Under Death Threat

Scripps-Howard News Service 3.27.02
Balint Vazsonyi

Do you want to take your pick? This week, the State of Israel, respect for the Roman Catholic Church, and the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States share the honors.

The Arab world has reason to believe that just a wee bit more Intifada, a few extra hours on the American television networks, and U. N. Secretary General Kofi Annan exercising his award-winning impartiality, will signal the beginning of the end for the "Zionist Entity."

The celibacy required of priests always had its doubters. The crude reality, and its disastrous handling by those to whom the faithful look for guidance and reassurance, has now struck a lethal blow to the Church's moral authority.

Senator John McCain has already inscribed his name into the history of the United States by surviving a terrible ordeal as the captive of communists. He has now done it a second time as cheerleader of a small group that has decided to do what Senator McCain's captors always wanted: to sap America's strength by curtailing the freedom of her people.

As we contemplate the three candidates, the odds are far from even.

Time Magazine has decided to celebrate Easter with a cover story "Can the Church Be Saved?" Yet few would doubt that the answer is "yes." During its two millennia of history, the Church has seen pretty much everything. The split between West and East, Reformation, Enlightenment and Socialism - these are just some of the main crises.

Without a doubt, the current turmoil is serious. It will also take long to sort out, especially because the chances of the upper echelon doing the right thing appear to diminish every day. Even the Pope himself, his strong leadership on previous occasions notwithstanding, has disappointed so far.

But, although the faithful accord respect to priests, their faith resides in infinitely higher regions. And it is safe to predict, it will hold.

The First Amendment looks back on little more than one-tenth of the mileage when compared with the Church. It, too requires faith, but of a different kind. In fact, its first tenet seeks to protect religion against legislative interference, showing the absence of faith in government. But the very next provision, guaranteeing freedom of speech, displays deep faith in fellow Americans. It presumes that such unbridled liberty will strengthen, not weaken, the large community we call a nation.

History proved them right. Freedom of speech threatened rulers - never the people. And yet, in recent times, those who claim to represent the people have made increasing efforts to curb the elixir of creativity free expression provides.

It began under the guise of "protecting" certain persons from offensive speech. The clever always find justification for interfering with the lives of others. Repulsive propositions come to us cloaked in terms of beneficence. But harsh reality may be observed at the University of West Virginia where free speech has been restricted to two small, designated areas. And their Office for Social Justice has proscribed such words as heterosexual, boyfriend, girlfriend.

Meanwhile in Washington, sadly, perhaps tragically, John McCain has become caught up in his own demagoguery. Presumably he needed to make a splash after losing his bid for the Republican nomination. On the evidence of his testimony during the "Keating Five" hearings, sound judgment is not among his virtues. May his assault on the Constitution - which he swore to preserve, protect and defend - cause no more than a temporary wound.

Of the three "patients," Israel is the youngest, the most vulnerable, hopelessly outnumbered by adversaries. By the latter, I do not mean the Arab world whose inhabitants, for the most part, wish to see it disappear altogether. I mean the rest of the world. The absence of rational thought is truly amazing. The question is regarded exclusively on emotional grounds by the overwhelming majority. That includes, even, the White House which, just a week-or-so ago, suddenly switched its language - only to switch it back again a day-or-so ago.

Few are able to see the simple reality: All discussions are moot until such time that Arabs accept the existence of Israel in earnest. And the United States will have to go to serious war if Israel's survival is seriously threatened.

This has nothing to do with Jews - not even with making up for the Holocaust. It has to do with the defense of Western Civilization, as did World War II, and all the wars since.

As does the survival of the First Amendment - and of the Church.