Oh the beauteous words we use to describe freedom! And she is indeed worth it, or at least used to be. The bitch of it is, in order for the words to carry any weight, you must back them up with action, lest you look like a wretched lip-server. And action is where we have—of late—fallen terribly, terribly short. There was a day when traitors were hanged, not honored. There was a day when a treacherous hand was removed, not salved. There was a day when a coward hung his head in shame instead of strutting arrogantly before crowds and contingencies. And there was a day when the highest award that could be bestowed upon a civilian meant something noble. 2005 marks the year of the quiet, sorrowful passing of this gentle dignity—without so much as a whimper. To be fair, there have been many recipients in the past who were given the Medal of Freedom to please the PC beast rather than because it had been earned. At each of these I swallowed my disgust yet again at our gutless bowing to evil. But this time is different…this time I remember. I was too young to have known him by any other name besides the Muslim handle he bequeathed upon himself. When my dad explained that he had changed his name, I wondered how his mother had felt about that, and if it had stung her to be so rudely slapped in the face. You couldn’t swing a dead cat back in the early 1970’s without seeing him on TV—commercials, cameo appearances, boxing matches—all filled with his obnoxious posturing and narcissistic back-slapping. My dad would smile and say, “He’s just being a good showman.” My dad admired showmanship, and was if nothing else very fair and long-suffering when it came to judging his fellow man. And besides, he truly was a gifted athlete. Yes, I’d thought, I suppose he is. After all, you don’t get gold medals in the Olympics for nothing. The man’s claims of being the greatest did indeed have merit. But the cradle of my youth was played out against another backdrop in the 70’s—Vietnam and the lies of the Cronkites of the world about the rightness of that war and the honor of our men fighting it. My dad set me straight on that one, too—mainly because he knew that the media and the schools were lying and would continue to do so. As I melded the two—war and the boxer—into a brain still forming and deciding, that is where any thoughts about Muhammad Ali’s greatness came to a screeching and thoroughly disgusted halt. Now my dad had been born and raised in the old “Solid South.” He’d been brought up with words such as “nigger, pick-a-ninny, spade, coon, etc.” He despised them all, and forbad them from being spoken in our home. He remembered the white line on the bus, the “colored” bathrooms and drinking fountains, and the sweet, dignified “mammies” who were the neighborhood grandmas but still had to wait until after the men and the children were served in the local Five and Dime. This never sat well with my dad, and he taught these lessons to us with quiet resolve and decorum. So far as I could tell, he was the only one in his family of southern die-hards to be raised that way but choose to reject it. He was also a student of history and in particular, of the costs of war. He was never more quiet and thoughtful than when he was studying a battle or campaign, never more spiritual than when he spoke of a fallen warrior. What men were willing to both give and give up for that which they believed was sacred to him. He passed such reverence on to his children, who learned more from his manner when teaching than from the words spoken. It was he who first asked me to look at a hippy on a street one day and compare him to a nearby soldier. He had me list the differences, and describe my feelings just from what I saw. He smiled as I told him, and then remarked, “Now, given what you see and feel when you look at these two men, whom would you trust to lead you and tell you the truth?” It was absolutely, positively, no contest. It was my first solid step toward a life-long love of military history and the magnificent American warrior. They who fight so we don’t have to are the favorite of all God’s creatures. Which means that those who refuse to fight are the most loathsome of God’s creations. Sure, we all have the right to choose; that right is secured by the aforementioned favorite—it is sacred to him…it is why he fights. However, accountability for the choice not to fight means you may receive medals for use of free speech, but not for freedom. You have given nothing to the cause, and taken the hard-earned gift for all it is worth. Muhammad Ali made a spectacle of refusing service in Vietnam at a time when we were still winning. He was a greedy taker of the gift and a selfish coward in its defense. It sickened me then only slightly less than it does now. I don’t want to hear about his being a religious choice. Of all the religions on earth, Islam is the God of War. Women proudly raise up suicide bombers, give toddlers guns, and praise their make-believe deity allah whenever the fruit of their womb is reduced to mush—so long as he takes a few innocent shoppers with him. Ali was hardly a devotee of the religion—his sexual escapades are on par with Clinton’s. But when it served him—not the other way around—he pulled the religious card. He was a coward, a traitor, and a black mark on the history of a great nation. And all the Olympic medals won’t change the fact that when his nation needed him to do more than dance around the square ring—when it needed him to put up or shut up—when it needed him to truly act on its behalf, he failed miserably. That is the Muhammad Ali I came to know and despise. You earned the gold medal for being the best boxer on earth. No one can take that away from you. But the Medal of Freedom? No way. You may wear it around your neck, but you did nothing to earn it, and in the cold gray dawn of morning, no number of blathering reporters can ever change the fact that you have to face God with that eternal lie. Keep the faith, bros, and in all things courage.