Voices

The other America

In this confused time, "Let them come to Clio"

Issue: "Osama bin Ashcroft?," April 27, 2002

Let them come to Berlin!" Those were the words President John F. Kennedy offered four decades ago, at a time when the focus of the Cold War was on the then-divided German city. Kennedy declared, 'There are many people in the world who really don't understand, or say they don't, what is the great issue between the Free World and the communist world. Let them come to Berlin. There are some who say that communism is the wave of the future. Let them come to Berlin.'

President Bush and others have emphasized that the war on terrorism will be a long one, with periods of hot military action amid stretches of relative quiet. We can learn from what U.S. leaders did during the war against communism: They tried to present information that opposed our adversaries' propaganda images of freedom within the communist bloc and decadence within the West.

The anti-American propaganda emanating from radical Muslims is mostly a lie. The liberation of Afghanistan showed the falsehood of stories about the joy of Muslims living under Quranic rule. But many Middle Eastern journalists continue to depict America as a land of moral anarchy ruled by selfishness and fueled by the love of money and perversity.

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What those journalists and leaders don't understand is that there are two Americas. The America of moral anarchy does exist. But alongside it exists an America of incredible compassion, an America with people willing to sacrifice so as to provide for widows, orphans, the aged, and the disabled.

I've had the opportunity since last Sept. 11 to meet with compassionate conservatives in many states. Even when the mood in airports was tense, life at the adoption agencies, inner-city tutoring centers, and Bible-teaching groups was unchanged. As always, people wanting to help were putting their lives on the line every day to help transform the lives of the needy.

Here's an example from Clio, Mich., a town just north of Flint. Clio is home for 29-year-old Jerod Montague, born with cerebral palsy, and his parents. Jerod is cheerful at dinner but he cannot walk, talk, or go to the bathroom by himself. His parents, in their 50s, have cared for Jerod all their lives and are in good health, but they worry about what would happen to him if they were no longer around.

Jim Montague has done well in the manufacture of precision machine parts that go into everything from locks and latches to washing machines. He and his wife could set up a special fund for Jerod alone, but profits from the Montague Tool & Manufacturing Co. have been good enough for them to develop a way to help not only their son but the children of others. They are building a $2 million home next to their own home that will have room for Jerod, along with eight others who have cerebral palsy, plus live-in houseparents and nursing help.

The Montagues' goal is to make parents feel at ease, in accordance with the mission statement they provide: "We believe God doesn't make mistakes.... It is a high calling to provide quality care to those physically and mentally challenged in such a way that would be pleasing and honoring to our Heavenly Father and bring emotional and spiritual healing to those who brought them into this world."

Is profits a bad word? The Montague Company's profits, along with donations of labor and material coming from others in Clio and vicinity, make it likely that the home will open this year and be debt-free. Is America a bad word? Not when millions of Americans continue to show the right stuff. Are the words cerebral palsy sad ones? Yes, but God can wipe away every tear.

What's happening in Clio, Mich., and hundreds of other Clios around the country, not only shows that a compassionate conservative America exists, but it also shows how that understanding differs from both the Taliban and Washington-liberal way of doing business. The approaches are vastly different but there's one thing in common: In both cases, leaders tell followers what they should do. But no one told the Montagues to build a home for those with cerebral palsy.

The Montagues decided to do it on their own. They were able to do it because they could retain some profits from their business rather than turning them over to Washington to be dispensed by the supposed experts. They wanted to do it because they had read the Bible and wanted to put into practice its teaching about loving our neighbors' sons as our own sons.

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