Jewish World Review May 30, 2003 / 28 Iyar, 5763

Drs. Michael A. Glueck & Robert J. Cihak

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A Tale of Two Admirable Women: Jessica and Annika | June brings with it a not uncomfortable fatigue. So much is winding up and winding down: school years, sports playoffs, wet weather, TV series that have tarried with us far too long for any good they may have been doing.

This June, the fatigue seems especially sweet. We won a war. We got our taxes cut. We can turn off the news, forget the media and their assorted malfeasances, argue over important stuff like whether "Bruce Almighty" portrays the Creator in too favorable a light and, in general ... forget.

But before we slide into summer, it might be worth a final ponder at two events as different, and as similar, as war and sport and the strange and ugly manipulation of the women central to both.

Jessica Lynch and Annika Sorenstam.

We know their stories. We've watched their stories unravel. We've watched those who did the manipulating back off (and come forward) in shameless pursuit of their own agendas. And we know that both Jessica and Annika deserve better than they've received, from both their detractors and their self-styled champions.

Jessica Lynch - are we forgetting already? - was captured by the Iraqis after an ambush in which, ran the initial reports, she fought heroically until shot, stabbed and taken off to what was doubtless a second hell of torture and rape.

Her rescue by American commandos (with the aid of a heroic Iraqi lawyer who "could not bear to see a woman struck") marked the first time since World War II that POWs had been so liberated.

The Pentagon glowed. The feminista demanded a Medal of Honor for their finest poster girl since Kelly Flinn, or at the least repeal of what's left of the female combat exclusionary rule. A quickie TV "documentary," "Saving Private Lynch," appeared, even as the story was starting to melt down.

Then came conflicting reports from the BBC. Private Lynch may have had no combat wounds. Private Lynch had amnesia. Private Lynch remembered nothing because maybe there was nothing much to remember.

Perhaps there were no Iraqi soldiers in the hospital where Pvt. Lynch was well cared for. The shoot-'em-up rescue may have been a bit hyperbolic.

And it became the turn of the no-women-in-combat brigades to use her to reaffirm their own agenda. The fact that Private Lynch may not have suffered any sexual abuse counted less than the fact that she may not have put up that much of a fight, or even been knocked unconscious when her truck rolled over.

And now the Army has launched multiple investigations into the whole affair, and everybody involved is not talking much.

But by then, America had found another woman to talk about. At the Colonial Golf Tournament last weekend, Annika Sorenstam, arguably the best woman golfer in the world, took on the PGA guys, the first time since 1945 that a woman had competed. After lotsa hype, and after a fine Thursday first round, she faltered and failed to make the cut for weekend play.

She faltered because, simultaneously, she got too aggressive and ran out of gas (At the professional level, the differences between men's and women's golf are profound).

Once, after missing a shot, the camera caught her mouthing a brief word that - so we were told - was actually Swedish and translated, "Oh, my goodness gracious, how did that happen?"

Her detractors shrugged off the whole affair as a meaningless gimmick, at best. Her defenders credited her performance as, at the very least, better than all but a few men could manage, and at least people got their consciousness raised. Raised about what, nobody was really that clear.

So what do these two women - a fresh-faced 19-year-old whose outfit wandered into deadly disaster, and one of the world's top professional athletes who got in a little over her head - have in common?

That they were used by others? Certainly. That those others were happy to drop them when the usage no longer availed? Perhaps.

But they have something else in common. The vast majority of us can't help but like them as people. Quite so. They both seem genuine. And both have displayed a quality so rare that English hasn't even a word for it. The Greeks called it "arete," which to them meant a combination of virtue, excellence, endurance and courage.

Jessica Lynch, the teenager who joined the Army to get money for college, is by all accounts a good soldier. By all accounts, she's coping with her present condition bravely.

Annika Sorenstam, a consummate professional, will also cope with her disappointment, and go on. We don't need the feminista to tell us why we should admire them, or how. We don't need their detractors with their "Yes, but they never should have been there in the first place."

They were there. They showed, in their own ways and as chance and circumstance allowed, what Plato called "endurance of the soul."

And that may be reason enough to admire them.

Philip Gold, Seattle-based historian, contributed to this commentary

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Michael Arnold Glueck, M.D., is a multiple award winning writer who comments on medical- legal issues. Robert J. Cihak, M.D., is past president of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. Both JWR contributors are Harvard trained diagnostic radiologists. Comment by clicking here.


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