Published on Friday, January 5, 2007 by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
We All Must Show Some Courage
by Tony Norman
Few of us are heroes. When we read about the extraordinary action of a citizen like Wesley Autrey, the 50-year-old New York construction worker who saved a convulsing man from the wheels of an oncoming subway train earlier this week, we're amazed.
How many of us would make a split-second decision to leap from a subway platform into the path of a train? Mr. Autrey not only did what most of us would consider unthinkable, he did so while his two young daughters, 4 and 6 years old, watched.
Because Mr. Autrey was quick-witted enough to cover the 20-year-old film student's body with his own, pressing both beneath the undercarriage of the train, neither was injured when five subway cars passed over them before stopping.
"I don't feel like I did something spectacular," Mr. Autrey said when questioned about a feat most would avert their eyes from even if it was on the big screen of a movie theater. "I just saw someone who needed help."
In saying that, Mr. Autrey displayed a level of unpretentiousness almost as startling as the rescue itself.
By comparison, our ever pragmatic sense of self-preservation barely allows us to consider wandering to the edge of a subway platform, much less leap into the darkness between the tracks to cover a man just as a train is pulling into the station.
We may not have what it takes to throw ourselves in front of a commuter train, but none of us is exempt from doing the right thing when it is safely within our power to do so.
Right now, we have a president so divorced from reality that he is contemplating one final gambit to save face: throwing tens of thousands of fresh American soldiers onto the tracks of a failed Iraqi war policy.
Despite his talent for piling debacle on top of debacle, President Bush insists he has no trouble sleeping.
This is, in itself, a tragedy. Mr. Bush should be a walking advertisement for sleep deprivation. His dreams should display the same technicolor sheen as the blood currently soaking the roads in and out of Baghdad.
So, what are we going to do about a leader so impervious to the prompting of bad dreams that he's willing to commit to an idea that even his generals think is crazy?
With more than 3,000 Americans killed, another 23,000 either physically or mentally scarred, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead and sectarian strife plunging the country into warring fiefdoms, now might be the time to implement a strategy of disengagement.
Unfortunately, President Bush appears committed to continuing the folly of a war begun on the flimsiest of pretexts, advocated by the shakiest of moralities and governed by the least coherent of strategies.
In thinking about Mr. Autrey's example of rescuing "someone who needed help," we should embrace every opportunity to do the right thing -- especially when it doesn't involve putting life and limb on the line as dramatically as he did.
All it takes is the judicious expression of unambiguous, specifically directed outrage toward a commander in chief who doesn't understand that he's already lost the biggest gamble of his life.
Most of us wouldn't jump in front of an oncoming train, but we're in a perfect position to save tens of thousands of our fellow citizens from being killed or maimed in a war devoid of even the most elementary appeal to logic.
Yesterday, a Democratic Congress was sworn in, raising hopes that the legislative branch will finally exercise its prerogative to oppose Mr. Bush's disastrous war fantasies.
As hopeful as I am about a counterweight to the president's maniacal stubbornness, I know that switching the label on the latest class of political mercenaries is no guarantee they'll do the right thing.
After all, it was the Democrats who caved to the president's war plans three years ago out of fear they'd be outmaneuvered during the 2004 election.
While the primary responsibility for the death and destruction that resulted is primarily the president's, those Democrats who gave him carte blanche in exchange for a seat at the table are morally culpable, too.
It's important to remember that when looking at the crew who took over from the Republicans yesterday. They are a "pragmatic" bunch whose mania for compromise helped get us into this disaster in the first place.
Because their natural inclination is toward squishiness, Democrats need a reminder that they weren't voted back into power because of any intrinsic virtue on their part.
It's our duty to make sure Congress protects the men and women who would be sent to a charnel house in vain. Mr. Bush's attempt to salvage an ignominious war isn't worth one hair on anyone's head.
We all can't be heroes on the level of Mr. Autrey, but we should all muster a little more outrage for democracy's sake.
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