Thursday, November 17, 2011

Looking Away

Like all of you, I’m sure, I’ve been reading with some combination of horror and lascivious fascination about the scandal surrounding the arrest last week of Pennsylvania State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. I do not wish to write about the specifics of the case against Sandusky, however. For one thing, I have nothing to add to what everybody already knows, which is what has been repeated endlessly in the newspapers and on television and the radio in the course of the last week. Nor, as you all know, do I ever have any interest in looking past the civic obligation we all share to grant the presumption of innocence to people who have not actually been found guilty in a court of law. What I do wish to write about, however, is a feature of the case against Sandusky that actually has nothing at all to do with him personally.

Unrelated to the question of the guilt of the accused is the question of the behavior of all those others who saw evidence that he was guilty, or who thought they did, and who either did nothing at all about it or else contented themselves with passing the buck along to someone else who ultimately did nothing about it. Sandusky was arrested and charged with forty counts involving the alleged molestation of eight boys over a fifteen-year period. Are there more children involved who simply have not yet come forward? There’s no way to know if there are, or if any of those theoretical other children will now come forward, but the more interesting question to ponder is how abuse on this scale could take place—none of it behind locked doors and most of it in public space in a facility open to staff, students, and visitors alike—without anyone acting decisively to put an end to it. (The investigation that led to the grand jury indictment was undertaken only after the mother of one of the boys came forward to report her son’s abuse after it had been going on for three years. But that boy’s experience was recent compared with what the police now believe happened to some of the other alleged victims.)

The grand jury testimony is beyond chilling not only in terms of the horribleness of what the children involved allegedly experienced, but also in terms of what the story implies about human nature itself. A janitor walks into the shower room at Penn State in 2000 and sees what he takes to be the sexual assault of a child in progress before his eyes. He reports the incident to his superior, as he was told he was supposed to do in such a situation, but the superior in question does nothing at all, failing both to inform the police and to bring the charge to the attention of other school officials. Two years later, a graduate assistant walks into the same shower facility and sees what he too takes to be the rape of a child of about ten years of age in progress. He duly reports the incident to the athletic director of the facility, as he had previously been instructed to do in such an event, but the incident is never reported to the police. Nor does the athletic director bother to inform his own higher-ups. Procedure is followed, at least to a certain extent. But nothing at all happens to safeguard the children who come to that facility to enjoy a day of sports and competition. The matter is eventually buried, forgotten. The world keeps spinning. No one knows. And no one seems to care either.

Let’s put ourselves in the picture. We see something that appears incredibly wrong. We could be wrong about what we think we’ve seen, but we have no more reason to think that any more than any of us ever doubts what we see with our own eyes and our brains experience no difficulty deciphering or interpreting. Nor are we expected to go to law school and only then decide how or whether to proceed. Indeed, the specific legal question of whether the person we believe that we saw behaving poorly is guilty of an actual crime is hardly our call anyway—in our great land, people are found guilty by juries of their peers or by judges trained in the law, not by bystanders even if they walk in on them in flagrante delicto—but we surely understand that something very wrong is going on. And yet we either do nothing at all or else feel done with the matter once we report it, even though we understand perfectly well that nothing has happened, that the person we saw with our own eyes behaving incredibly poorly and endangering the welfare of young children is still at it, still hanging around, still bringing boys into the facility where he is apparently free to behave as he wishes. But, having technically complied with the instructions in some rule book, we allow ourselves to overlook the fact that nothing has actually happened to prevent the perceived offender from re-offending.

To speak about the Sandusky case itself for a moment, I suppose it’s possible that all these eye witnesses were wrong, that they thought they saw something very wrong but were simply misinterpreting what was nothing more than good natured, if excruciatingly vulgar, horsing around. I’m sure Sandusky’s lawyers will attempt to depict the allegations in just that light, but that is precisely my point: it is the job of the police to investigate allegations of misconduct and then to decide if the allegations are credible or not. And it is the job of the district attorney to determine if the behavior in question constitutes a crime of which the accused can actually be indicted. And it is the job of the grand jury to weigh the evidence and then either to return an indictment against the accused or not to return one. But the original witnesses—the individuals who saw with their own eyes what they had no difficulty understanding or deciphering—cannot feel morally done with the matter once they see clearly that nothing has happened to halt the abuse. And what about the boys’ parents? Is it possible they were all completely unaware of what had befallen their sons? I suppose it is possible to look and not to see, but it still seems incredible that the boys’ doctors, their teachers in school, their parents, the parents of their friends, their friends themselves, their principals, their clergy people, their neighbors, their coaches, their guidance counselors—that no one at all noticed the pain, the fear, the emotional distress, or any sign at all that something horrible had happened. Yet no one at all spoke up for, so the indictment, fifteen long years.

The whole question of people—and apparently lots of them—being capable of looking past one of the most heinous of crimes and doing nothing at all about it is the aspect of the case that calls out to me. I was eleven when Kitty Genovese was murdered on Austin Street, just a few blocks from my parents’ apartment house in Forest Hills. I was only in fifth grade at the time, but I can easily recall the brouhaha that followed once it became clear—or at least once it was widely believed—that dozens of people would necessarily have heard that poor woman screaming and yet chose to do nothing to help her. There has been a lot of debate over the years about what actually happened—although it appears to be basically true that she screamed for help repeatedly and no one phoned the police or came out into the street to offer her any assistance—but the whole incident somehow became emblematic of the ability of people simply not to hear what they do not wish to hear, not to see what they will only complicate their own lives by seeing, and not to feel responsible for actions that no one could credibly describe as any of their business.

For Jews, of course, this is an old story. There is a beautiful, tree-lined avenue at Yad Vashem on which each tree honors one of the righteous non-Jews who put his or her life on the line to save Jewish lives during the Shoah. It is a stirring place to visit, but, like all trees, these too cast a shadow—in this case on the vast majority of Europeans living under Nazi rule who were capable of looking on from afar as their Jewish neighbors were degraded, deprived of even their most elemental civil rights, and then eventually either murdered or deported to their deaths, yet who had it in their hearts to do nothing at all to help. In the New York Times the other day, David Brooks took his readers to task for allowing themselves smugly to assume that they would have necessarily have behaved better if they were in Joe Paterno’s shoes or in assistant coach Mike McQueary’s, that they would never have had it in them to look away when children were being abused, that they would have done the right thing if they had been living on Austin Street the night Kitty Genovese was raped and murdered. Brooks’ point, well made and well argued, is that none of us can say with certainty how we would behave in such a situation, that there are people who step up and do indeed do the right thing and other people who simply do not…and that none of us can know with absolute certainty in advance to which group we will belong until the opportunity to speak out or not to speak out actually presents itself. (You can find David Brooks’ essay, called “Let’s All Feel Superior,” here. It’s a good read and I recommend it to you.)

But saying that none of us can say with certainty how we would behave in such a situation and then leaving it at that is hardly enough. As I said before, I have no way of knowing in advance what the outcome of Jerry Sandusky’s trial is going to be and I see no point in behaving as though I do. But I do think we could all profit by taking the backstory to heart and asking ourselves whether we have earned the right smugly to condemn all those who could have stepped forward over a decade and a half and yet who found it in their hearts to remain silent and to do nothing…and, since we’re asking unsettling, stress-inducing questions, also by asking ourselves how sure we are that we would have earned the right to be honored with a tree at Yad Vashem when exerting ourselves to save a Jewish child would have put our own children’s lives at risk. Those questions too, of course, have no answers. But asking them of ourselves can itself be a salutary exercise: to grow morally throughout the years of our lives, we need consistently and repeatedly to look out at the world and, instead of taking smug satisfaction in condemning those who appear to have behaved disgracefully, asking ourselves if we truly know our own mettle…and then, once we admit (as we all must) that we do not, by then asking what we are doing constantly to grow spiritually and ethically so as to guarantee that no one will ever say of any of us that we had the opportunity to do good in the world but simply looked away.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Throw-Away Children

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court agreed to hear two different cases, both of which are predicated on the argument that sentencing minors—in both of the cases at hand, young teenagers—to lifetimes in prison without the possibility of parole constitutes precisely the kind of cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution.

The background to the decision to hear these cases is instructive and has mostly to do with the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in the case known as Graham vs. Florida, in which the justices concluded that the clause prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment “does not permit a juvenile offender to be sentenced to life in prison without parole for a non-homicide crime.” In other words, the court held that sentencing a juvenile to die in prison—which is the more stark way of saying that someone is sentenced to life without the possibility of parole—is unconstitutional if the crime of which the young person in question was convicted was not murder. The number of juveniles convicted of the kind of non-homicide crimes that resulted in that kind of sentence—rape, armed robbery, and kidnapping—is about 130. Those, however, are the small minority of prisoners in our country who were convicted as minors and sentenced to death in prison: if you include those found guilty of some form of homicide, the number rises to over 2,000 prisoners. Moving incrementally forward, the Court has now agreed to hear cases deemed representative of the about seventy people (out of that 2,000 figure) who were under the age of fourteen when they committed the crime that led to them being convicted of some version of homicide and then given sentences of life-long incarceration. And the Court has, I assume intentionally, chosen to begin with two cases that involve minors who themselves did not actually kill, but whose deeds were deemed participatory in murder. (I should make it clear that the Court’s earlier ruling does not imply that any young people currently serving life sentences without the possibility of parole is necessarily going to be retried or resentenced, let alone have his or her conviction overturned. All it means is that the young people in this category must at some point be given some chance to show that they have matured enough while in prison to warrant being permitted “to rejoin society” rather than staying in prison for the rest of their lives. What is on the table now is the question of whether the homicide exclusion is constitutional.)

In one of the cases the Court has agreed to hear, Jackson vs. Hobbs, the defendant, a fourteen-year-old named Kuntrell Jackson, participated in the robbery of a video store in Arkansas in 1999 during the course of which one of the other robbers shot and killed the clerk working in the store. In the other case, one called Miller vs. Alabama, a fourteen-year-old named Evan Miller and an older friend, both of them drunk and high on marijuana, administered a beating to a neighbor in 2003. They then set his house on fire, as a result of which the neighbor died of smoke inhalation. These are horrific crimes that resulted in the death of innocents. Surely, society cannot look the other way when citizens are murdered in the places of employment or in their homes merely because the persons responsible for their deaths did not specifically set out that day to kill anyone. I can’t imagine anyone disagreeing with that thought, and yet I find myself strangely unsure about how I feel about the actual matter before the Court.

Just to provide a bit more background, the Supreme Court has already ruled that the death penalty may not be imposed on minors. (The original decision, making it illegal to sentence juveniles under sixteen years of age to death dates back to 1988. Then, in 2005, the Court determined that no one under eighteen may receive the death penalty.) But it is specifically not the death penalty that is under discussion here.

On the one hand, fourteen-year-olds are children. Our bar- and bat-mitzvah boys and girls are only slightly younger. Many need to stand on the box we keep on the bimah when they deliver their remarks so they can see over the lectern. They aren’t even in high school yet, and so it seems impossible to imagine them or other young people their age already beyond redemption, already so far beyond the pale of normal and rational behavior that the only reasonable way for society to deal with them is to lock them up forever and then to toss away the key. Would I feel differently if it was my brother who died in that house fire, or if it was my dad working in that video store? I’m sure I would, but that, of course, is precisely why we do not invite the brothers or sons of homicide victims to serve on the juries considering the fates of their relatives’ alleged murderers.

Where should Jewish people stand on an issue like this? On the one hand, our tradition is strongly in favor of using the justice system to make society safe. (And people—of any age—who participate in armed robbery or who set other people’s homes on fire are clearly dangerous and violent people who make society the precise opposite of safe.) On the other hand, our tradition is adamant that the gates of teshuvah, of repentance, are always open…and that there is no one at all who cannot turn around, who cannot renounce sin (and crime), and, through the sheer force of will and the power of faith, become a God-fearing person from whom society has nothing at all to fear. Of course, there is no way to know in advance who will choose that path and there are no guarantees, nor could there ever be, that even defendants who appear the most docile and chastened in the course of their trials will actually make the decision to abandon their evil ways and embrace goodness. If guarantees like that were possible, then that would make the administration of justice a whole lot simpler! Seen in that light, the question, really, before the court is not whether violent criminals are bad people, but whether we are prepared, as a society, to say that there simply are children—and fourteen-year-olds are children no matter how horrifically poorly they behave—of whom it can be reasonably said that there is no reasonable hope for them to grow past the badness of their earlier years and end up as law-abiding citizens from whom society needs to fear nothing at all. Isn’t that what we are saying to a fourteen-year-old to whom we deny even the possibility of parole: that there is no possibility of you ever growing past the out-of-controlledness of your youth and therefore no possibility of society ever no longer needing to incarcerate you. And, if that really is the case, then why shouldn’t we just say so out loud and save you from a lifetime of hoping in vain for mercy that will never come?

Our Torah, towards the end of Deuteronomy considers the case of the rebellious son. In my own translation, the passage reads as follows: “If someone should have a violent and rebellious son who does not listen to his father’s instructions or to his mother’s, then, assuming they have attempted to discipline him and he still refuses to obey, his father and mother should seize him and bring him…to the gates of their hometown. And there shall they say to the elders of his city, ‘This son of ours is violent and rebellious, he does not listen to our instructions, and he is a glutton and a sot.’ All the inhabitants of his city shall then stone him with stones until he dies, and thus shall you eradicate evil from your midst so that all Israel hear and become chastened” (Deuteronomy 21:18-21). That sounds gruesome enough and, indeed, all those people who can’t find enough reason to hate religion and mock its teachings naturally can’t get enough of this passage. But for us, the question isn’t really what the Torah says, but what it means. And that requires considering the oral traditions that go along with a passage like this, traditions generally ignored entirely by people eager for any pretext to heap abuse on the Bible.

The most convenient place to find the laws relating to the rebellious son catalogued is in Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah. (The more precise place to find them in that encyclopedic work is in the seventh and final chapter of the section called Hilkhot Mamrim, the Laws Pertaining to the Rebellious.) And there we find the beginning of our answer regarding the proper Jewish response to the matter before the Supreme Court. For one thing, the laws pertaining to this rebellious son are so restrictive that it’s easy to understand where Rabbi Simeon was coming from when he declared that this law was never actually used to convict anyone at all and that it appears in Scripture merely to teach a profound lesson about the importance of obedience towards one’s parents. (His opinion is found in Tractate Sanhedrin on page 71a.) The son in question, for example, cannot be a minor—he must already have reached the age of commandments—but he also can’t be a full-fledged adult (because then why would the Torah reference him as a “son”?) So he must be thirteen, but not yet fully physically mature—and no boy exists in that state, so Rambam, for more than three months. On top of that, tradition declares that he must actually have stolen money from his parents and used the stolen funds to purchase meat and wine. (Not that many twelve year olds have a taste for wine, so that law represents a serious narrowing of the law’s applicability. But the Torah specifically requires that his parents condemn him as a glutton and a drunkard!) If such a precocious lad is located, then he must have eaten the meat and drunk the wine outside of his father’s house, but not by himself either. Instead, he has to have consumed the goods purchased with stolen funds in the company of hooligans and ruffians. The meat itself must be eaten raw, but not entirely raw—thus slightly cooked—and the wine must have been thinned with water before being drunk. If the meat wasn’t kosher, the law doesn’t apply. If he consumed the forbidden feast on a fast day, the law doesn’t apply. If he consumed the food at a feast connected somehow with the performance of the commandments, for example at the feast following a bris or at a wedding, the law doesn’t apply. If the value of the food is less than fifty dinarim, or if the meat alone was not worth that much, the law does not apply. If his parents forgive him, the law does not apply. Nor does the law apply in any way to daughters.

You get the picture. No wonder Rabbi Simeon wondered how anyone could ever be convicted! To be fair, a different rabbi, Rabbi Jonathan, is cited in that same passage as mentioning that he himself once visited the grave of such a boy. But, realistically speaking, how many such children could ever have been executed. My guess is none at all. Or the one whose grave Rabbi Jonathan came across and no more. The bottom line is that, despite the unimpeachable sanctity and authority of Scripture, the rabbis could not imagine that the simple meaning of the text—that inveterately rebellious children should be given up on and suitably and permanently punished—could be the whole story. They accepted the text as sacred. But, by focusing the law through the prism of their own moral consciousness, they found the courage to take the text as hyperbole intended solely to warn the faithful against taking a cavalier attitude towards the respect and obedience we owe our parents. In other words, they simply could not imagine that a boy of thirteen and a few months could possibly be so irretrievably bad that the only rational response to his poor behavior would be to end it violently and permanently by taking his life. And these were hardly people, our ancient sages, who treated the words of the Torah lightly!

I think the Supreme Court is on the right track. So were our ancient sages. Executing children is barbaric and wrong. But throwing them into prison and supposing that nothing—no amount of counseling, no amount of maturing, no amount of teaching, no amount of exposure to positive, moral role models, nothing at all—could ever help a troubled, violent boy or girl turn into the kind of adult who could live constructively and peacefully in the world, that seems to me to be as wrong an idea as anyone ever had. Would I feel differently if it was my dad who got shot in that video store? I’m sure I would. But I would be wrong. There are no children worth throwing away.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Mormons and Jews

A Public Religion Institute Poll released last Friday indicated that less than half of registered voters could identify Mitt Romney’s religion correctly. The number of Americans overall who could say that Romney is a Mormon was even lower. (The numbers were 49% and 42%, respectively.) That would seem to suggest that, should he get the nod, the governor’s religion will not be a major factor in the race. Nonetheless, I do not believe that will be the case.

That, of course, isn’t to say that most of us won’t wish it to be so. My sense is that an overwhelming majority of Jewish Americans would easily support the notion that a candidate’s personal religious beliefs should be as irrelevant as skin color or ethnic origin when it comes to deciding which candidate is the most worthy. That, however, is clearly not the view of a significant portion of non-Jewish Americans. A Gallup poll from a few weeks ago came up with the result that a full 20% of Republicans would not vote for a Mormon candidate no matter how otherwise qualified he or she might be. The Reverend Robert Jeffress, an evangelical pastor who leads a gigantic mega-church in Dallas, made a huge stir last month when he declared that in his opinion Mormonism was not even a real religion, just some sort of cult, and that its members were kidding themselves if they thought of themselves as Christians. Rick Perry, Romney’s chief contender and the candidate the reverend is backing, politely distanced himself from that statement. But there’s no question that lots of evangelicals agree with the pastor. The Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant church body in the United States and the second-largest Christian organization in the United States (only the Catholic Church is bigger), has officially labeled Mormonism a cult as well. And the reverend was probably quite right when he responded to his critics, and they were legion, by referencing the Southern Baptists’ stand and adding that, in his opinion, “there are a lot of people who will not publicly say that's an issue because they don't want to appear to be bigoted, but for a lot of evangelical Christians this is a huge issue, even if it's unspoken.” For better or worse, I think he’s probably got that exactly right. (If you’re not sure how far some anti-Mormons are prepared to take this, take a look at and you’ll see what I mean.)

If we exclude information gleaned from watching The Book of Mormon or Angels in America on Broadway, most Jewish Americans know almost nothing about Mormonism. And most Jewish Americans don’t live anywhere near Broadway anyway! What many of us have heard about, and find beyond perverse, is the Mormons’ creepy custom of posthumously baptizing Shoah victims, thus making them—in their own minds only, of course—into ex-post-facto members of the Mormon faith. Correctly called “vicarious baptism” or “proxy baptism,” the practice—condemned by every other major Christian denomination, including the Catholic Church—involves baptizing a living person on behalf of a deceased individual and the Mormons have been doing just that since 1840. The practice, however, is not limited to the martyrs of the Holocaust. Other prominent Jews—including Maimonides, Irving Berlin, and Albert Einstein—have apparently also been baptized posthumously. Nor is the practice limited to Jews: just last year it was revealed that, of all people, President Obama’s late mother was posthumously baptized by Mormons acting wholly on their own. She thus joins Heinrich Himmler, George Washington, and Christopher Columbus in club of unwitting and unwilling after-the-fact Mormons. The whole thing is so patently ridiculous that it is hard to know whether the more rational response should be anger or incredulity. To their credit (and in response in no small part to the Jewish community’s outrage), the Mormons claim to have stopped the practice in 1995. And just last September they agreed to remove the names of all previously posthumously baptized Jewish Shoah survivors from their rolls.

The opinion Jewish Americans have of Mitt Romney should, of course, be a function of his record in the world of business and as governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007. I wish today, however, not specifically to write about Mitt Romney at all, but about another Mormon, one who seems to have been long forgotten by everybody but who showed uncommon insight and bravery in standing up for Jewish interests when the rest of the world noted the devastation wrought by the Nazis on the Jews of Germany on Kristallnacht, which occurred seventy-three years ago next Wednesday, and then quickly looked away. The man’s name was William Henry King, and he represented Utah in the United States Senate from 1917 to 1941. He was also president pro tempore of the Senate in 1939-1941, which put him third in line to succeed to the presidency should the president have become incapacitated. (Amazingly enough, he was not the only William King ever to serve as president pro tempore. William R. King, our country’s shortest serving Vice President, was president pro tempore of the Senate from 1836 to 1841 and then again from 1850 to 1852.)

By all accounts, Kristallnacht was the end of the beginning of the Shoah, the event that, at least in retrospect, serves as the watershed moment after which nothing was ever again the same for the Jews of Germany. In the course of one evening of terror, over 1600 synagogues were ransacked. Hundreds more were burnt to the ground. Countless Jewish businesses and shops were destroyed. Ninety-one people were murdered in the course of one single evening and over 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and carted off to concentration camps. (Of them, more than two thousand died as a result of the brutal treatment to which they were subjected and the rest were forced as a condition of their release to agree to leave Germany.) For those of us looking back on the horror after all these years, it seems impossible to imagine the world not finally awakening to the demonism that had seized Germany and responding dramatically and forcefully.

Mostly, the world yawned. No economic sanctions were put into place against Nazi Germany. America recalled its ambassador to Germany briefly as a kind of formal protest against the ferocity of the pogrom, but diplomatic relations were not severed. Nor were immigration quotas in the free world relaxed to permit the Jews of Germany to escape to freedom. Even something as innocuous and deeply humanitarian as the Wagner-Rogers bill, which would have allowed 20,000 Jewish children to come to the United States outside the quota system, was opposed by FDR and eventually died in committee. As chronicled just this week by Rafael Medoff in an op-ed piece published on the website of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Christian America was equally unmoved. (You can find Medoff’s very interesting essay here.) And then there was William H. King. Arguably the most powerful Mormon in the United States at the time, King chastised FDR for recalling our ambassador “for consultations,” correctly understanding that the Germans would understand the move as little more than a slap on the wrist. And then, when President Roosevelt—as unmoved by the events of Kristallnacht as he was apparently uninterested in risking his own political capital by moving aggressively even to rescue children from the Nazis—coldly noted in public that a revision of American’s immigration quota system was “not in contemplation,” King responded by suggesting that Alaska be opened up entirely as a haven for Jewish refugees.

Why don’t I know about that? I read Michael Chabon’s novel, The Yiddish Policeman’s Union a few years ago and liked it less than I had hoped I was going to, yet I somehow missed the fact that it was rooted in history rather than solely in the author’s imagination. It turns out that there was indeed such a proposal. Called the Slattery Report, it was named for Undersecretary of the Interior Harry A. Slattery but produced at the behest of Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes. And it specifically proposed that Jewish refugees from Germany and Austria, then the extent of the Reich, be permitted to settle in four specific locations in Alaska. (The concept was that the quota program could be legally sidestepped in this specific way because Alaska was a territory of the United States, not a state.) In retrospect, it seems like a zany sort of response to Kristallnacht, but perhaps that is only how it seems this long after the fact. At the time, it had the support of an interesting range of religious organizations, including the Labor Zionists of America, the American Friends Service Committee, and the Federal Council of Churches. It could surely have made a difference in the fate of countless European Jews. And it was none other than William King who introduced the bill into the Senate. (Representative Frank Havenner, a Democrat from California, introduced the bill into the House of Representatives.) But without Roosevelt’s support, this bill too was buried in committee and never again saw the light of day.

Still, as people line up to decide whether or not Mitt Romney’s religion should impact on voters’ decision whether or not to support his bid for the presidency, it might be worth considering that when the Jewish people was facing the darkest of hours in its history, a concrete, dramatic, and eminently doable plan to save countless European Jews was introduced into the Senate by a Mormon. When America’s leaders could not bring themselves to act decisively even to save children, King took the Slattery Report and put his considerable authority behind it, proposing it be enacted into law. It came to nothing at all. Obviously, it hardly make sense to support or not to support Mitt Romney because of something William King did more than seventy years ago. But when I think of Mormonism in general—and I haven’t seen the musical, although Joan and Max, my oldest, did—I find myself able to look past the nuttiness of posthumously baptizing Anne Frank—a practice I believe even the Mormons themselves must now regret—and remember instead the fine and noble example set for us all by William Henry King, a brave man for whom the notion that it was “not in contemplation” to act decisively to save the Jews of Europe was reason enough to act outside the boundaries of political loyalty and to go up against his president to do the right thing.