Excerpts from Ben Stein’s last column
Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 12, 2005
As I begin to write this, I &uot;slug&uot; it, as we writers say, which means I put a heading on top of the document to identify it. This heading is &uot;eonlineFINAL,&uot; 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 for so long I came to believe it would never end.
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 &uot;star&uot; 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.
Email newsletter signup
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 that 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.
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…to 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 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.&uot;
Whenever I receive something well worth passing on, like Stein’s column, I will do it as long as the editor permits. Some say the country is getting a bit weak in the knees because the war in Iraq is not over. But I remember we had 55,000 casualties in the Battle of the Bulge in the course of a month. We lost over 10,000 crossing the Rhine and the citizens of America knew it was necessary…we dare not lose that war. It is the same today, the casualties are much lower, we must not lose but the civilians at home are not like those back in 1941.
There has been an average of 160,000 troops in the Iraq Theater of Operations during the last 22 months. That’s a firearm death rate of 60 per 100,000. The rate in Washington D.C. is 80.6 per 100,000. You are 25 percent more likely to be shot and killed in our nation’s capitol, which has some of the strictest gun control laws in the nation, than you are in Iraq. Conclusion: We should immediately pull out of Washington, D.C.
Robert Pocklington lives in Suffolk and is a regular
E-mail him at email@example.com.