The month of June has been a tumultuous month, full of drama, momentous moments, celebrations, the shocking deaths of celebrities and the highly visible effects of the widening fissures that have beset our country and the world
Sadly missing from the daily news are examples of grace, an awareness of our common humanity, the embrace of dearly, honorably and clearly held principles and the ability to engage with the other in our midst without also engaging in derision, insults and cheap passion.
It took Charles Krauthammer, the nationally syndicated conservative columnist and commentator in the Washington Post and on Fox, a Pulitzer Prize winner, to remind us that principles can be held honorably and honestly, that grace in the face of life’s end is an act of quiet courage, that a life lived well is an example to aspire to.
Somewhere around, during and after the verbal and actual gyrations of the much touted and unprecedented summit between North Korea and the United States, the lengthy, forever celebration of the Stanley Cup victory by the Washington Caps, the sadly sensational deaths by suicide of a famed designer and a famed chef and author — which sparked a brief debate on suicide — and now the ongoing furors and furies surrounding our immigration policies and procedures, Krauthammer, with great dignity, a touch of sorrow and characteristic style, showed us human grace by example.
In early June, in a letter published in numerous national and local publications, he announced that the cancer he had battled for so long (hence the absence of his columns) had aggressively returned. He reported, with directness and no self-pity, that doctors had told him “that I have only a few weeks left to live. This is the final verdict. My fight is over.”
Sadly, that estimate proved to be accurate. Krauthammer, 68, died on June 21.
The outpouring of sorrow at the news of his terminal condition and death were filled with sorrow, great affection, high praise and admiration, as well as the heaviness of the loss to the ranks of serious, intelligent views expressed with the kind of weight that you could argue with but never ignore.
He was a familiar figure, not only in his writing, but as a regular member of the weekly “Inside Washington” television roundtable, where his presence in a wheelchair was imposing and the debates that ensued almost always enlightened, with nary a cheap or insulting shot from Krauthammer. He was an internationalist of the type which saw America doing aggressive good in the world, which was not always the case.
I would count myself among those readers who sometimes reacted to his columns vocally and even angrily in disagreement. One did so with a certain amount of peril; his knowledge was immense, his sense of humor dry and his intelligence — he was a medical school graduate — unassailable.
Krauthammer was provocative, to be sure, but he wrote and spoke with tough grace. He hewed to his principles with passion and honor, with a good deal of deep thought. He had a presence and a style uniquely his in voice and affection for country.
His passing dealt a severe blow to the barren, divisive national debate, not only on immigration (in which T-shirts are used as campaign literature and placards as potential weapons) but on most issues.
In his letter, he thanked his readers and audience “who have given consequence to my life’s work. I believe that the pursuit of truth and right ideas through honest debate and rigorous argument is a noble undertaking.
“I leave this life with no regrets. It was a wonderful life — full and complete with the great loves and great endeavors that make it worth living. I am sad to leave, but I leave with the knowledge that I lived the life that I intended.”
Outside, in the world, there are demonstrations, lost children and evidence of the furies let loose.