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Labor Day musings
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The arrival of September is always poignant; this year’s release by the United Kingdom of the one person convicted for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, made it more so. Seems the guy has terminal cancer and wants to die at home among his family and friends, so the Brits rolled over and let him go. When the plane landed in Libya the terrorist was given a hero’s welcome.

That’s just wrong.

Completely ignored during the political posturing were the families of the victims aboard the doomed aircraft, plus those of the 11 residents of Lockerbie slain as wreckage fell from the sky. What of them? They were robbed of the peace you get from saying good-bye to somebody you love.

Last time I checked, giving aid and comfort to the enemy was still called treason. And the punishment for treason was still death. But I guess pursuing and prosecuting turncoats is no longer fashionable. Perhaps appeasing the scum of the earth is now more politically correct.

Lost in all of this is the reason I normally pause at September’s arrival. In 1983, you see, on Sept. 1, the USSR shot down Korean Air Lines flight 007, en route from Anchorage, Alaska, to Seoul.

One of the 269 men, women and children who died aboard KAL007 was Georgia’s Larry McDonald, a sitting member of Congress. His flight had been delayed from its origination point at the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York; a second Korean airliner was about 30 minutes behind it bringing an additional Congressional delegation that was to observe the 30th anniversary of the truce ending the Korean War. Due to a navigational error, KAL007 crossed the southern tip of the Soviet Union’s Sakhalin Island, causing fighter jets to be scrambled. By the time the interceptors reached the airliner, it was over the Sea of Japan in international waters.

Nevertheless, the Soviets shot down the unarmed Boeing 747. After initially denying that any incident had occurred at all, the USSR was forced to confess their sins when America released information from top-secret military eavesdropping capabilities, which we would rather not have revealed.

President Ronald Reagan termed the murderous act "a crime against humanity that must never be forgotten." Eventually, following the fall of the Soviet Union and the subsequent release of the aircraft’s "black boxes" which the USSR had denied having, the families of the victims received financial compensation.

That’s just wrong, too.

It’s only money, you see. Money is never enough when those who perpetrate wrong are allowed to keep living their lives, while the families of the loved and lost are left twisting in the wind.

As Labor Day arrives, so very many Americans are being buffeted about as unemployment figures continue to set records. I simply cannot imagine what the media and the late-night comedians would be saying if George W. Bush was still president.

In Afghanistan, under Barrack Obama’s policies, privately contracted personnel outnumber U.S. armed forces personnel. The media screamed for President Bush’s head over behavior exhibited by private contractor Blackwater personnel employed in Iraq, yet atrocious behavior by private contractor Wackenhut personnel at the American Embassy in Kabul on President Obama’s watch skates by.

And that’s just wrong. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

But at least Labor Day is finally here, a day when America honors the common man, the everyday working stiff. The president certainly did his part, taking his family on a vacation for two weeks, on the taxpayer’s dime. He has requested time to address a joint session of Congress on the volatile issue of his proposed government takeover of the health care industry.

Well, that will certainly honor the working man, won’t it?

I’m quite confident that Obama’s plan will do for health care what his policies have done for Wall Street, the automobile industry, the respect and admiration with which police officers are held by our society, the employment situation and the notion that military matters should be sub-contracted.

Lately, however, the roar from the crowd outside the White House has not been one of approval. The people, it seems, have finally seen the light. When a guy can’t look you straight in the eye and say what he means without his head being on a swivel following his teleprompters — the common, everyday working man sees right through him.

Finally, as every Labor Day dawns, I cherish the words of a Jewish carpenter who left a lasting impact on the world, and who gives us all hope for a better day. Jesus of Nazareth said, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest."

And on this Labor Day weekend, I gratefully say, "Amen."

Nat Harwell is a long-time resident of Newton County. His columns appear regularly on Sundays.