Thursday, September 10, 2009

Around Town: Common decency

It was a clear September night. The fires were gone. The schools were back in session. The town was returning to normal.

I shut the front door behind me. My only companion was Miss Audrey Hepburn, our black Lab rescue dog from the Pasadena Humane Society. We were going for a midnight stroll.

Quite innocent. Honest.

Suddenly, a black-clad figure swooped down the drive. It was she, the Anonymous Source. Tonight, she was dressed in a St. John’s pantsuit and a pink-Mohawk motorcycle helmet, but her vehicle surprised me. It was a 2009, 150 lb. Modified Segway PT Patroller, useful for crowd control, off-road adventure and golf.

The Anonymous Source gestured toward the running board. I gathered up Miss Hepburn and hopped aboard.

Where are we going? I asked.

We headed north, past arroyos of ash and burned chaparral, past charred pine and still-smoldering oaks, under the neon moon. Eventually, we rolled to a stop.

Miss Hepburn began to growl.

A pocked-marked creature sat weeping on some rocks. It was dressed in a torn flack jacket, a filth-encrusted sweat shirt with the words Blue Valley High School Class of ‘87, and a Stanley, Kansas baseball cap. Four or five cameras, mostly broken, were strewn about, along with dozens of empty beer bottles.

Miss Hepburn continued to growl.

What is it? I asked.

The Anonymous Source handed me a news clipping:

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has harshly criticized the decision by the Associated Press to distribute a photograph of a Marine who was fatally wounded in Afghanistan — even after the young man’s father called the wire service and asked that the photo not be released. Gates called the decision “appalling,” and went so far at to ask the AP to reconsider distributing the photo of Marine Lance Cpl. Joshua M. Bernard. Referring to Bernard’s parents, Gates wrote to Thomas Curley, the wire service’s president and CEO: “Your lack of compassion and common sense in choosing to put this image of their maimed and stricken child on the front page of multiple American newspapers is appalling.

“The issue here is not law, policy or constitutional rights,” said Gates, “but judgment and common decency.”

Suddenly, I knew what it was. It was Julie the AP reporter.

But why was she hiding out in the Angeles National Forest? By now, she’d have been nominated for a Pulitzer amidst claims of bravery and journalistic integrity.

The last I’d heard, Julie was embedded with the forest rangers during the Station fire. She was last seen wearing a smoke mask and taking photos of wounded and burned animals.

Then, inexplicably, she had gone missing.

Julie grasped the ankle of the Anonymous Source. Don’t tell them, she whined. Don’t tell them I’m here.

Miss Hepburn continued to growl.

Julie the AP reporter continued to weep.

And that’s where we left her.

Me. The Anonymous Source. Miss Audrey Hepburn. We turned around and went home.

But I’m sure she’ll turn up again, eventually. They always do.


ANITA SUSAN BRENNER is a longtime La Cañada Flintridge resident and an attorney with Law Offices of Torres and Brenner in Pasadena. E-mail her at  La Cañada Valley Sun: La Cañada Flintridge, California

Published Thursday, September 10, 2009 1:32 AM PDT
Commentary Around Town:Common decency


Some links:
  • Mona Charen : The AP's Decision To Exploit a Marine's Death -
  • Robert Gates protests AP decision as 'appalling' - Mike Allen -
  • Thomas Ricks - The dying marine: What the hell was the AP thinking? | The Best Defense
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