Pope John Paul II lies on his death bed. Despite great differences in opinion, I have always held him in high regard. I respect his strength and integrity. I have railed against him for not yielding the papacy when he was clearly too feeble to continue, but at this point that's all in the past.
I certainly don't agree with everything that he stands for--in fact the church's position on birth control (coupled with a wife with a hair trigger temper) has put my marriage in a very rocky position for some time now. For all I know it may never recover. (Ever wonder why I'm sitting here at 1:30 AM?) But, to his credit the Pope has stuck to his guns on every position and doesn't check the polls to see where he should stand on a particular issue on any given day.
I disagree with him on many issues, but I don't hold him in contempt or think he's stupid just because we disagree. I'll leave that type of thinking to the Democrats.
Instead I hail him for an extraordinary life, a deep committment to what he believes in and a clear love for his fellow humans.
I got dragged to the Big City when the Pope visited the US some years ago. The Pope receives the same Secret Service protection as a head of state, so we had to hit the stadium quite some time prior to his arrival in order to get through security screening with some 40,000 other attendees. It was horrible. Although I was preoccupied with keeping our very young son amused as well as nursing a raging hangover, I did get out to my seat from time to time. They televised the landing of his aircraft on the Jumbotron and the crowd absolutely erupted. In a vacuum I could give a damn about him landing at any particular airport, but I was genuinely moved by the crowd's reaction. More transpired on the Jumbotron, but I was back out on the concourse watching a toddler while in turn being watched by a guy in a suit with a lapel pin and suspicious wires. A while later the "Popemobile" neared the stadium. I figured I needed to be in my seat for that so I gathered up my brain, picked up my son and sat next to the ever reverent wife and waited for the grand entrance. As he entered the stadium the crowd began chanting "JP Two, we love you". He did a lap around the stadium, then dismounted and walked up to the dais. "JP Two loves you", he said. It was a powerful moment.
An extraordinary man, a man a great strength and convictions lies on the cusp of death. I wish him well.