Monday, June 04, 2007

From Ben Stein's Diary

All of you know Ben Stein, if not from his fabulous game show, Win Ben Stein's Money then as his role as the teacher in Ferris Bueller's Day Off (..."Bueller...Bueller"), or even for his "Clear Eyes" commercials. One thing is for certan however, Mr. Stein's heart is in the right place. Read this part of what he wrote in his most recient Ben Stein's Diary article for the American Spectator


AMERICA IS THE PUREST EXPRESSION OF GOD'S LOVE. That love is magnificently expressed in the Declaration of Independence. We hold these truths to be self-evident -- that all men are created with certain inalienable rights. That among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.


It doesn't say some men or some white men, so it includes blacks and Asians and Hispanics. It doesn't say all Protestant men, so it includes Catholics. It doesn't say all Christian men so it includes Jews, Hindus, Moslems, and atheists. It doesn't say only rich men. It says all men, which includes poor men. I learned these phrases from Martin Luther King, Jr.


In this dream come true, we live in a blessed garden of opportunity, toleration, comfort, even luxury and good nature.

Outside this garden is a roaring savage jungle of hatred, brutality, violence, and cruelty. Outside America is exploitation of women, cruel torture of anyone different, power unrestrained by decency or law. We are in a small patch of paradise and outside it is a huge swath of hell.


How do we stay secure in this garden? It's not because of movie stars, those overgrown, overpaid big babies. In fact, I don’t consider them stars at all. It’s not because of the political stars, also big overgrown babies. They talk a lot and sometimes they make brave decisions, but I would not call them stars by any means. No, we stay safe inside our magnificent gardens of play and lushness and opportunity and happiness because we have some men and women who offer up their lives for us selfish big babies here at home. And they are the real stars.


No, it's not Babs Streisand or Rod Stewart or Alec Baldwin or Sean Penn or Hillary or even President Bush who are the real stars. It's the guys in battle dress uniforms over body armor in 130-degree heat who are the real stars. They're stars in humvees and on foot patrols and they’re getting shot at and blown up by IEDs for us. They don’t get paid $20 million a picture and they don’t make a billion dollars a year trading commodities on Wall Street. But they make every single darned thing we do here in our garden possible.


None of it -- NONE! The movies, the love, the gourmet meals, the Waffle House, the frat parties, the mansions, the SUVs, the kids at play, Rosie, none of it, absolutely none of it, would be possible without them.


And this gathering is about the ones who gave the most to make it possible. They gave their lives and their families gave their peace of mind, their happiness, their love -- everything -- for us. What possibly greater greatness could there be than the men and women who fight for this country, die for us, and the families they leave behind? What could possibly compare in human sacrifice! ?

And so how do we make it up to them? How do we possibly show them we care as much as we should care? Of course they get the benefits the government promised them. They won't starve.


But they are lonely. They are desperate. I want the people who are reading this or listening to it to just try a mental and spiritual experiment: Try thinking about what your life would be like if you suddenly had a man come to your home to tell you your beloved husband or wife or father or mother or son or daughter was dead -- gone forever to the worst enemies of civilization there have ever been.


(And make no mistake, the Islamic fascists we are fighting now are as bad as the Nazis, as barbaric, as murderous, as vicious, as sadistic, as cruel, as relentless -- and there are a hell of a lot more of them and we are supporting them with our gasoline purchases. And they represent a threat as powerful as any threat to humanity there has ever been.)


So imagine that a chaplain has just showed up at your door, talked to you for a while, left you some pamphlets, and then left. The bottom of your life has just fallen out. All you see around you is endless bleak pain and loneliness.


And so how do we make it up to you? We could shower you with money. That wouldn't do it. We could put you on The View. That wouldn't do it.


What we need is something simple for you: to sit down with someone else who has been there. Someone else who has been in your situation: lonely, desperate, short of breath with pain. For your kids to sit down with kids who have been there. For the parents to sit down with the man or woman who has lost a child to a terrorist sniper. For you to talk to someone who has been there, walked through that valley of the shadow of death and come through -- thanks to not walking through that valley alone.


That is TAPS, the great organization I help out with in a tiny way. Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. They put grieving widows and or! phans wi th other grieving widows and orphans and mentors in Good Grief camps and they let you know that it can be done: You can walk through this. You can get through it.


TAPS is not about policy. TAPS is not about politics. TAPS is about humans reaching out to other human beings in pain. I am so blessed to be allowed to help out with this. It is so much bigger than I am and just to be allowed to touch it. Just to be allowed to hug these kids and their moms and dads. Just to see their brave mentors from the Old Guard. Well, this is beyond what I deserve. Beyond what any of us fat civilians deserve.


We all have a chance to belong and get this done: get these people through their pain -- which will never stop, by the way, but it becomes manageable. There is a wall in front of their doors forever, but eventually it becomes covered with ivy and roses, and TAPS helped to plant them.


The world owes these families more than we can ever pay them. They are the bulwarks of decency for 8 billion people. Through TAPS, we can help them a tiny little bit. More than a tiny little bit. A lot.


You know, when Bonnie Carroll started TAPS, she did a miracle of human goodness. We just follow in her footsteps. We just write checks and say a few words. Bonnie and the volunteers of TAPS are doing the best that can be done. They are following through on the divine precept: Here on earth God's work must truly be our own.

God bless every one of you.


This, in case you are wondering, is the speech I am about to give for TAPS, at the Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C. You can find Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors online and help out, and it's your loss if you don't. Yours and everyone else's.

Ben Stein is a writer, actor, economist, and lawyer living in Beverly Hills and Malibu.


For those who are interested TAPS can be found on the web HERE!

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