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Tim Leslie - Contributor

Tim Leslie represents California’s 4th Assembly District.

That Ain't No Way to Treat a Hero
The Legislature is out of touch with America...

[Tim Leslie] 7/5/04/04

I don't know when it happened, but somewhere along the line, the people who control our Legislature lost touch with reality.

There are plenty of examples. For instance, take the bills this year that ban smoking in cars and the declawing of cats. Then there is the effort to impose Feng Shui standards whenever we construct a new state building.

But perhaps the best example is the Majority Party's recent cancellation of the traditional legislative commemoration of July 4.

This event was canceled simply because it was feared the featured speaker might discuss "one nation under God."

Let me tell you a little about who had been slated to speak.

For those of you not old enough to remember, Admiral Jeremiah Denton was already a distinguished and highly decorated naval officer when he volunteered to lead a flight squadron in Vietnam.

Shot down on a mission, he spent the next seven and a half years at the infamous "Hanoi Hilton." Four of these years were in solitary confinement. Because he was ranking officer in that prison and attempted to keep the chain of command intact, the North Vietnamese viciously, ruthlessly, and relentlessly tortured him.

This mistreatment was brought home for all of America to see when a French TV crew interviewed him. During the entire five-minute exchange, while not stuttering or faltering with his words, he spelled T-O-R-T-U-R-E in Morse Code with his eyelids.

He later represented Alabama for six years in the United States Senate, where he pushed through legislation that has helped feed millions of the poor around the world.

Since his retirement from public life, Admiral Denton has spoken across the country about our nation's religious underpinnings. For instance, his talk references George Washington's belief that "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports."

Denton has also decried recent efforts to scour any reference to faith or our Creator from the public square. While he believes government has no business advancing one religion over another, he takes issue with attempts to remove "one nation under God" from our Pledge of Allegiance or to snip the almost invisible cross from the Los Angeles County seal.

One can disagree with this man's views. But as someone who spent seven years and seven months being tortured in an enemy prison, and as a man who fought for our country and the freedoms we all hold so dear, Denton has earned the right to free speech.

But because of his views concerning "one nation under God," our state Assembly censored this great American hero. They said he was not welcome.

The Office of Speaker Fabian Núñez later claimed the Assembly didn't have time for a ceremony because of pressing budget negotiations and other business. However, the very next day, the Assembly took 20 minutes to honor a retiring journalist. The Assembly regularly observes Cinco de Mayo, St. Patrick's Day, and Juneteenth, and conducts ceremonies honoring the Japanese interred in camps during WWII. In June, it made much ado over Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Month.

Yet as our nation celebrates Independence Day and remembers our hard won freedoms and this nation's greatness, the Assembly's leadership won't welcome a man who exemplifies that greatness and who fought for those freedoms. One of the things that makes America great is our right to free speech and dissent from the prevailing wisdom. And yet your California State Assembly snubbed a man who paid for that very right with his blood.

Those who control the Legislature have lost touch with reality and with the sentiments of average Americans regarding our heroes. At a time when California needs leadership, it gets something else entirely. It's time to get real. CRO




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