Two Very Different Hearts
by Michael R. Bowen, M.D.
06 May 2004
The contrast between political cartoonist Ted Rall and war hero Pat Tillman is striking.
Some folks just never
learn. Building on his triumphant slander of the 9/11 widows, cartoonist
Ted Rall has portrayed Pat Tillman as a bloodthirsty ("Will I get to kill
Arabs?") dupe of the neocons, who got his comeuppance from the "Afghan resistance"
(by which he means the people who murdered 3000 innocent Americans).
Fools, he tells us, will call Tillman a hero, but the real word for him is
"sap." In defense of Rall's view, some have asked whether it is really
possible to be a hero while fighting an immoral war. The answer must
hinge on the man's motives: did he volunteer to fight for freedom, or for
oil? But in the end such a question is foolish, because human motives are
almost always mixed.
A man may join the service to escape debt or bad love affair.
He may join with belief in the cause, but also be lusting for glory.
He may disagree with the policies that have led to the war, yet, like General
Lee, feel it his duty to defend his homeland from the consequences of those
policies. He may disagree with both the policies and the claims that his
nation is in danger, yet join out of fear of being called a coward.
One or all of these motives have driven men who have gone on to do heroic
things in the service. We cannot read hearts, and have no way to parse
the motives of the men we label heroes. But, if we are honest with
ourselves, we must admit that, as the judge famously said about pornography,
we may not be able to define heroism but we know it when we see it.
Whatever we think of the Bush administration, and whatever Pat Tillman thought
of it, there can be no doubt that he believed he was defending America.
It is preposterous to think that a man would surrender a lucrative career
just to help a wealthy Corporation enrich itself further. It's ludicrous
to suggest that Pat Tillman was fighting for Empire or for oil, neither of
which he would receive whatever the outcome. Only the most rabid partisan
would deny that a man of goodwill could reasonably conclude that today America
is threatened, and that he has a duty to help defend her.
One of the reasons I believe in Jesus is that He alone sees all the way into
our hearts. He knows exactly what our real motives are. Beneath
the holy robes of the Sanhedrin He saw the cold hearts, and in the eyes of
sinners He saw a genuine love for fellow man. I'm guessing that underneath
that Ranger uniform He saw an unselfish heart trying to do what is right.
Looking into the heart of Ted Rall, I'll bet He sees something altogether
Which kind of heart would you rather have?
Michael R. Bowen practices Gastroenterology and Internal Medicine, and has a weekly column on America's Voices.
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