THE VigilanceVoicev  

Dec. 22--Saturday--Ground Zero Plus 102


Cliff McKenzie
 Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent Team

            Six billion dollars!   The price tag for heroism?  I don’t think so.    
           Human life certainly has a value, but heroism, in my opinion, is priceless.  That’s why government should have awarded those who died on September 11 Congressional Medals of Honor instead of throwing money at their survivors to avoid lawsuits.
            I look at the thousands who died that day as heroes.   They are all Medal of Honor winners in my book.  Each person who died that day went “Above & Beyond The Call Of Duty!”  Each gave her or his life to bring their country together.  Each died to symbolize the need for Vigilance among all citizens of America.
            No price tag can be put on what they died for--the unity of a nation.
            I was embarrassed the U.S. government put a $6-billion dollar value of their lives.  It demeans their status as heroes.  It reduces them to commodities and delimits their power as brave, heroic symbols that died so that others might live a safer, terror-free life.  It demartyrizes them.
            Putting price tags on their deaths suggests that the “government” is responsible for establishing the “value” of human life.  It's government's K-Mart thinking that bothers me the most.  The thought some statistician whipped up a budget and divided it equally, as though he were pricing goods and services for eager Christmas shoppers, infuriates my sense of value and honor for those who died.
            It also suggest the Pontius Pilot Syndrome.   By paying off the “Dead Debt,” government washes it hands of the responsibility to “protect its citizens.”  
          People of America owe their protection not to the government, but to themselves.    It is the Complacency of America that allows its innocent to be victimized, not the government.  The government, once all is said and done, is nothing more than a mirror of its people—at least that’s the underlying principle of a Democratic State. 
            In that sense of the word, we are paying ourselves for our own errors in judgment.
            For years I have laughed at the “airport security” system.   Any citizen who has ever flown on a commercial aircraft has experienced the lack of quality of those who inspect the baggage.   Security workers earn just a bit more than $1,000-a-month, and unless there is a nuclear bomb in your bag, you can usually pass just about anything through those gates.
            We, the People, let September 11 happen.   The Voice of the People did not ring the Liberty Bell in advance of the event.  Our news media--allegedly our watchdogs--didn't bark or howl about our vulnerability, or campaign in our behalf for safer walls around our castle.
         .  Now, the government steps in with a fistful of dollars to quell the pain of our own complacency, to assuage our own neglect, to mollify our pain with our own money, to anger us with “it’s not enough,” and, ultimately to eradicate or limit its own liability.
            I was sickened by the idea of “reparation” many years in Vietnam.   A new policy was issued from Washington as the political cancer of that “Terrorist War” crept into its daily activities.    We were sweeping through a village.   On  “search and destroy” missions many things are destroyed.    Besides the havoc of threatening the villagers and burning hooches (huts), a water buffalo started to charge us in a rice paddy.    We shot it.
            A minute or so afterward we stopped to get a drink of water.  We were kneeling down filling our canteens.  The Marine next to me suddenly jumped up and leveled his rifle.  Just a few feet ahead on a little grassy knoll elevated out of the rice paddy, and used by villagers to escape the wet and muck while they ate lunch, were a pair of big brown eyes staring out at us.
            Reflexively, we fired.   Unfortunately, the eyes belonged to a 14-year-old Vietnamese girl, frightened, hiding, trying to escape the horror of the war.  It was a sad moment.
           Suddenly, the village chief came screaming at us.   Unfortunately, he was more concerned about he killing of the water buffalo than the young girl.  The animal is used to till the field—a living tractor—a key to the village’s ability to work the fields.
            A captain talked with him and peeled off a roll of money.   I was perplexed.  I went over to him and asked him what he was doing.   He told me he was effecting a new program called “instant reparation.”   He held crumpled sheets of paper replete with a list of items in a village--pots, pans, hooches, clothing.  Each item had a "reparation price" next to it.
            “We estimate the damage we do in a search and destroy, and then pay for the damage.  Kind of like an instant Marshall Plan,” he said proudly.   “That way we keep good relations with the people.”
            I almost gagged as he boasted out the words.   I took a deep breath and asked if I could see the list.  He let me glance through it.  After I scanned all the pages, I turned to him and said:  “Sir, how much is the life of a 14-year-old girl?”
            He looked puzzled.   “We don’t pay for human beings,” he said abruptly..
            I bit my tongue and stomped through the muck to where the mother of the dead young girl wailed over her body.   The list had a price for about everything except human destruction.
            Reparation is not reconciliation.   
            To repair something is not to replace it.    A new life cannot replace an old life, it can only add to that which is subtracted.   But it can never replace what was, or its value.
            Yet the government, back then, had placed a value on life--“Zero!”
            Today, as the battle rages over “how much money” surviving families will receive from the government—if they agree not to sue after receiving it—smarts to me of a nation eager to forget its own mistakes.  It reminds me of a band aide, something placed over a wound so no one can see it, but it still exists.
            If the government is eager to “pay” and we as citizens are eager to “accept” such payment, it shouldn’t come in some actuarial form which attempts to cap the value on “life.”
            I believe surviving families should have some compensation.  Many were left financially unprotected.  But instead of putting a value on the life of their loved ones, they should receive a lump sum “Heroes Award.”   Individuals who earn the Congressional Medal of Honor for heroism “above and beyond the call of duty,” receive compensation for the rest of their lives as part of the award. 
            Nobel Prize winners receive a grand lump sum of money.
            An award for “heroism” is much different than the “price of life.”    I can accept the government giving the survivor’s money under a "Heroes Award” principle, but not on a “Price Of Life” equation.
            Government has no right to establish that price.   Nor, does it have the right “wash its hands of liability” if such money is accepted.   More importantly, it isn’t government’s money to begin with.    Government is handing the citizens money the citizens sent government in the first place.  Government is not the “righteous benefactor.”   It is shuffling Americans' money from one hand to another.  At best, it is a “death broker,” not a philanthropist.
            I firmly believe that at the time of death, the citizens who died had turned instantly into a militia, and that an act of war was in place upon their death.  That would qualify them all for having “died in the service of their country” under the requirement that their actions were “Above And Beyond The Call Of Duty.”
            By providing them the status of heroes first, the government does not demean their image.  But by trying to place dollar signs next to their coffins, it lowers the "victim's" esteem, it defiles the reason they died.  They died in defense of the Democratic Doctrine.   They died just as those at Pearl Harbor died, as defenseless victims of a "surprise attack."   Unlike the military members who were killed on Dec. 7, 1941, the citizens of death in the Terrorist attack had not vowed to die for their country.   They "became heroes" by the nature of the event.   They gave their lives for "freedom" without expectation, without a vow to do that.
       . Congress should have first issued Medals of Honor rather than money to the families of the combatants of Nine Eleven.    I would rather see the memory of those who died hoisted on a flag of heroism than on a price tag at K-Mart.



Go To 12-21--Patriot Day versus Vigilance Day?  Which Fights Terrorism Best?


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