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John Wayne, where are ye?
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 by Ron Cruger
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           She touched our national button. More than forty million of us watched a middle-aged church volunteer who lives in quiet solitude, sharing her life with her pet cat, sing “I dreamed a dream.”
          Susan Boyle, the remarkably plain Scot, whose recent soaring performance on a British talent show, has become a heroine to all who dream of going from obscurity to fame. She also showed us that it is possible to triumph over the effects of looking plain, ordinary and middle-aged. Susan Boyle overcame our national prejudices of ageism, slim body types and perceived beauty. We saw Susan Boyle’s beauty comes not just in movie star looks and trim bodies but in attributes deeper than those.
          Millions of us watched members of the audience and the judges smirk and perform “eye-rolls” when Miss Boyle walked on stage. The smirks continued when she introduced herself. It was like watching a seminar on cynicism.
          It wasn’t just the audience and judges that doubted that an ordinary looking woman could prove to be so extraordinary, so thrilling. Perhaps we are all guilty of being blinded by our own stereotypes. Besides being able to thrill at Miss Boyle’s spine-tingling performance it was invigorating to watch the expressions of the audience members and the judges change from derision to tingling surprise and excitement. Her one performance that evening in the British Isles, if only for a short while, brought hope and a feeling of possibility to millions around the world.
          Blessed be those that bring us hope and a feeling of possibility.
          The same week that Susan Boyle electrified us with her enchanting voice Americans were given another justification to have hope, possibility and pride.
          Sea Captain Richard Phillips, the brave and un-assuming cargo ship captain who recently made a celebrated return to his home town brought pride in America to millions of us.
          Phillips, 53, gave himself up as a hostage after Somali pirates made an aborted attempt to capture the Maersk Alabama near the coast of Somalia.
          The humble captain said, “I’m not a hero, the military is. I am just a part of the story, the small part of a seaman doing the best he can like all the other seamen out there.”
          Shades of John Wayne!
          Americans rejoiced in the actions of the U.S. Navy Seals, the sharpshooting, meticulous riflemen who plugged three of the pirates, enabling Captain Phillips to escape their clutches. For a few short days we returned to the days of the wild, wild, west, when men were men and Americans were brave and the guys in the white hats won the battles.
          Out of the miserable ongoing tragedy that is the actions of the Somali pirates came a cause for celebration.
          Our news pages, and our airwaves are filled with the daily quibbling between Democrats and Republicans. Our news programs are satiated with complaints, criticism and fault-finding of every move made by our President, Representatives and Senators. We live in an age of constant, never-ending, political campaigning and the primary action of the campaigning is the criticism of those opposing that particular candidate. The negative, the harping, the bitching have become a way of life in America.
          What a pleasure, how enlivening it was to listen to and watch the gorgeous surprise of Susan Boyle and then to see America stand up to the diabolical and perfidious pirates. For a few, short days Americans could put their thumbs in their suspenders, hold their heads high and walk proudly. Millions continuing playing that video of Susan Boyle wondrously singing “I dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables. They play it again and again, marveling at how this not-so-young and not-so-beautiful woman cause the world’s attention to focus on her.
          In Captain Phillips our country has spawned a true American hero. Humble and unwilling to claim credit for his brave escape from the clutches of those nefarious pirates, he substituted his own safety and freedom for that of his shipmates. He refused to knuckle under to the threats of the pirates and finally, bravely escaped from their grasp, aided greatly by the sharpshooting of three more American heroes – those men who carry the proud label – U.S. Navy Seals.
          Two ordinary people who performed the extraordinary.
          For a brief time it caused millions of us to walk taller, with more hope than we had before we met them.
          Thanks Susan. Thanks Richard.