Few tricks of the Left have worked as well as guilt to keep us cowed and quiet. Fifty years ago, John Kennedy became president after his anti-Semitic political boss father, almost surely, stole the election for him. His running mate was a corrupt bigot. Kennedy was a sick man who hid his sickness, which profoundly affected his ability to govern, from America . He was an adulterer who slept with mobsters’ molls. Kennedy despicably betrayed Cuban freedom fighters at the Bay of Pigs. He brought the world to the brink of destruction in October 1962. Kennedy committed our soldiers to a war in Vietnam without a plan of victory while his own “heroic” naval career actually masked dereliction of duty. JKF used the IRS as a political weapon. He was a poor president and a worse human being.
Yet in November 1963 when Kennedy was killed, he became, we were solemnly instructed, our “martyred president.” Moreover, almost at once, the “Far Right” was blamed for his death. Why? Conservatives had the temerity to criticize his presidency, and that – it was instantly assumed – was the product of that criticism. No matter that Lee Harvey Oswald was a Marxist. The canonization of Kennedy and parallel the demonization of conservatives proceeded for years unchallenged.
Kennedy was a victim but no martyr. It is vital not to confuse victims and martyrs. There is nothing ennobling about being a victim. A victim does not choose to die for a cause. Often victims and their families deserve our sympathy, but never our moral acquiescence. The Japanese families who suffered in the firebombing of Tokyo and the German families who suffered through the melting of Hamburg had fathers and brothers who sadistically tortured and exterminated Chinese, Jews, Poles, and other “inferior” peoples. Did those families deserve our sympathy and help after the war? Yes: Americans are a moral people who detest needless suffering and a hopeful people who see even in the ashes of war a hope of peace.
That compassionate sentiment, however, must not be the assumption of unmerited guilt. The Nazis and the Japanese warlords, and their followers, were not martyrs of some noble cause. The bombing of Germany , the two fission bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, were the actions of war-weary Americans who would have much rather have accepted the surrender before our bombs made victims, but not martyrs, of the master races of those aggressive powers. True martyrs are few in life. True martyrs undertake hard tasks knowing that they will suffer for it. Even men we deeply admire, like Ronald Reagan shot down and almost killed early in his term, was a victim and not a martyr of his assassination attempt – and Congresswoman Giffords is a victim, but not a martyr, as well.
The Left would have America believe that strong political criticism of a politician running for re-election is dangerous “extremism.” This extremism, presumably, was the Tea Party movement in which millions of Americans demanded less government, lower taxes, and opposed socialized medicine. None of these people ever called for the murder of politicians, but for their electoral defeat. One reason why America does not have the political murders common in other nations is because a vigorous tradition of vocal opposition has made change possible with just a vote. Moreover, just as Oswald was a Communist (though deemed a tool of the “Far Right”), Jared Lee Loughner, the man who shot Congresswoman Giffords, lists the Communist Manifesto as his favorite book and professes no religious faith.
Conservatives are painfully aware of the muzzling of their opinions in the media, in schools and colleges, and almost everywhere in public life. Despite the knowledge that contending for their view of ordered liberty in America will bring the swift, savage lash of the Left, conservatives undertake that thankless burden. All over America , from Sarah Palin to Jesse Helms, pious and patriotic Americans have proclaimed the politically incorrect and challenged the chic salons of the powerful knowing that they and their families would be punished. These brave souls are the true martyrs in American politics: so much so that Leftists have actually pondered whether Sarah Palin is more “dangerous” dead or alive, with political consequence, solely, their moral compass. Who, listening to the Left, would ever have known what a magnificent and caring soul Jesse Helms was? Senator Helms was well aware of the venom he earned by standing firm on principles: he was, in fact, a martyr to those principles.
Martyrdom is something more than dying. It is all too often living instead. Martyrdom is Alexander Solzhenitsyn writing about the Gulag with the knowledge that his solitary courage might land him back inside the Lubyanka Prison and then to some ghastly frozen camp. Martyrdom led Marines and Soldiers to land at Okinawa and Omaha Beach, knowing that more awful than a bloody death could be a crippled lifetime spent in some forgotten Veteran’s hospital.
Let us give our prayers of comfort for Congresswoman Giffords and her family. She, unlike JFK, is a good and decent person, so we can be generous in our sympathy as well. Let us plan to prevent such tragedies again. (There are 535 members of Congress, and a federal bodyguard for each would be a vanishing trifle in the federal budget.) Let us do all that kind and good conservatives would do for any neighbor who was injured or worse. But let us not hold back even one scintilla of criticism from policies and philosophies which we know are destroying our values and debasing our nation. If the Left throws slime at us, then are we surprised? Those on the Left – those without conscience or honor – will do whatever they need to do to win. Our duty is to be brave and to be true – and nothing less.