Thursday, July 30, 2009

What Sgt. James Crowley Could Learn From "Atlas Shrugged's" Hank Rearden

When the firestorm over Sgt. James Crowley’s arrest of Louis Gates first broke and I heard the arresting officer being interviewed on Fox News, I wanted to cheer.

Crowley was every honest person’s personification of a righteous man.

When Gates went public with ugly racist and “rogue cop” accusations about Crowley’s actions, he didn’t count on the fact that Crowley’s by-the-book conduct had been backed up—not only by eyewitness accounts from his partner (who happened to be black) as well as from a passer-by—but by a tape recording that contradicted Gates’ slanted version of what had transpired.

Crowley was exonerated by hard evidence. Not to mention by his sterling professional reputation and his unimpeachable 5-year record of training fellow policemen in the matter of racial profiling. (He’d been singled out by a black police lieutenant for the job.)

Nonetheless he was defamed by Gate’s buddy, President Barack Obama, who—admitting he didn’t have all the facts—berated Crowley for acting “stupidly.”

Obama then went on to use the Crowley-Gates incident as a platform for, in columnist David Limbaugh’s words “. . . a mini-diatribe about the ‘long history’ of racial profiling by American cops.” (“A Teachable Moment Indeed,” Town Hall, July 28, 2009)

Buoyed by this shoot-from-the-hip presidential support, Gates threatened to sue. He demanded an apology.

But Crowley wasn’t about to cave to pressure from on high. No apology would be forthcoming, I heard him tell a reporter, and Crowley went on to explain why. The reporter, at first politely curious, sounded increasingly sympathetic as he tuned into Crowley’s calm, resolute sense of injustice.

It wasn’t until the police union rightly complained about the potential damage done to law enforcement nationwide, until the Cambridge P.D who knew and worked with Crowley rose as one to his defense, and until thousands of supportive and outraged cops from around the country weighed into the brouhaha that Obama and his advisors decided he had better hold a press conference to defuse a situation that was sticking to him like flypaper,

Time to apologize to the innocent policeman he had defamed? To lay the blame at the feet of the guilty party, Louis Gates? To admit that the President of the United States had no business interjecting himself into local matters about which he lacks the necessary expertise, let alone the facts?

Not possible on all counts. Barack Obama cannot step out of character.

As David Limbaugh wrote:

“[Obama] held a news conference, not to apologize, but to justify himself.
* * * [He used] pure weasel words when a simple, heartfelt apology would have sufficed * * * Next he offered his patronizing assessment that both men probably overreacted and that cooler heads should have prevailed. * * * [W]hy would [Obama] continue . . . to comment on the facts? Obviously because he wanted to exploit this incident as a ‘teachable moment’ on race relations, whether or not the facts fit the template.”

Obama’s gambit didn’t end with the press conference. Either the President phoned Crowley—according to an AP report today out of Washington—and “invited both men over for a beer, to be served at a picnic table near the Oval Office” (weather permitting), or Crowley invited himself to the White House for a beer-fest (yesterday’s AP version about who initiated what).

Either way, as of this writing, it looks as if James Crowley clinked beer glasses with the President and his crony, Louis Gates, with the only disagreement at the picnic table being the merits of Blue Moon over Red Stripe or Bud Lite.

So what does this Washington adventure tell us about Sgt. James Crowley, the wronged party who never received an apology? The righteous victim in this charade who traveled from Cambridge to Washington for a beer with his two nemeses?

It tells us that either Sgt. Crowley never read Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, or, if he did, that he never understood the meaning of a cardinal moral/political principle that Rand superbly dramatized through one of her major characters.

That principle is called “the sanction of the victim.”

“There comes a point in the defeat of any man of virtue,” Rand wrote through the voice of the novel’s protagonist hero, John Galt, “when his own consent is needed for evil to win—and that no manner of injury done to him by others can succeed if he chooses to withhold his consent.”

Rand’s heroic character who, for much of the novel, struggles with the weight of self-accepted victimhood, Hank Rearden, is liberated only when he identifies that principle and acts on it—as James Crowley should have, by boycotting Obama’s little getogether.

Pick up Atlas Shrugged, Sgt. Crowley. It will not only enlighten. It will liberate you.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Moonstruck: Why Ayn Rand Would Have Mourned The Death Of Space Exploration

This coming week marks the 40th anniversary of the first landing on the moon.

Ayn Rand was on hand to celebrate that history-making achievement.

On July 16, l969, after having concluded a tour of Cape Kennedy’s Space Center the day before, Ms. Rand—an honored guest of NASA—witnessed the launching of Apollo 11.

Two months later, in a fifteen-page article (“Apollo 11,” The Objectivist, September 1969), Rand described in some detail to her readers (as well as to a rapt audience of her personal friends at my apartment in Manhattan) just how meaningful were those breathtaking seven minutes from countdown to liftoff.

I have always thought of her description of that launch—written and oral—as “beyond eloquence”:

“[T]his spectacle was not the product of inanimate nature . . . ” she wrote. “[N]or of chance, nor of luck . . . . [I]t was unmistakably human—with ‘human,’ for once, meaning grandeur . . . . For once, if only for seven minutes, the worst among those who saw it had to feel—not ‘How small is man by the side of the Grand Canyon!’—but ‘How great is man and how safe is nature when he conquers it!’ ” (Emphasis Rand’s.)

Ayn Rand would have welcomed columnist Charles Krauthammer as a spokesman—a spiritual comrade-in-arms, one might say—on the matter of space exploration. In his recent July 17 column, “The Moon We Forgot,” Krauthammer bemoans what he describes as America’s retreat from space:

“After countless millennia of gazing and dreaming, we finally got off the ground at Kitty Hawk in 1903. Within 65 years, a nanosecond in human history, we’d landed on the moon. Then five more landings, 10 more moonwalkers, and, in the decades since, nothing . . . . America’s manned space program is in shambles. Fourteen months from today, for the first time since 1962, the U.S. will be incapable not just of sending a man to the moon but of sending anyone into Earth orbit. We’ll be totally grounded.”

And Ayn Rand would have relished Krauthammer’s telling rhetorical question:

“So what, you say? Don’t we have problems here on Earth? Oh please. Poverty and disease and social ills will always be with us. If we’d waited for them to be rectified before venturing out, we’d still be living in caves.”

Not surprisingly, Ayn Rand had anticipated such negative fallout would follow in the wake of the Apollo launch. She wrote derisively about the sort of people who can always be counted upon to lobby for a “better” use for our money—such as fighting a war on poverty. She knew better.

So does Charles Krauthammer. Raising the question of why a manned space program is important, he says emphatically, “It’s not for practicality. We didn’t go to the moon to spin off cooling suits and freeze-dried fruit. Any technological return is a bonus, not a reason. We go for the wonder and glory of it. Or, to put it less grandly, for its immense possibilities.”

When Rand expressed hope that the flight of Apollo 11 would be “ . . . the first achievement of a new age . . . not a glorious last,” she got her wish—for a time, that is: those five more landings and ten more moonwalkers. And while she knew all too well the pitfalls of this country’s “mixed economy,” she wrote—with, arguably, a touch of defiance—that “ . . . [I]f the United States is to commit suicide . . . let some of its life blood go to the support of achievement and the progress of science . . . .” (“Apollo 11,” The Objectivist, September 1969). Sadly, this was not to be.

Krauthammer aptly describes what has been stripped from our lives:

“We are now deep into that hyper-terrestrial phase, the age of iPod and Facebook, of social networking and eco-consciousness . . . . But look up from your Blackberry one night. That is the moon. On it are exactly 12 sets of human footprints—untouched, unchanged, abandoned. For the first time in history,” he notes, “the moon is not just a mystery and a muse but a nightly rebuke. We came, we saw, we retreated.”

And when he wonders aloud, “How could we?” Charles Krauthammer speaks not only for those of us who never lost our sense of adventure and magic, our sense of wonder.

He speaks for Ayn Rand.