Sunday evening, Pope John Paul II took a detour from his prescribed route inside the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen to greet a group of men and women in wheelchairs. An old man, seated next to a woman in a black shawl, said something in Polish, and the pope started to answer in his native language. When Cardinal William Keeler pointed out that the couple was deaf, the pope immediately stopped speaking and placed his hands on the woman's ears.
Liberty and justice for all?
The governor of Maryland was among several politicians who prayed with the pope from prime seats at the cathedral. Good for the governor. It's a genuine thrill to be that close to the pontiff.
But, given his decision to scuttle a $157-per-month loan program for Maryland's disabled poor, one wonders if the governor wasn't a bit uncomfortable (or at least self-conscious) in the presence of a man who pleads persistently for the helpless. After all, in these days of "new Democrats" and welfare-slashing/immigrant-bashing Republicans, such pleadings are considered out of fashion. Usually, they come only from liberal advocates of the "failed policies of the past."
But, time and again on his trip to the United States, the pope praised America for our tradition of caring for the poor and the homeless, the disenfranchised and the sick.
In New Jersey, he said: "Is present-day America becoming less sensitive, less caring toward the poor, the weak, the stranger, the needy? It must not!
"I am thinking of threats to the elderly, the severely handicapped and all those who do not seem to have any social usefulness. When innocent human beings are declared inconvenient or burdensome, and thus unworthy of legal and social protection, grievous damage is done to the moral foundations of the democratic society."
In Baltimore, the pope said: "The world looks to America in the hope of finding a model of a free and virtuous society. To make this land of freedom a hospitable home for all of its people is still a challenge. It is important to peoples around the world that you succeed in making American society a more perfect embodiment of its commitment to liberty and justice for all."
Thank God someone said it.
Richard Lederer, the master collector of malaprops who was in Towson over the weekend to promote his new book on grammar, finds hospitals and doctors' offices to be rich sources of language accidents. Aware of Baltimore's large medical community, Lederer presented his latest treatment of the subject. Here's a hunk:
"A man was in the hospital passing gull stones from his bladder while the doctor was removing a cracked dish from his spine. After the operation, his glands were completely prostrated. A hyannis hernia, hanging hammeroids, inflammation of the strocum and a blockage of his large intesticle could have rendered him impudent. A woman didn't worry about her very-close veins, but she thought that a mammy-o-gram and Pabst smear might show if she had swollen nymph glands and fireballs of the eucharist. That's 'fibroids of the uterus' and it's something you can't cure with simple acnepuncture, the Heineken Maneuver or a bare minimum enema. Apparently, evasive surgery would be required. Afterwards, she would recuperate in expensive care."
Cyberpuke said it here
Cyberpuke, a self-styled computer graffiti artist somewhere in America, has threatened to post a special message on the scoreboard at the first game of the 1995 World Series (location still unknown). "It could be a very important message to mankind," Cyberpuke writes me. "Millions will be delighted and Cyberpuke will become a household name."
Yeah, yeah. I know. You'll believe it when you see it.
But I'm biting because, if Cyberpuke becomes notorious, I want to be his main press contact. It's been two years since I had a chance to play columnist-as-conduit-for-lovable-weirdo. (The last time, the lovable weirdo was Hon Man.) And as long as I'm not dealing with a nutcase with a ticking suitcase, what's the hurt? "Cyberpuke pledges never to physically harm anyone and pledges to use his humor to embarrass and taunt those who do not serve the interest of the common man."
I know what you're thinking: Cyberpuke is a crank.
Agreed: Many letters from weirdos (and racists and homophobes) come across my desk, but most of them are written in crayon or stressed cursive. Cyberpuke's had an earnest appearance and tone. And here's the part that got my attention: "Soon someone very close to you will awaken to find $10 million has been deposited in their bank account. This will drive the international bankers bonkers." (I called everyone in my immediate family yesterday and told them to check overnight balances in their checking and savings account. But if $10 million shows up, I'll never hear from them again. Trust me, I know my relatives better than you do.)
"I will be in touch," Cyberpuke signed off. Watch this cyberspace.