Friday, June 13, 2003

Reading Between the Lines

Two stories were brought to my attention this morning, both of which underscore one of the great lessons learned after more than twenty years of living and working in the Nation's capital -- that there is always more to a story than that which is printed.

The first appeared in the New York Post yesterday. It seems there was a memorial Mass at Saint Patrick's Cathedral for John "Dapper Don" Gotti, the famous gangster, on the anniversary of his death. While the article doesn't come right out and say it, one is left in the impression that the cathedral staff pulled out all the stops, including the pontifical robes out of the closet. What it does come out and say, was how people reacted to the story.

Unfortunately, other than the headline itself -- "St Patrick's Grants Gotti Mass Appeal" -- there isn't much of a story.

This "memorial" would have been one of eight weekday "low Masses" celebrated from the main altar of St Pat's that day. That is hardly a canonization of the man who ordered the deaths of anyone who rattled his cage. And yet, surely the sight of the Gotti family, stepping out of their long black Cadillacs and walking up the steps of the great building, in their finest black "Sunday-go-to-meetin'" clothes, would raise the eyebrows of more than a few Manhattanites. The church would have done the same for any of them.

My second example is closer to home. I can walk down 17th Street toward The White House, and see in the window of a luggage store where they are selling gas masks for emergency single-use. They probably move them more quickly when the conditions are "code orange," as they have been twice in the last year. But a piece found at the website of former Nixon aide and radio commentator G Gordon Liddy, written by a retired Army seargent, will remind us of the real enemy:

"These weapons are about terror; if you remain calm, you will probably not die. This is far less scary than the media and their 'experts' make it sound... If we don't run around like sheep, they won't use this stuff after they find out it's no fun. The government is going nuts over this stuff because they have to protect every inch of America. You've only gotta protect yourself, and by doing that, you help the country."

I remember as a boy going to a Cub Scout meeting, and after seeing those Civil Defense films about nuclear disasters and fallout shelters and whatnot, expressing my fears to my Dad about the likelihood of those scenarios coming to life. He responded by telling me: "We trust in God that He will know what is best for us, and will take care of us whatever happens."

It was something like that; I don't remember word for word. Except the part that goes "We trust in God..." You know, the part that's on the money. If we have yet to arrive at our true home, then this world, whatever happens in it, is only a waystation on the journey, to the final place -- one that is, in the final analysis, a home of our own choosing.

Something worth remembering this Friday the 13th, a day where fortunes are reduced to a matter of "luck." Today, and every day, has little to do with games of chance, and more to do with the choices we make. We don't pick the hand we are dealt in life. We do pick the cards we lay on the table.

And that, to quote Paul Harvey, is... "the rest of the story."

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