Friday, September 12, 2008

O. Henry & 9/11 a day late

Today is the 146th anniversary of the birth of William Sydney Porter ("O. Henry.") Porter popularized the short story as an art form, and is best known for his plot twists.
In "The Cop and the Anthem," the main character, Soapy, is trying to get arrested for the winter. Sleeping outside in the cold is too dangerous, and charitable institutions might not let him go in the spring, but a misdemeanor offense carries a three-month sentence -- just long enough.
Unfortunately, he cannot seem to get arrested. When he can't pay at a restaurant, the management simply throws him out. He finds a policeman, and pretends to be drunk, but the cop tells a passer-by, "It is one of them Yale lads celebrating the goose-egg they gave Harvard! We have orders to let them be."
Other attempts also fail, and a frustrated Soapy finds himself in front of a church. He hears the organ playing, and he undergoes a change of heart. He remembers a job he was offered, and he resolves to get a new start on life. Then he feels a tap on his shoulder, and he is arrested for loitering and sentenced to three months in prison!

Today is also the 7th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center. Let us be mindful of all those who died that day; and those who loved and still miss them; and of the millions who have been affected by the subsequent wars. Let us also be mindful of the failure of our elected leadership. Somewhat like an O. Henry plot-twist, life's tragedies can sometimes lead to transformation and opportunity. Alas, virtually all of our public leaders failed to lead us in that direction, seven years ago. When we vote in a few weeks, let us think carefully about the values of the candidates. Who will lead toward real transformation and hope?


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