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FIRST-PERSON: The antiseptic effect of the nation’s bravery

EVANSTON, Ill. (BP)–Did you notice the way in which certain ordinarily prominent voices were virtually silent after Sept. 11?

In those days marked by nobility, sacrifice, prayer, empathy and righteous indignation, we, thankfully, heard little from these folks. It would have been weird or unseemly to give them play.

Among the muted:

1) The Purveyors, Practitioners and Defenders of Degeneracy.

There’s an old joke about how to kill a cockroach. Keep flicking the light switch on and off, and he’ll have a heart attack running in and out of cover. Well, the light of spiritual intensity was on. We had little or no room or patience for shock radio, sniggering sitcom innuendo, perky coverage of moral sickness in Hollywood or discourse on the charms of bondage.
2) The Cultivators of Racial Politics and Tribal Division.

Nobody much wanted to hear from the victimhood industry. If anything, it went the other way. The emphasis was on whether this or that ethnic group was part of the national team rather than the focus of national guilt.

3) The Secularists.

Bad times for church/state separation extremists and for folks who scorn both private and public prayer. Billy Graham preached to a worldwide audience. Jesus’ name was lifted up in prayer in the National Cathedral, where the Lord’s Prayer was sung. Yes, we had our moments of silence, but moments of prayer were as popular. It seemed we’d rediscovered the language of Washington and Lincoln’s inaugural addresses, what with all the talk of God.

4) The Hypersensitive and the Lawyers Who Serve Them.

When fire department chaplains are being crushed by falling debris as they minister to the injured, it’s hard to show much sympathy for folks who want millions for spilled coffee. They seem to think that society should guarantee them a life without bumps and bruises. But in these days, we’ve seen a procession of heroes unconcerned with bumps and bruises, if only they might make a difference.

5) The Sophisticates and Cynics.

It can be so gauche to wave the flag, or so some think. Far better to fuss over our half-caff/decaff latte, with soy milk and a dash of cinnamon, while discussing both Proust and the vulgarities at Sam’s Club and the American Legion hut. Their exalted whispers were drowned out by the rustling of Old Glory.

6) The Lunatic Fringe.

Nobody wanted to hear from the folks who argue that fishing is murder, sexual orientation is properly vague, backward masking is a grave concern, the Brits are really the Lost Tribes of Israel, communism is workable, and channeling is revelatory of more than the channeler’s guile or disorientation.

7) The Political Parties.

Yes, we need them, but it was good to see less of huffy caucuses, solidarity with scoundrels, contrived alarm, posturing, breezy slander, vast personal ambition, statistic twisting, sophism and pork.

8) Fashion Dilettantes.

Nice to have a respite from those who faint dead away if celebrity so-and-so picks the wrong shade of mauve. I don’t recall a single televised use of the word “tacky” to describe the dress of volunteers. Neither did we hear a reporter praised for sassy accessorizing.

9) Gossip Columnists.

Who cared if there was controversy over caterers for the upcoming Kitty Litter-Chuck Roast wedding reception, if Governor Foghat had an ingrown toenail, or Melba Toast got a tuck?

10) The Self-Luxuriating.

I don’t recall any of those infomercials shot in Bali or St. Kitts, the ones where Hawaiian-shirted sharpies rise from their babe-covered couches to board personal helicopters to fly to gatherings of eager note-takers in Ramada ballrooms. Gag a maggot!

It’s been a week now, and they’re coming back. That’s okay. It’s part of America, land of the often irresponsibly free. But wasn’t it nice while it lasted?
Coppenger is pastor of Evanston (Ill.) Baptist Church. Other reflections by Coppenger can be seen at www.listten.com and www.comeletusreason.com. He is among the interviewees in a USA Today cover story, Sept. 19 on the Life section, titled, “Do we seek vengeance or justice?”

    About the Author

  • Mark Coppenger