Conservative political and social commentary
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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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|Mission Very Difficult - Thursday, May 11, 2006
Tom Cruise or Todd Beamer?
Mission Very Difficult
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:
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 email@example.com.