, over four and one-half years later, many people still can’t confront what happened on 9/11. They still don’t look at photos of the burning Twin Towers. They still don’t go to movies depicting the heroism of the passengers on United 93, who rebelled against the hijackers and forced them to crash the plane in a field, rather than into the Capitol or the White House.

For some people, their mission in life is to avoid being upset. That really is an impossible mission. Dangers can be ignored only temporarily. Eventually they become so threatening that they can no longer be ignored, but may no longer be manageable.

For the rest of us, our mission is to confront evil, and to help others to confront it. This mission is very difficult, but it’s not impossible – in fact, it’s essential.

Dr. Stolinsky writes on political and social issues. He may be contacted at dstol@prodigy.net.

www.stolinsky.com


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