Thursday, Mar 22, 2018
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Keith Burris

Eastwood, abortion, and guns

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    This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Spencer Stone, from left, Anthony Sadler and Alex Skarlatos in a scene from "The 15:17" To Paris."


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    Keith Burris.

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I like Clint Eastwood. My wife does not. When I think of Clint Eastwood, I think of a master filmmaker. Film historians will call him one of the best. There is not a finer American film made than Unforgiven or Million Dollar Baby.

When my wife thinks of Mr. Eastwood, she thinks of Dirty Harry.

VIDEO: Official trailer for “The 15:17 To Paris”

But what connects Dirty Harry, and Bronco Billy, and Honkytonk Man, and Sully, and the noble Japanese general who knows he and all of his men will die on Iwo Jima, and the crusty old guy in Gran Torino, is the heroic individual. He is heroic almost against his will — because he is an individual.

Mr. Eastwood is on record as saying that he was never trying to develop grand themes in his work. He was simply responding to good stories. Being a good story teller, he says, is not about intellect, but instinct. You must trust your gut. For movies are not about ideas, they are about emotion.

Mr. Eastwood’s latest film is about three Americans, kids really, who stopped a well-armed terrorist on a bullet train in France. It is called The 15:17 to Paris, and it explores one of the themes that does run through the director’s work even though he never intended it to: So-called “ordinary people” doing extraordinary things — rising to the occasion and rising above themselves to do a hard thing; maybe a great thing. Because they didn’t overthink it. Because they trusted their guts.

It may seem trivial to write about the movies after a week in which we have, yet again, seen children slaughtered by a crazed gunman in a school.

But wouldn’t you like to see three “ordinary” guys like the ones in the film — Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlotos, and Spencer Stone — stop one of these school shootings the way they stopped the terrorist in France?

Wouldn’t you like to see a Jimmy Stewart type, a hero in spite of himself, stand up in the U.S. Senate and break the gun control debate wide open?

It would take an individual, trusting his gut and thinking his own thoughts — the only kind of thought there is.

Identity politics makes for identity thought — group thought; received thought; politically correct thought.

It’s no coincidence that we seem to have so few leaders in our society. For we have fewer and fewer individuals.

The three young Americans on that train took action. They decided to do something. They stopped a very bad man from killing a lot of people and they saved a life by helping, and knowing how to help, a wounded man.

What does a leader do? A leader does not solve existential problems. He, or she, acts. He breaks an impasse and finds the common ground.

I don’t know who at ProMedica made the decision last week to to allow a transfer agreement with Toledo’s last abortion clinic. I also don’t know how anyone could deny, as a matter of science, that abortion is the taking of a life. If it is a baby in the ultrasound pictures, it is a baby when it is aborted.

No one in his right mind wants to attempt to settle, or even sort, the abortion issue. But abortion is legal in this country (for up to 22 or 24 weeks in most states), and someone at ProMedica remembered that a hospital has a simple mission: Save every life you can.

I doubt that any Toledo hospital would really turn away a woman in mortal peril because of the side effects of abortion. Now ProMedica has said so formally — a gutsy, pro-life act of leadership.

Wouldn’t you love to see a real leader do something on gun control? Resist raw power and blind ideology. Show some pro-life guts and ACT to find some common ground.

Read more by Keith C. Burris

I’m sick to death of the Second Amendment absolutists and the pious liberals and all the garbage groupthink on this issue. I’d like to see a Republican — maybe Rob Portman; John McCain if he were well — come out of the woodwork and quietly, but unblinkingly say: Enough. Let’s figure out three things we can do, right now, to protect our kids and reduce gun violence. Maybe it’s an armed guard in every school. Or an outright ban on the sale of weapons of war to civilians. Or so-called “smart” guns. But you cannot tell me that we can transplant hearts and split the atom and send a man to the moon, but we cannot do anything about children being slaughtered in their schools.

Mr. Eastwood was once asked what he learned in his two years as mayor of Carmel, Calif.. He said he learned that every decision makes someone angry and someone happy, and the happy people forget that it made them happy very quickly. He said he’d like to see a leader who is unafraid to say: Look you may not like this but it is best for the community, best for the country.

Me too.

In psychological and spiritual terms, leadership and individuality are the same thing: The assertion that human beings are not helpless and that, with a little bit of courage and the tool of reason, we can make our lives better.

Keith C. Burris is editorial page editor of The Blade. Contact him at or 419-724-6266.

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