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Nothing to worry about
Scripps Howard News Service


April 26, 2005

The other night, people across New England looked up and thought they saw something amiss, maybe even an airplane exploding. Some called the cops, only to learn then or later they were witnessing a meteor shower.

Thank you, my friends. You provided me with a simile for some of what's happening in our overreacting nation these days.

Any number of our politicians and commentators are gazing at public events and imagining disaster, even though those events are either as harmless as that meteor shower or downright positive, calling for applause, not gasps of concern.

As one example of seeing something different from what is actually there, consider Sen. Ken Salazar's statement in a Rocky Mountain News interview that tough criticism of him and some other senators by Focus on the Family "has the potential of moving our country to abandoning the freedom of worship which we enjoy in this country, and moving toward the creation of a theocracy."

A theocracy? Does this Democrat from Colorado really think that the expression of a political point of view by the evangelical group will bring this sprawling, diverse, liberty-breathing, fun-pursuing, majority-respecting nation of ours to that end - a dictatorship by clerics making reference only to their religious convictions?

The fact is, Focus on the Family was exercising a democratic right and thereby strengthening the very idea of democracy - not aiming at some special privilege for the faithful - in opposing the plans of Senate Democrats to continue their misuse of the filibuster to thwart up-or-down floor votes on judicial nominees of President Bush.

The Democratic tactic is meant to keep the judicial branch of our government in the hands of those who as much as spit on the Constitution, thinking it a ratty old thing to which no allegiance is due. A far more realistic threat than theocracy is the growing oligarchic rule by judges unaccountable to anything but themselves, and a solution is to name judges of the sort Bush wants, respecters of the basic law of the land.

My second example goes beyond the fear some have that religious ideas will come to hold ruinous sway over the U.S. government to another fear some also have _ that religious ideas will continue to hold sway over the Catholic church, imperiling all the goodness they think we might otherwise experience.

The church just had the temerity to name a new pope who embraces the Christian conception of God. To the horror of such squawkers as New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, he thinks centuries of church teaching worth heeding.

It strikes me as incredible that there should be a wringing of hands about a traditionalist when the world just witnessed what a traditionalist pope could do: help bring down the Soviet Empire. John Paul II's funeral was on the order of a miracle, pulling 4 million people to Rome, and this new pope seems similarly imbued with the kind of vision and loving heart that will inspire vast numbers.

To be sure, it's doubtful that Pope Benedict XVI can transport secular Europe back into the fold of believers, but it's certain that the church will fail in its Christian mission if it resorts to relativistic compromise. We've had plenty of a world where faith has faded. A poet told us what it is like, a place where "ignorant armies clash by night." Even as a non-Catholic, I feel the new pope will help us get somewhere that's better.

Now, on to Example No. 3, the identifying of John Bolton as Mr. Nasty, or something on that order.

Here is a tough-minded critic of the United Nations who might actually help transform it into something humane and more broadly useful if he gets to go there as the U.S. representative, but who is being trashed for the irrelevancy of having lost his temper with subordinates on occasion and for the boldness of fighting back against bureaucratic opponents while in the federal government.

Everything I've learned about this no-nonsense Bush nominee tells me we need him, especially his clarity about a United Nations that has sometimes seemed to conceive its mission as furthering the interests of murderous tyrants. Maybe he should have been nicer to subordinates, but the people who dug up this stuff are the ones to be condemned, not a man who could possibly help sponge some of the evil from this Earth.

Message to those who think the sky is falling when meteors swish into view: A more careful inspection may calm your nerves.


Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado.
He can be reached at SpeaktoJay(at)

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