WASHINGTON, D.C., FEB. 23, 2001 (Zenit.org).- Lamenting the “rules of orthodoxy” that often squelches public discourse, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas finds strength in the famous words of John Paul II, “Be not afraid.”
In an article to be published in April-May issue of The American Enterprise, Thomas tells of the bitter opposition he faced in the early 1980s when, as a legislative assistant, he dared to question government policies regarding affirmative action, welfare and school busing.
“I was shocked at the public reaction,” he recalled. “I had never been called such names in my life.” He added: “When whites questioned the conventional wisdom on these issues, it was considered bad form; when blacks did so, it was treason.”
Thomas related the story of Dimitar Pesev, the vice president of the Bulgarian Parliament during World War II. Pesev at one point went against his compatriots and intervened to spare the lives of Jews who were bound for deportation during the Holocaust. Bulgaria eventually found ways to stall up to the Nazis and to protect the Jews. But Pesev, for his heroics, ended up in the Gulag.
“Though this is a dramatic case,” Thomas wrote, “examples of this sort are not as rare as one might imagine, nor should they be. Pope John Paul II has traveled the entire world challenging tyrants and murderers of all sorts, speaking to millions of people, bringing them a single, simple message: ´Be Not Afraid.´”
Thomas continued: “He preached this message to people living under Communist tyranny in Poland, in Czechoslovakia, in Nicaragua and in China — ´Be not afraid.´ He preached it to Africans facing death from marauding tribes and murderous disease — ´Be not afraid.´ And he preached it to us, warning us how easy it is to be trapped in a ´culture of death´ even in our comfortable and luxurious country — ´Be not afraid.´
“Listen to the truths that lie within your hearts, and be not afraid to follow them wherever they may lead you.
“Those three little words hold the power to transform individuals and change the world. They can supply the quiet resolve and unvoiced courage necessary to endure the inevitable intimidation.
“Today we are not called upon to risk our lives against some monstrous tyranny. America is not a barbarous country. Our people are not oppressed, and we face no pressing international threat to our way of life, such as the Soviet Union once posed. Though the war in which we are engaged is cultural, not civil, it tests whether this ´nation: conceived in liberty … can long endure.´”
Thomas concluded: “The [country´s] Founders warned us that freedom requires constant vigilance, and repeated action. It is said that, when asked what sort of government the Founders had created, Benjamin Franklin replied that they had given us ´A Republic, if you can keep it.´ Today, as in the past, we will need a brave ´civic virtue,´ not a timid civility, to keep our republic. So, this evening, I leave you with the simple exhortation: ´Be not afraid.´”