Thursday, April 10, 2008

Hedgehogs and Heroism

I like to check at the beginning and end of the day to see if anything dramatic or important has happened in the world. The site has a feature called “Latest News” which spotlights featured items and provides a sort of “first look” before one searches for specific areas of news. Following are some of the items featured over a two-day period this week:

* “Hedgehog used in non-lethal assault.”
* “ ‘Crazy,’ diaper-clad monkey chases man” [video]
* “Trooper tapes wild-turkey brawl” [video]
* “Navy Seal paid ultimate price for buddies”
* “Newlyweds Tasered, jailed on wedding night” [video]
* “Police chase ends, goat in custody” [video]

I’m hoping that one of these items caught your eye.

Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Monsoor joined the Navy and several years later completed his Seal training in March 2005. In April 2006 his unit was deployed to Iraq’s troubled and violent western provincial capital of Ramadi. His Delta Platoon was involved in attacks on 75 percent of its missions in a highly contested part of Ramadi called the Ma’laab district. During one firefight, Monsoor ran into the street with another Seal, shot covering fire and dragged a wounded comrade to safety while enemy bullets kicked up concrete at their feet. In September, the unit was part of a major clearing and isolating operation to root out enemy fighters holding parts of Ramadi, the Sunni insurgent stronghold west of Baghdad. Monsoor was in a sniper position on a rooftop with two other Seals when the enemy lobbed a grenade into his location, hitting him in the chest. Monsoor was in a position to escape, but instead yelled ‘grenade” and smothered it with his body, absorbing the explosive impact. This probably saved the lives of his two Seal buddies as well as three Iraqi soldiers who were there. President Bush presented Monsoor’s parents with a posthumous Medal of Honor for their son this week, only the fourth awarded since 2001.

Back to the juxtaposition of these news items. In the midst of numerous admittedly titillating and often funny “news” items, which call out to us like cotton candy at a carnival and which, when consumed in great quantities, ironically leave us emptier, there is a magnificent and beautiful story which invites us to pause, wonder, admire, and be filled. The question is, what do you do with this fact of life?

What is the percentage of your time that you spend marveling at the magnificent and heroic versus snickering at the silly and titillating? How would you break down your television watching, your web surfing, your magazine reading, along these two poles? Listen, we all need some diversion and entertainment. Enjoy it. But my question is, what are you feeding yourself on a daily and weekly basis? Will your viewing and reading diet help you build strong spiritual and moral character, or make you flabby and weak?

Jesus taught his followers not to give dogs what is sacred or throw pearls before swine, lest they “trample them under foot and turn and maul you” (Matthew 7:6). What gets the “pearl” of your time and attention? May we focus more on heroism and less on hedgehogs.


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