By: Marc H. Morial
National Urban League
The judgment, if you will, early this month of four men in courts of law, on the one
hand, and, on the other, in the court of public opinion have produced a startling
juxtaposition of the evil some human beings are capable of and the good other human
beings commit themselves to.
In mentioning the latter, I’m referring to the outpourings of emotion that attended
the deaths of Pope John Paul II, and, here in the United States, the famed attorney
But, first, let me speak of the judgments in courts of law of two men who embody
the depravity of spirit and the worship of violence that has always been too common in
On April 6 in a federal court in Chicago Matthew Hale, the 33-year-old leader of a
violent white supremacist group, was sentenced to forty years in prison for plotting to
assassinate a federal judge.
Two days later, federal officials announced that Eric Robert Rudolph, a notorious
white supremacist who had been captured in 2003 after five years on the run, had pled
guilty to bombings that killed two people and injured more than 150 others, in order to
avoid a trial that could have brought the death penalty.
Federal officials said Rudolph was responsible for the deadly 1996 bombing at
the Olympic Village in Atlanta, and three bombings in the next two years outside a
family-planning clinic, and a lesbian nightclub in Atlanta, and an abortion clinic in
Birmingham, Alabama, in which the clinic’s security guard, an off-duty police officer, was
Rudolph and Hale, like so many whose bottomless hatred of and need to
dominate others lead them to commit violence themselves or persuade others to do so,
are actually cowards. Hatred of others offers them a refuge from their fear of making
their way in our modern, complex world.
Many African Americans will easily recognize the type of people Hale and
Rudolph are. The White South of the Jim Crow decades was infested with their like.
What a contrast they represent to Johnnie Cochran, whose life and career was a
testament to African Americans’ achievement ethic, and to their patriotism in using the
law of the land to pursue justice.
During and after the O.J. Simpson murder trial, some, succumbing to base
motives, sought to pose Johnnie Cochran as a figure of ridicule. But the evidence of his
brilliant legal mind, and the clients of all kinds who continually flocked to his firm,
wouldn’t permit that. His great passion for pursuing justice for ordinary people fueled
the extraordinary contribution he made to Black America.
Pope John Paul II embodied that commitment in religious terms and on a global
During the past week, we’ve heard tributes to the late Pope from politicians, the
media, religious leaders, ordinary citizens for his unending commitment to reaching out
to the destitute and fighting for the poor—tributes grounded in fact.
For example, in his 1998 Lenten message, the Pope declared that poverty
“which for many of our brothers crosses the line to misery, is a scandal. It assumes a
multiplicity of forms … : the lack of the necessary means of survival and primary health
care; the absence of a home or its inadequacy ….; the marginalization of the weakest
from society and the unemployed from the productive sector; the loneliness of those
having no one to count on; the condition of international refugees and those who suffer
from war and its cruelties; the inequality of salaries; the absence of a family … The
individual is humiliated by the lack of these necessities of life. It is a tragedy before
which those who have the possibility to intervene cannot, in conscience, remain
Sadly, some who today praise the Pope place a disproportionate emphasis on
the prohibitions he espoused, burying his views on love, compassion and forgiveness
within an avalanche of so-called moral values made up of little more than vengeance,
judgmentalism and exclusion.
But I ask: How better to serve God than to work to ensure healthy starts for all of
our babies—not just those born into a particular class? How better to demonstrate the
power of love, forgiveness and commitment to the principle of redemption than to
provide opportunities for prisoners to reenter our society after repaying their debt? How
better to carry out Christ’s teachings than to reach out to help the poor, the neglected,
the left behind and bring them into the social and economic mainstream of our nation?
It is well and good to praise the Pope. But the best tribute we could pay this
great and holy man would be to put into action the teachings for which we now honor
him. And that means all of his teachings, not just those cherry picked for individual
In honoring Pope John Paul II, let’s do more than give lip service to his legacy.
Let us put into practice the true meaning of what he lived and tried to teach us.
Enviroshop is maintained by dedicated NetSys Interactive Inc. owners & employees who generously contribute their time to maintenance & editing, web design, custom programming, & website hosting for Enviroshop.