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4/1/2020 4:14:10 PM
4/1/2020 6:58:51 AM
Posted: 1/12/2005 3:54:10 PM EDT
As I begin to write this, I "slug" it, as we writers say, which means I put
a heading on top of the document to identify it. This heading is "eonline
FINAL," and it gives me a shiver to write it. I have been doing this column
for so long that I cannot even recall when I started. I loved writing this
column so much for so long I came to believe it would never end.

It worked well for a long time, but gradually, my changing as a person and
the world's change have overtaken it. On a small scale, Morton's, while
better
than ever, no longer attracts as many stars as it used to. It still brings
in
the rich people in droves and definitely some stars. I saw Samuel L. Jackson

there a few days ago, and we had a nice visit, and right before that, I saw
and
had a splendid talk with Warren Beatty in an elevator, in which we agreed
that
Splendor in the Grass was a super movie. But Morton's is not the star galaxy

it once was, though it probably will be again.

Beyond that, a bigger change has happened. I no longer think Hollywood stars

are terribly important. They are uniformly pleasant, friendly people, and
they
treat me better than I deserve to be treated. But a man or woman who makes a

huge wage for memorizing lines and reciting them in front of a camera is no
longer my idea of a shining star we should all look up to.

How can a man or woman who makes an eight-figure wage and lives in insane
luxury really be a star in today's world, if by a "star" we mean someone
bright
and powerful and attractive as a role model? Real stars are not riding
around
in the backs of limousines or in Porsches or getting trained in yoga or
Pilates
and eating only raw fruit while they have Vietnamese girls do their nails.

They can be interesting, nice people, but they are not heroes to me any
longer. A real star is the soldier of the 4th Infantry Division who poked
his head
into a hole on a farm near Tikrit, Iraq. He could have been met by a bomb or
a
hail of AK-47 bullets. Instead, he faced an abject Saddam Hussein and the
gratitude of all of the decent people of the world.

A real star is the U.S. soldier who was sent to disarm a bomb next to a road

north of Baghdad. He approached it, and the bomb went off and killed him.

A real star, the kind who haunts my memory night and day, is the U.S.
soldier
in Baghdad who saw a little girl playing with a piece of unexploded ordnance

on a street near where he was guarding a station. He pushed her aside and
threw himself on it just as it exploded. He left a family desolate in
California
and a little girl alive in Baghdad.

The stars who deserve media attention are not the ones who have lavish
weddings on TV but the ones who patrol the streets of Mosul even after two
of their
buddies were murdered and their bodies battered and stripped for the sin of
trying to protect Iraqis from terrorists.

We put couples with incomes of $100 million a year on the covers of our
magazines. The noncoms and officers who barely scrape by on military pay but
stand
on guard in Afghanistan and Iraq and on ships and in submarines and near the

Arctic Circle are anonymous as they live and die.

I am no longer comfortable being a part of the system that has such poor
values, and I do not want to perpetuate those values by pretending that who
is
eating at Morton's is a big subject.

There are plenty of other stars in the American firmament...the policemen
and
women who go off on patrol in South Central and have no idea if they will
return alive; the orderlies and paramedics who bring in people who have been
in
terrible accidents and prepare them for surgery; the teachers and nurses who

throw their whole spirits into caring for autistic children; the kind men
and
women who work in hospices and in cancer wards.

Think of each and every fireman who was running up the stairs at the World
Trade Center as the towers began to collapse. Now you have my idea of a real

hero.

We are not responsible for the operation of the universe, and what happens
to
us is not terribly important. God is real, not a fiction; and when we turn
over our lives to Him, He takes far better care of us than we could ever do
for
ourselves. In a word, we make ourselves sane when we fire ourselves as the
directors of the movie of our lives and turn the power over to Him.

I came to realize that life lived to help others is the only one that
matters. This is my highest and best use as a human. I can put it another
way. Years
ago, I realized I could never be as great an actor as Olivier or as good a
comic as Steve Martin...or Martin Mull or Fred Willard--or as good an
economist
as Samuelson or Friedman or as good a writer as Fitzgerald Or even remotely
close to any of them.

But I could be a devoted father to my son, husband to my wife and, above
all,
a good son to the parents who had done so much for me. This came to be my
main task in life. I did it moderately well with my son, pretty well with my
wife
and well indeed with my parents (with my sister's help). I cared for and
paid
attention to them in their declining years. I stayed with my father as he
got
sick, went into extremis and then into a coma and then entered immortality
with my sister and me reading him the Psalms.

This was the only point at which my life touched the lives of the soldiers
in
Iraq or the firefighters in New York. I came to realize that life lived to
help others is the only one that matters and that it is my duty, in return
for
the lavish life God has devolved upon me, to help others He has placed in my

path. This is my highest and best use as a human.

Faith is not believing that God can. It is knowing that God will.

By Ben Stein
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