July 19, 2004
Win Ben Stein's Respect
Col. Boyd sent along a reminder that before Hollywood celebrity Ben Stein retired from writing his Monday Night at Mortons column last year, he regularly regaled us with tales of bumping into A-list stars at Morton's Restaurant in Hollywood. Unlike many of the famous folks he chronicled, however, Stein was an unabashed supporter of our troops and their Commander in Chief. No qualifiers. No buts. Just support. Here are a couple of snippets from his 2003 columns.
Stein not only enjoys rap but composed this one:
May 2, 2003:
'Cuz this war wuz won
With American blood and bone
and British guts
American tears and
So, damn Chirac's and
Schroder's sorry butts
Damn all those people
who stand on corners and complain
They ought to be on their knees to the men and women in pain
Men and women who change the world
On three hundred dollars a week
In war so fearless, in peace so meek
His answer to an oft-asked question: "In all of the time you have been in Hollywood, who are the most impressive stars you have met?":
June 7, 2003:
Norman Lear, who flew 50 missions over Axis-occupied Italy, Germany and Yugoslavia, never brags about it and has total modesty about it. Norman and 12 million like him from America stopped the Nazis from putting me in a camp and gassing me. Star.
• My father-in-law, Col. Dale Denman Jr. of Prescott, Arkansas, who fought across Europe as a 22-year-old lieutenant and won a Silver Star for courage under fire. He had prayed the night before his first combat that he would not be a coward, and then as a middle-aged man he fought again in Vietnam and won a second Silver Star for combat in a rice paddy. Star.
• My wife's Uncle Bob Denman, who defeated a North Korean unit on a frozen hillside armed only with a carbine--and then declined a medal because he said his men deserved it more than he did. Star.
• Ed McMahon of The Tonight Show, who flew 85 combat missions in Korea and never brags about it. Star.
• The men and women of the Philippine Sea, who rid Afghanistan of the Taliban. Stars.
Here, he compares his everyday reality with an appearance at the welcome home dinner-dance for the USS Mobile Bay:
July 16, 2003:
I toil in the world of finance, where I deal with men who blithely loot widows and orphans out of their livelihoods and go to parties and grin for the cameras of the society pages. At the dinner dance for the Mobile Bay, not one person even brought up money one single time. No one bragged about his coups in property. The men and women just bantered about their foibles and habits.
There was no bragging about Iraq, no questioning of the commander in chief, no ego at all. It occurs to me that this is the navy way, the army way, the marine and air force way: team playing to protect a nation that is often only barely aware they exist.
But they do, and without them, none of the rest of us would exist for long.
And how could the men and women of the Mobile Bay be any less than the navy ideal? The ship is led by a captain and his wife whose devotion to something bigger than themselves makes those of us with our swimming pools and our self-obsession look pretty pathetic.
The ship is crewed by men and women who won't be defeated, and this makes us, their beneficiaries, extremely blessed Americans.
In his final column, Stein paid one last tribute to the men and women who protect and defend:
December 20, 2003:
I no longer think Hollywood stars are terribly important. They are uniformly pleasant, friendly people, and they treat me better than I deserve to be treated. But a man or woman who makes a huge wage for memorizing lines and reciting them in front of a camera is no longer my idea of a shining star we should all look up to.
How can a man or woman who makes an eight-figure wage and lives in insane luxury really be a star in today's world, if by a "star" we mean someone bright and powerful and attractive as a role model?
Real stars are not riding around in the backs of limousines or in Porsches or getting trained in yoga or Pilates and eating only raw fruit while they have Vietnamese girls do their nails. They can be interesting, nice people, but they are not heroes to me any longer.
A real star is the soldier of the 4th Infantry Division who poked his head into a hole on a farm near Tikrit, Iraq. He could have been met by a bomb or a hail of AK-47 bullets. Instead, he faced an abject Saddam Hussein and the gratitude of all of the decent people of the world. . . .
We put couples with incomes of $100 million a year on the covers of our magazines. The noncoms and officers who barely scrape by on military pay but stand on guard in Afghanistan and Iraq and on ships and in submarines and near the Arctic Circle are anonymous as they live and die.
I am no longer comfortable being a part of the system that has such poor values, and I do not want to perpetuate those values by pretending that who is eating at Morton's is a big subject.
Stein finished this last column with the realization that "I came to realize that life lived to help others is the only one that matters and that it is my duty, in return for the lavish life God has devolved upon me, to help others He has placed in my path. This is my highest and best use as a human." Some people never come to that realization. Stein discovered it late in life. Contrast that with the age of our troops that are bringing freedom to the citizens of Iraq, Afghanistan, and other troubled areas of the world. Many of our troops are in their 20s. They do not enjoy a "lavish life". Nonetheless, they are committed to finishing their mission and making the world a better place. That says a lot for our Armed Forces.
One of my favorite Stein-lines goes back to the first linked column; his Saddamn-insane rap:
There'll always be complainers and always be whiners
And malcontents and and losers and truth two-timers
There's a place for them in their sorry dreams
Cleanin' out the latrines of the U.S. Marines.
Posted by Deb at July 19, 2004 10:01 AM
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I've always enjoyed Ben Stein's sly columns. It is good to hear that he is not just a talent - he's a fine human being as well.
Posted by: Zhang Fei at July 19, 2004 07:42 PM
I wish we had more Steins in the media world
Posted by: Lourdes Cabrisses at July 31, 2004 06:21 AM
How much better the world would be if we all lived by:
living a life "...to help others is the only one that matters and that it is my duty, in return for the lavish life God has devolved upon me, to help others He has placed in my path. This is my highest and best use as a human."
and having the knowledge that God will do the rest.
"Faith is not believing that God can,
It is knowing that God will." Ben Stein
Posted by: Eva at July 31, 2004 09:10 AM
if we had more ben steins, maybe we'd have ralph nader as president. cuz thats who he's voting for, according to him.
ben stein rocks, nader '04!
Posted by: naderfan at August 9, 2004 11:23 AM