All this storm and stress over Iran -- let us be honest, the thing grows tedious. I do not mean to alarm the saintly ayatollah and his media advisers but the average Yank is a practical creature. When the obscurantists who rule him prevent him from disposing of a problem in an expeditious fashion, he moves on to other things.
Of course, the pundits still strain to say something vast and numinous, something that will be read to Princeton undergraduates in the year 2031, but so timorous are they before the throne of seemly opinion that they have only a half-dozen or so chaste thoughts on which to elaborate, five of which are so implausible that only Prof. Garry Wills really believes in them. I say it is healthier for all involved if we simply drop the subject. Consider the holy man a Bug House orator and his mobs mere yokels: Arkansas hicks, fuliginous in hue, attired in sports coats and on their way to a cross-burning. If our president feels that there is no decisive action that can be taken against them, let them slip from mind. Cross-burners were treated that way by us in days of yore. Why not today?
Turn instead to more humane souls. Reflect on the reformers in our midst, America has been blessed with increasing multitudes of them for over a decade. aToday the republic jumps with men and women who would improve us in every way. The food we eat, the air we breathe, the toys our little ones debauch with -- all will be improved. So will society and government and the interpersonal relationships that, until now, we all made such a dreadful hash of. The reformers of the 1970s are selfless patriots, full of humanistic grace and the willingness to crack it over our skulls.
The foremost reformer of the age is -- as every malefactor of great wealth will tell you -- Ralph Nader, LL.B., founder of a host of public-spirited research groups and author of such consumerist classics as "Beware." Here is the affluent society's equivalent of Mother Teresa. He has her same human touch, her same assiduity on behalf of mankind, her same gentle sense of joy. In her Nobel Prize acceptance speech, the "Saint of the Gutter" recently spoke so eloquently on behalf of the world's poor and suffering that Sjur Lindebrekke, the Nobel committeeman presiding over the program, became seized by emotion and could hardly conclude the session. Brother Nader, the Saint of the Suburbs, can have a similar effect.
Recently he brought his concern for human life before a Senate Banking Committee hearing on aid to the Chrysler Corporation. There he was scandalously put upon by a Sen. Jake Garn, who harassed him with many ungentlemanly barbs. Was this any way to treat a man who has given over most of his adult life to America's suffering consumer? Yet Brother Nader understands the human heart, if he understands nothing more, and so he approached Sen. Garn on a human level. He apprised Sen. Garn -- very subtly, I must say -- that had some of Brother Nader's safety standards been speedily adopted by the automobile industry, Sen. Garn's wife of 19 years would never have perished some three years ago when her car rolled over.
Unfortunately, Sen. Garn did not take Brother Nader's admonition in the avuncular spirit in which it was intended. He became hostile.
"Don't try to over-emote it," Brother Nader cautioned. After all, over-emoting can imperil one's health.
Alas, the angry senator paid no heed to the reformer's message, and even tried to confuse the discussion by talking about "the tragedy of children growing up without mothers." Nonetheless, Brother Nader cut to the heart of the matter, declaring: "You're not going to deny me the right to be touched by the death of your wife, and you're not going to deny me the right to say that kind of personal tragedy could have been prevented."
Here is a very big man. I wish I had been at that hearing to kiss him on both cheeks and shake his hand for having the guts to face this defender of corporation rapine with the shortsightedness of his ways. Yet is it applause he wants? I doubt it. Brother Nader wants change, change toward making America a nicer place to live. And so one can imagine the satisfaction he must have felt when he heard of the selfless action taken recently by Richard Lent, a decidedly public-spirited tax lawyer with the Washington law firm of Kaplan & Drysdale.
One of the ways Brother Nader has sought to improve us has been to banish demon tobacco to the nether regions. Lent appears to share this ideal. bOn a morning shuttle flight from Washington to New York City, Lent found himself seated in the smoking section where, of course, he was soon emgulfed in poisonous billows. In the spirit of the age, he protested. He would not be a good German. In fact, he protested so vigorously, threatening lawsuits and the like, that the pilot considered the ensuing commotion an "insurrection" and, after pleading for an end to it, brought the plane down at Baltimore-Washington International Airport. There, thanks to this one man's principled act, 100 or more passengers could step out into the fresh, clean air of Maryland and return to Washington. Here, too, is a big man.
It is with the knowledge that reformers like the aforementioned patriots are working to make America a nicer country in which to live that I look forward to the future unafraid. There is always a smile button on my lapel.