Tim Leslie - Contributor
Tim Leslie represents California’s 4th Assembly
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
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
in that prison and attempted to keep the chain of command intact,
the North Vietnamese viciously, ruthlessly, and relentlessly
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