Wednesday, May 25, 2005
— The Shining
Life is full of surprises. Just ask Johnny. Johnny is Johnny Weida, the Brig. General in the air force who became the commandant of cadets at the Air Force Academy in April 2003 just as the sex scandal at the academy was in full flower. (A survey conducted in May disclosed that 68 percent of the 569 female cadets participating were the victims of some form of sexual harassment. In 149 of the reported incidents, attackers were cadets at the Academy.) Addressing the graduating class after his arrival at the Academy Johnny told them: “If you don’t think we have . . . a sexual harassment problem at the Air Force Academy, your head is in the sand.”
Notwithstanding those enlightened words, Johnny now finds himself the target of a comment from one graduate who was quoted in the Colorado Springs Gazette as saying: “The fish stinks from the head, and the head of this fish is (Superintendent) John Rosa and (Commandant) Johnny Weida. The graduate was not referring to Johnny’s attitude towards the sex scandal. He was referring to Johnny’s attitude towards God-his God. Pam Zubeck of the Colorado Springs Gazette has made it easy to trace Johnny’s efforts to convert the Academy from a place where sexual abuse enjoyed free reign, to a place where there’s freedom of religion if it’s the right kind.
According to Ms. Zubeck, no sooner had Johnny arrived at his new posting than he issued advisories urging staff, faculty and cadets to observe the National Day of Prayer. In an e-mail to personnel he urged all to “ask the Lord to give us the wisdom to discover the right . . . . . the Lord is in control. He has a plan for . . . every one of us.” In June he issued a commander’s guidance telling cadets their first duty was to God. He did not explain how a cadet would be expected to respond if an officer said, “kill” and God said, “don’t.”
In March of 2004 fliers promoting Mel Gibson’s view of the crucifixion as portrayed in his movie about the event were placed on every chair in the cafeteria with a line added to the flier saying: “This is an officially sponsored USAFA event.” In November the football coach hung a banner in the athletic department proclaiming: “I am a Christian first and last. . . . I am a member of Team Jesus Christ.” That was probably just a metaphor since Jesus never played football and probably disapproved of violent sports. He might have even disliked war although that’s can’t be said with certainty since so many of his most ardent admirers have no problem with war and are quick to let others know that they know what Jesus likes.
One chaplain, speaking to 600 cadets, told them to let their classmates know they would burn in hell unless becoming born again Christians. That’s the kind of information cadets are grateful to receive since being warriors led by a president who is not afraid to send them off to war to do the Lord’s work, they have a better chance of dying young than do the youth growing up in less devout countries that have not learned to appreciate all the good that can come from war.
Working for the Lord has not kept Johnny out of trouble although the Lord has found a way to reward him. First the trouble.
Mike Weinstein is a 1977 graduate of the academy. Mike Weinstein is a Jew who has one son who graduated from the academy and another who is still there. Mr. Weinstein wrote Johnny complaining about the fact that his son Curtis was called a Christ-killer by some of his devout classmates who know the enemy when they see him even if he’s not carrying a weapon. In a letter responding to Mr. Weinstein Johnny ended with the Hebrew phrase “Shalom Aleichem” which means “peace to you.” The message didn’t take. Mr. Weinstein called Johnny’s secretary and said he and the academy were at war. Writing another letter in hopes of avoiding all-out combat Johnny included a longer Hebrew phrase that Mr. Weinstein’s Rabbi translated for him since Mr. Weinstein can’t read Hebrew. It said: “May this be the beginning activity for the good of the Air Force Academy. Peace to you.” It was that greeting that that caused Mr. Weinstein to invoke the fish metaphor. Now for Johnny’s reward.
On May 9 the pentagon announced that it was recommending Johnny for a promotion to major general. If Johnny’s promotion comes through after what he’s been through it will convince him there is a God. It will have the opposite effect on many of the rest of us.