Thursday, July 06, 2006

Ken Lay International Airport

Two of the world’s most feared terrorists are dead.

Abu al-Zarqawi and Kenneth Lay both managed to escape the world’s retribution, one by being at the wrong end of a U.S. 500-pound bomb, the other while on vacation and awaiting a probable life sentence in prison.

Of Zarqawi, not much remains to be said. As a youthful thug, he enjoyed a life of petty crime. In his mature years, he oversaw the deaths of thousands of people and incited a horrendous religious terrorism in the guise of anti-U.S. activism. There were, however, those who saw in him something of a revolutionary saint, an icon of righteousness.

No such balm lies in reserve for Kenneth Lay. With his grandfatherly appearance and the skill of a con man, he ripped the heart, guts, and soul out of the thousands of people devoted and loyal to him and the company he called Enron. Countless people who’d worked hard all their lives now find themselves in their retirements with nothing but a meager Social Security check and bones aching from a shift at a fast food restaurant.

We are often counseled not to speak ill of the dead. That’s a piece of advice that’s always puzzled me, since we certainly do often speak well of the dead. We admire great deeds and great doers. We name bridges, highways, buildings, and airports after them. We construct great monuments and even designate a certain day of the year to honor them.

We do that because there is much to be learned from the dead – presumably the “good” dead. Yet, is there not a great deal to be learned from the “bad” dead? Can we not gain from Ken Lay very real lessons in honesty, forthrightness, truth, integrity, loyalty, and basic human decency simply by seeing their horrendous lack in such a man?

We dare not forget this home-grown thug whose own brand of terrorism destroyed thousands of lives just as surely as any terrorist bomb.

I propose we rename Ronald Reagan International Airport near D.C. the Kenneth Lay International Airport. It has a certain panache to it and seems much more dramatic than a simple Ken Lay Day.

Reagan, after all, was a Baggie from whom we have nothing to learn, while the life of Ken Lay offers us untold riches as we continue to engage the quest of discovering the truly moral life.


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