Thursday, February 10, 2005

The Hero Who Wasn't

If you live in Colorado, or if you follow some of the pro-military websites, you have probably heard all about the heroism of a certain Jonathan Kenney, who
stepped in front of a young Iraqi girl, one of many children caught in a crossfire
and thereby saved her life, at the cost of his own. If you've absorbed the heart-rending details in the media, you will have learned that
A bullet struck his heart, killing him instantly. He was less than two months into his deployment.
and that
Kenney, a posthumous recipient of the Purple Heart, will be buried Saturday in Des Moines, Iowa.
and that
He and his wife, Amber, recently purchased a home in the Grand Valley. The couple met at Metro Church of Denver and would have celebrated their sixth wedding anniversary on Valentine’s Day.
and that
Jonathan Kenney leaves behind his 3-year-old son, Joshua. The couple was expecting a second child in May.
What could be more tragic? A pregnant wife, a 3-year-old son, a Valentine's Day wedding anniversary, a heroic sacrifice ... Oh wait! there's this too:
He will be buried next to his twin sister, who died at birth.
Man oh man! He even had a twin sister who died at birth! What could be more heartbreaking?

Well... How about this? None of it is true! Not a single word! Jonathan Kenney doesn't even exist! And he never did. The whole story was made up...

... by a woman who called herself Amber Kenney, and who claimed to be Jonathan Kenney's wife. And it was swallowed, hook line and sinker, by a group called Homefront Heroes, whose president, Phyllis Derby, brought it to a number of media outlets, and they all swallowed it too. I've been quoting from last Friday's story in the Daily Sentinel [of Grand Junction, Colorado], but the tragic story of Jonathan Kenney also made the Colorado TV news and was even picked up by the Air Defense Artillery Magazine.

The Sentinel's story contained a large number of supposedly factual details, including where Jonathan Kenney went to school, what sports he played, where his wife went to high school, and where he worked before he went to Iraq. Do you think Phyllis Derby of Hometown Heroes actually checked out any of these details before she went to the media? Do you think Danie Harrelson of the Sentinel checked out any of these facts before going to press with the story?

Too tough for you? OK, I'll ask a simpler question: Do you think they should have done so?

Well clearly they should have, but apparently they didn't. Hometown Heroes even started taking up a collection for the bereaved family ... but eventually someone, somewhere, started checking the so-called facts pertaining to the so-called life of our so-called hero. And guess what? Not a single one of them could be verified!

Now the woman who started the story, whose real name is Sarah Kenney, is saying "she just wants it to all be over." Well ain't that a big fat surprise? But that's what she wants, according to yesterday's story in the Daily Sentinel, a newspaper which probably shares her sentiment, at least in part. But from the tone of the story, and from its many extraneous details, it seems to me that the Sentinel also wants to make sure that the main story is about Sarah Kenney and the lies she told, not about Phyllis Derby or Danie Harrelson or any of the other people who were deceived.

Clearly Sarah Kenney is a very ill woman. There can be no question about that. But it's equally clear that Phyllis Derby should have done some checking. And it's even clearer that the so-called journalists who swallowed her story should have done their homework as well. Did Danie Harrelson phone the high school from which Jonathan Kenney had supposedly graduated? Or the Chrysler Jeep Dodge dealership where he had supposedly worked? Or the Army unit with which he supposedly served?

One phone call would have been enough! It wouldn't have even mattered which so-called fact was checked, or who tried to check it. Any attempt to verify any detail would have blown the entire story right out of the water, because every single aspect of the story was completely false.

It's bad enough that the major media will apparently report whatever the White House tells them, as if it were already verified. But if the minor media will report whatever anybody tells them, as if it were verified, what hope is there for the poor reader?

Or maybe I'm looking at this the wrong way. Maybe I should be thinking of it like this: The lies told by Bush and his cronies have cost thousands and thousands of lives, and it's taken the major media months, or years, to admit that they were deceived, and that they deceived us. But the lies told by Sarah Kenney only stood for five days, and in the end it turned out that one fewer life had been lost than we were led to believe. Maybe it isn't so bad after all. But still ... would you please excuse me while I yakkk?

It may be that we as a nation are so sick of the torture, the cold-blooded murder, the wanton destruction that is being done in our name... so sick of it all that we are longing for a hero, a story of just one human, just one act of integrity and kindness that we can be proud of. I can believe that. I can sympathize, too.

And I have a suggestion for Phyllis Derby and Danie Harrelson and everybody else who wants to give us a story to make us proud. Instead of telling us about fictional heroes in uniform in Iraq, why not telling us about real heroes, out of uniform and at home? Instead of spinning tales of men who are risking and ruining their lives to fight for the most corrupt and evil administration we can possibly imagine, why not start telling us about some of the men and women who are risking everything in order to fight against it?

Hey? How about that? Are you listening in Grand Junction? Does anybody hear me at the Daily Sentinel? You have a lot to make up for... Why don't you start with a story about the people fighting for election integrity? Or media integrity? Or any integrity at all? There are plenty of them, all over America.

If you want to stick to your Hometown Heroes, maybe you could find out something about the anti-war, anti-fascist, anti-hypocrisy crowd in Colorado. Surely there are real Patriots in Colorado. Red state or blue, they're everywhere. Maybe you could write about them for a change. Maybe you could become part of the solution, rather than part of the problem. Maybe you could try to do something that might restore our faith in American journalism, rather than tarnishing it further.

OK, I'll admit it. Tarnishing it further would be very, very difficult. There's tarnish on the tarnish. And there may be nothing under the tarnish except more tarnish. But to be human is to hope. I'm cold and I'm sick and I am so terribly tired of all this. But I'm still human. And I continue to hope. Right now I hope that underneath all that tarnish there may be a little bit of precious metal.

I invite you to share that hope, as well as a song. This one was written by Phil Manzanera and Bill MacCormick.
Law And Order

Saw your face on TV
You said its all right, have no fear
I'm here
Panic's ended
Your rights defended
From those who tried to tell you
About the other side of life
The strife that's going on
Go to sleep now
Count the sheep now
With us the dream will never end

It's easy to take what you are told
They said we need law and order
But now all your lives are bought and sold
And just for some law and order

Now the days grow colder
The plans they've got for you are clear
So clear
You're not so sure
You want that cure
And those who tried to tell you
About the shit that's going down
Are found out on the moor
But just don't ask how
Curfew starts now
Get off the streets and bolt the door

We'll get away from here one day
I'll take you across the border
There's gotta be somewhere we can stay
Where they don't need law and order