Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Christians and Politics

Last week, a friend introduced me to this blog post by Brian Zahnd. The theme of Brian's comments is how Christians ought to behave during this presidential election season. I thought it was very good, and I had an interesting discussion over it when I posted it on Facebook. Some of the comments I received there have prompted me to make a list of my own, intended as a supplement to Brian's excellent and timely comments. Here goes:

1. The United States of America is not the Kingdom of God--not now, not anytime in the past, not anytime in the future. Yes, American mythology holds that North America is the new Canaan, the new Promised Land. Yes, many talk about the faith of the nation's founders as if that makes the nation unique and special. While the nation is in many ways unique, the United States is still one of the kingdoms of this world and thus only temporary. It will last only so long as the present age lasts.

2. All elections are compromises. That's because all candidates are compromises. One cannot vote for an entirely right candidate or vote against an entirely wrong one. There is no such thing as a fully "righteous" or "unrighteous" candidate, and no election will ever usher in a righteous government (see point #1).

3. Christians, applying their faith and their convictions to the choice being offered them, will choose differently. There is never one candidate that all Christians should vote for or one that all Christians should vote against (see point #2).

4. We need to guard our hearts against turning our political beliefs into a false god. Once we start to equate a particular political ideology with God's will, we have started walking down the road to idolatry.

5.  When the election is over, we owe the respect of the office, and of our fellow voting citizens, to the winner--whether we voted for that candidate or not. We don't have to agree with the winner's policies; we don't even have to like him/her. But we ought to respect our fellow voters enough to accept the legitimacy of their choice.

6. We are all, first and foremost, God's image-bearers. Political labels like 'liberal' or 'conservative,' in addition to becoming less and less meaningful, are not good ways to identify our fellow human beings. Let's stop pigeon-holing people according to their political ideology, and let's stop using political labels disparagingly (if at all).

7. Finally, believers have no biblical instructions about voting or arguing about politics, but we are commanded to pray for our leaders. Since neither Jesus nor any of the New Testament writers lived in a participatory democracy, we cannot know what God-inspired wisdom they might bring to the election processes we are familiar with. But we do know what we should be praying for. And it's not that our leaders will see the light, be born again, or change their evil ways (Paul didn't exhort believers of his time to pray thus for the pagan Roman emperor); instead, it's "that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty" (I Timothy 2:1-2).

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

An Irish Blessing

Back in mid-September, my high school class held its fortieth anniversary reunion. Many classmates came from as far as California for the weekend festivities, and afterwards all said they had a wonderful time. Only a few classmates who attended, however, knew that an Irish celebrity had given our gathering her blessing a full month before the reunion.

I was on the committee preparing for the reunion. My chief responsibility had been researching and compiling information about classmates who had died. At one of our Saturday morning committee meetings back in July, we were discussing what kind of memorial presentation we wanted to do for our departed classmates. Sharon, the committee member in charge of the memorial, was outlining her thoughts: that we could do a PowerPoint slide show with some recorded background music. I then suggested that, since our class was known for its musical talent, perhaps we could have live music instead of recorded music. The committee all thought that was a wonderful idea, so of course they put me in charge of arranging for the music.

The first thing I had to do was pick appropriate musical selections. I figured that two pieces would be enough to get us through the slide presentation. The first selection was easy. I wanted to use a setting of Psalm 23, since that’s often read or sung at memorials and funerals, and I remembered that the high school concert choir had sung a setting of Ps. 23 called “Brother James’ Air” that I thought many of the singers would remember.

But I was stumped about the second piece until the following morning, when we sang the hymn “Be Thou My Vision” during our Sunday worship service in my home church. I recalled that many of our classmates had loved that hymn during our high school years.

I found some simple arrangements of the two selections and began contacting singers.

The first weekend in August is always the weekend of the Dublin, Ohio, Irish Festival. Dublin is a suburb of Columbus, and we always look forward to attending the festival, most notably because we can hear some of the top Irish bands perform live. And we especially like to go on the Sunday of the festival, because several worship services are held in the morning, and admission to the festival is free if we bring canned donations for the local food pantry. The free admission allows us to attend worship and then stay for the rest of the day’s activities. So on this first Sunday in August my wife and I, along with our second son and daughter-in-law, climbed into the car with about eight cans of beans for the donation and drove to Coffman Park for a day at the festival.

The Dublin stage, a large, open-air pole building, is normally the venue for the biggest and best-known acts that attract the largest crowds. On Sunday morning it was being used for the most heavily attended worship service: a Roman Catholic Mass that was being said in the Irish language. A local priest who has learned the language presides over this service, which is held every year at the festival. We decided to attend the Mass to hear the Irish language spoken—we thought that would be something different and interesting. (At right: the front page of the bulletin for the Mass. Photos below left: Some last-minute preparations before the Mass began)

Before the Mass began, the organizers of the service introduced a choir—I think they were mostly from St. Brendan’s Catholic parish in Dublin—and then they introduced a singer named Moya Brennan, who was sitting with the choir in the front.

Some of my readers here may know who Moya Brennan is. I didn’t. I had absolutely no idea at the time that she is an Irish music celebrity. I honestly thought she was just a local talent, perhaps from St. Brendan’s. Readers who haven’t heard of Moya Brennan may recognize the name of her better-known sister: Enya. I didn’t learn who Ms. Brennan is until after all this happened.

I am sure that readers can guess what the opening hymn for the Mass was. Indeed, it was “Be Thou My Vision”! (Well, it is an Irish hymn, after all.) Moya Brennan sang the first verse in Irish, and then we all sang three verses in English. My heart melted when I heard the Irish words being sung:
Bí Thusa mo shúile
a Rí mhór na ndúil…
Moya sang it in that lilting Irish soprano that is so captivating. I was so touched by the words and by Moya’s singing that I told my wife I had to go speak with her after the service was over. She told me, though, that Ms. Brennan was scheduled to perform some music on her own at noon, according to the schedule in her hand. I replied that I wouldn’t be taking much of her time; I just wanted to ask her a question.

So, without knowing who she is, I did approach Moya Brennan after the service. She was setting up for her gig behind the stage area. I went up to her and asked her where or how I could learn to pronounce the Irish words to the hymn that she had sung.

She looked at me, smiled and then said, “Here’s what I’ll do. I’ll give you a phonetic rendering.”

As soon as she opened her mouth to speak with her Irish accent, I knew she wasn’t from St. Brendan’s. Although she was quite busy getting ready for her performance, she graciously took the time to help me with the pronunciations.

I stayed and listened to her performance while the rest of the family visited other attractions at the festival. About two hours later, after Moya’s performance was finished, I stood in her reception line. She was selling CD's, chatting with appreciative fans, and posing for photographs as well. When I got to the front of the line, I purchased one of her CD's, out of gratitude to her for her willingness to help me out even though she was so busy. (Photo below right: Moya Brennan in her reception line, talking with an appreciative fan)

I then took the CD and gave it to her for her autograph. I looked at her, smiled and said, “I wish to thank you for your gracious willingness to take time out of preparing for your performance to help teach me the Irish words to ‘Be Thou My Vision.’”

She smiled and replied, “It was my pleasure.”

“I want to tell you the reason I am interested in that particular hymn.”


“I’m on the anniversary reunion committee for my high school class, and I was planning to use that hymn during our memorial presentation for our classmates who have died. Those Irish words truly inspired me.”

She looked at me, smiled, put her hand on my shoulder, and very kindly said, “Go for it!”

I will never forget that experience. Now our reunion, and especially our memorial presentation, has the blessing of an Irish celebrity! What more could I ever ask for?

The reunion was held during the third weekend in September. It was a marvelous experience and an emotional watershed for me as well as for many others. As it turned out, the elaborate memorial presentation we had planned, with the live singing and the PowerPoint slides, never materialized. Instead, Sharon simply read a poem that another classmate had written for the occasion and then read the names of the classmates who had passed. It was a very moving moment. (I did sing the two Irish verses of “Be Thou My Vision” that I had learned from Ms. Brennan privately to a few classmates.)

But most importantly, it was clear to me that Moya Brennan’s gracious and generous spirit permeated the reunion and all who attended it. After it was all over, many commented on how kind and friendly everyone was. Moya’s blessing certainly carried us through the weekend—her kindness, friendliness, and generosity being reflected in the attitudes and actions of all who were there.

Friday, November 18, 2011

New Development

Zane State College in Zanesville, Ohio, one of the two-year schools where I teach, is developing an associate degree program in sustainable agriculture. Take a look.

I was told that this is the only degree program of its kind offered here in Ohio. It will be fascinating to see how this develops. I'm assuming that this degree offering was inspired by the developing interest in organic farming, sustainability, and local food production. I will be watching this development with interest, especially to see how many students this offering attracts.

Kudos to Zane State College for anticipating the future!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Nature's Severe Mysteries

         Nature has many mysteries,
some of them severe.--Mary Oliver

I am the oldest of five siblings. Number two after me is a brother who is two years younger than I. Our only sister is seven years my junior, and the youngest brother is nine years younger. But between the second sibling and our sister, we had another brother. His name was Jerry. Few people outside the family knew about Jerry because he never went to school, he never attended church or Sunday school, and he never attended any of our school functions. Furthermore, I never talked about him with my friends and acquaintances from school. By the time he was seven years old, he hardly ever would have been found at our home.

Jerry was mentally handicapped--profoundly so. We used the word "retarded" back then, but I understand that word is out of favor now. We didn't know of his disability at first, of course, but it became more and more apparent when he simply didn't develop as a normal infant. A short time before his seventh birthday, my parents made the difficult decision to have him institutionalized because they didn't think they could care for him at home anymore. Caring for him simply took all of my mom's time.

Mom always hated that decision, even though she realized it was the only reasonable option. At first, Jerry lived at one of the state hospitals and was there treated little better than the livestock at some of those huge "factory farms" that we read about. We would go pick him up and bring him home as often as we could, usually on Sunday afternoons, but we could tell that he wasn't getting very good care.

Jerry's room and board at the state hospital cost our family four dollars per day. That was a lot of money in the mid-1960s for a family on one income with four small children at home. So mom made another decision that was difficult for her: she began working outside the home. At first, she worked as a housekeeper for the motel that her brother and his family managed. Then she took a job as sales clerk at a convenience store. Eventually, she was hired at the post office, where she sorted mail at first, then later became a window clerk serving customers.

Eventually, my parents were able to transfer Jerry to a nursing home that specialized in the care of people like him. (Some years after that, the state closed the hospital where he had been housed.) The care was better, but still he didn't get the kind of care he would have received at home, so mom still brought him home as often as she could. The nursing home was farther away than the state hospital, though. Eventually, though, the family no longer had to pay for Jerry's care. But Mom continued working anyway; college expenses were looming (beginning with me), and it simply made sense to keep the additional income flowing.

The chief reason I never told classmates about Jerry was fear. There was a small band of kids at school who teased and taunted me unmercifully. I figured that if any of them ever learned about Jerry, they would use the fact that I had a "retard" for a brother as an excuse to tease me all the more. So I never shared information about Jerry with anyone, for fear that it might get back to that group.

On April 11, 1992, long after the youngest of us had left home and gone out on our own, mom and dad brought Jerry home for another visit. One thing that Jerry always loved was taking a bath, so they would always put him in the bath right away. This day was no different. After putting Jerry in the bathwater, mom went to prepare his lunch. (He was never able to feed himself and basically lived on strained baby food which had to be spoon-fed to him.) While mom was taking care of getting lunch ready, Jerry somehow managed to turn on the hot water tap and scalded himself. Before anyone could do anything, Jerry was unconscious.

They rushed him to the emergency room, but it was too late. An autopsy was later performed, and I believe it was determined he died not from the burns themselves, but from shock leading to cardiac arrest. Jerry's death was ruled accidental.

We had a private family service for him; viewing hours were not advertised to the public, and no obituary was published in the local paper.

Jerry was 34 years old when he died.

Mom had been diagnosed with breast cancer in 1988. After the usual treatments--mastectomy followed by chemotherapy--her condition stablilzed, though the cancer never really went into complete remission. Mom's medical condition was still stable at the time of Jerry's accident, but mom always blamed herself for Jerry's death. "I wasn't there for him when he needed me," she would say. Of course it wasn't her fault; it wasn't anyone's fault. About a year after Jerry died, the cancer started spreading again, and two years later, on April 23, 1994, mom was gone too. I believe she had lost some of her will to live after Jerry died.

Mary Oliver's poem, "At the Pond," tells about six baby geese that the poet observed one summer. She would go every morning to the pond to watch them, and she describes how they "would paddle to me / and clamber / up the marshy slope / and over my body" (lines 5-8). At first it seems that the poet is simply going to continue describing "such sweetness every day" (10) that she observed that summer. But halfway through the poem, the tone abruptly changes. "Not there, however, but here / is where the story begins," the poet announces. "Nature has many mysteries / some of them severe" (14-17). Five of the six goslings grew normally: "heavy of chest and / bold of wing" (19-20). The sixth, however, "waited and waited / in its gauze-feathers, its body / that would not grow" (21-23). At the end of the season, the five that had grown up normally, along with their parents, observed their instincts and flew south for the winter:
And this is what I think
  everything is about:
      the way
         I was glad

for those five and two
   that flew away,
      and the way I hold in my heart the wingless one
         that had to stay. (25-32)

Like the baby goose in Mary Oliver's poem, my brother Jerry never developed and was never able to "fly" either. He simply didn't posses the normal mental capacity to attend school, develop talents and abilities, or eventually live on his own. And just like Mary Oliver's little gosling, Jerry's time with us was and continues to be a mystery. Why was he born the way he was? Why did he come to our family?

Mom always told us that she believed God knew Jerry would need special care and so gave him to our family, despite the fact that we weren't really able to care for him all the time. Perhaps Mom was right.

Mom and Jerry are buried side by side in a cemetery about 10 miles north of our family's home. The family paid for a memorial tree to be planted in Jerry's name; there's a plaque at the base of the tree. My wife and I visited the cemetery this past Memorial Day and took pictures of the plaque, the tree, and the graves.

We will continue to hold Jerry, our wingless one, in our hearts.

Work Cited
Oliver, Mary. "At the Pond." Evidence. Boston: Beacon Press, 2009. 34-35.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Urban Nature Preserves

I've been meaning to write on this topic for a few months. Back in March, my wife and I took a road trip to Texas. While there, our host (my sister-in-law) asked us if we wanted to visit the Trinity River Audubon Center in Dallas. We said sure. So on a hot day, especially for us Ohioans in March, we visited the center. Upon our arrival, I immediately encountered that deja vu feeling. It wasn't so much that I thought I had been to that specific location before; it was more that the Trinity River center had almost the same look and feel as the Grange Insurance Audobon Center right here in Columbus.

The family resemblance of the two Audobon centers was a prominent reason for this feeling, but it was more than that. Both are located within the city limits of their host cities: the Trinity River Center is in an outlying part of Dallas, whereas the Grange Insurance Center is close to downtown Columbus. Both are located along a major waterway: the Trinity River in Dallas and the Scioto River in Columbus. Both centers are built on reclaimed industrial wasteland. The Trinity River Center was once an illegal dump. The Grange Center is on a former industrial park called the Whittier Peninsula, formed by a U-shaped bend in the Scioto River. More recently it has been the site of the Columbus Police Division's vehicle impound lot, where abandoned and confiscated motor vehicles were kept. Both centers are only a few years old. Both have incorporated extensive wetland areas to attract greater biological diversity. And both have financial support from local government: the City of Dallas partly funds the Trinity River Center, while the Grange Center is incorporated into Scioto Audubon Metro Park and is partly supported by the Columbus Metro Parks system. And of course, both are islands of biodiversity in an urban setting.

Both centers take environmental education seriously, as do all Audubon nature centers. Both have education facilities housed in state-of-the-art, ecologically friendly, low-carbon-footprint buildings. Both nature centers have educational displays, a conference area, classroom space for lectures, hands-on activities for children, and a bookshop.

Here is the education building at the Trinity River Center in Dallas, taken in March 2011.
We first visited the Grange Center in Columbus in January 2010 when the Metro Parks held their annual winter hike there. This is what the education center looked like at that time.


Here is a view along the Trinity River in Dallas, in March 2011.
And a view of a mist-shrouded, partially frozen Scioto River. January 2010.
Both centers, of course, are valuable additions to the biological diversity of the urban areas in which they are located. The Whittier peninsula has been an important central Ohio stopover for migratory birds. Close by, on the opposite side of the Scioto river, is Green Lawn Cemetery, another area of high biodiversity, with its extensive prairie plantings and mature, mostly native, trees.

I might briefly discuss how these islands of biodiversity, while a great thing to have in the urban and suburban environment, are only part of the solution to the problem of urban ecological poverty. Property owners, from businesses to homeowners to religious and government facilities, also need to participate in the "greening" of our cities. Entomologist Douglas Tallamy, in his book Bringing Nature Home, discusses the need for urban and suburban landowners to add more native plants to their landscapes, and he then gives a thorough explanation of the reasons why this is important--highly recommended reading. Organizations like the non-profit Wild Ones are dedicated to demonstrating for homeowners how they can grow less lawn, plant more natives, reduce or eliminate the use of hazardous lawn "care" chemicals, and still have an attractively landscaped property. All who own even a small piece of property can help increase the spread of biodiversity throughout our urban and suburban landscapes just by adding a few native plantings to their yards.

Increasing the native plantings in our cities and suburbs can go a long way toward rebuilding our damaged ecosystems. The Audubon Society and its educational programs, along with those resources I mentioned and still others, also dedicated to restoring biological diversity, can help us achieve that goal. If you're ever in Dallas or Columbus, I encourage you to check out these unique Audubon centers and spend some time there.

Monday, May 9, 2011

I Have Emerald Ash Borer

This is so, so, sooooo--not good. We looked at the white ash tree in our front yard today and noticed one branch that hadn't leafed out. It looked dead. I looked closely at the branch and noticed the characteristic and unmistakable half-moon bore holes. Ever since the borer had been found in a metro park nearby, we have been expecting to see it sooner or later. We were always hoping for later, of course.

Now we have to decide whether to try and save the tree by using a systemic chemical drench that is implicated in honeybee colony collapse disorder, or to just let the borer have its way and turn the tree into firewood. Not a happy choice.


Saturday, May 7, 2011

How Quickly Will the Poison Build Up Again?

How many deaths will it take 'til he knows,
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind,
The answer is blowing in the wind.
--Bob Dylan

I have been in a somber mood for most of the last week. Those of you who read the last post on this blog know part of the reason why, as I wrote about my wrestling with an uncharacteristic and unexpected emotional reaction to a tragic bit of news. In the time since then, the intense emotional pain has subsided, although my feelings are still tender, and I can be set off weeping just by thinking about it or being reminded of it. (Music, especially singing, can do it, for example.) But just as I was beginning to feel more or less "normal," another event, much larger in scope, imposed itself on my conscience.

I was working here on that high school classmate Facebook page last Sunday evening when someone posted a note saying the president was going to speak at 10:30 on a "national security matter," so I went downstairs and alerted my wife. We turned on the TV and then waited and waited for the president to come out; finally I gave up and went to bed, so I never heard his announcement. But in the meantime, the information that the president was going to deliver had leaked to the media, and the CNN reporters told me all I really needed to know: that terrorist leader Osama bin Laden had been hunted down and killed by American forces.

I have to say that I didn't react at all, one way or another, at the time. I simply accepted it as another news fact, no different than any other news fact. It wasn't until many hours later that I began to recognize that this initial reaction to such a significant event was rather strange. Maybe my emotions were still too raw to react? I don't know.

All the next day (Monday), I think I was in some sort of daze or trance. In light of my emotional vulnerability over the past two weeks, I didn't think I needed anything to happen that day that could provoke another emotional breakdown. (No, I didn't think it would be good to start blubbering in class!) So I tried to keep my distance from the whole thing. I deliberately stayed away from news broadcasts and newspaper reports about the details of the search, the raid, and the final outcome; I'm still purposely avoiding news reports of the affair and only slowly peeking at reports of other events. There are facts about this event that I simply didn't--and still don't--want to know; at least not now. But by Monday morning, I began hearing people talking about celebrations during the night, and that disturbed me. People celebrating bin Laden's death? How does that make us any different from the people ten years ago who filled Middle Eastern streets celebrating the collapse of the towers?

Then a friend and colleague from school posted some comments on Facebook, expressing a sentiment similar to what I had begun formulating:

[Name withheld] considers posting an opinion about recent events and wonders how many people will 'unfriend' her for finding all this kind of anti-climactic, thinking more about the deaths and permanent damage (visible and invisible) visited on many MANY good goood people, and wondering how quickly the poison will build up again.

So I came around and posted my own comment, echoing her concerns, and even borrowing some of her wording:

Don Plummer is still processing what he thinks about the news that broke late last night.

Like another Facebook friend mused, I've wondered how many people will ‘unfriend’ me if I post what I'm really thinking? Thirst for blood has been satisfied, I suppose, but what a horrible cost has been paid! Far more lives than were killed in the terrorist attack. Desire for revenge killed Hamlet in the end, after all.

Right now, I'm not willing to:
  • engage in flag-waving;
  • gloat over bin Laden's death;
  • begin to think that this event will solve our problems; rather, it may unleash even more terrorist threats as bin Laden has now gained martyr status;
  • think that targeted assassination, even of the most diabolical figures, is anything more than sanctioned murder.
I posted my comments not because I wanted to make a definitive what's-right-and-what's-wrong statement, but because my mind and my spirit were still trying to process the event and the nation's reaction to it--just like they're still trying to process the earlier-learned fact of my classmate's death.

Later Monday morning, I posted a snippet of dialogue from The Lord of the Rings, a work that has profoundly influenced the way I view the world. It's one of my favorite scenes, in fact, and features an exchange between Frodo and Gandalf that takes place after the latter had finished telling what he had learned about the creature Gollum, the miserable soul that had possessed (or rather, had been possessed by) the One Ring for so many, many years:
 "What a pity that Bilbo did not stab that vile creature, when he had a chance!"

"Pity? It was Pity that stayed his hand. Pity, and Mercy: not to strike without need ..."

"... I do not feel any pity for Gollum ... He deserves death."

"Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. For even the very wise cannot see all ends."

This passage came to my mind very soon after I posted my first Facebook comment; again, not a statement of right or wrong, but a commentary on our all-too-human rush to "deal out death in judgment" (not to mention that Gandalf's comment, "some that die deserve life," reminded me again of my departed classmate).

In the comments thread generated by the earlier Facebook posting, I explained that my biggest concern was that we as a nation have dragged ourselves to the level of our enemies and have become what we hate. The temptation to do that is all too natural and must be fought against. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem we were up to the challenge.

I can be certain that none of my tears over the last six days were shed for Osama bin Laden. He was a despicable figure--far more despicable than Gollum, in fact, who, although a murderer, was really more of an old, miserable wretch, totally in thrall to that shiny object dangling from Frodo's neck. (If there's an analogue to bin Laden in Tolkien's narrative, it's more likely to be Saruman than Gollum.) But I have been mourning for what our nation apparently has become--how we have allowed the event that bin Laden will most be remembered for to make us forget who we are as a nation and to become something we were not. And I have mourned for the countless thousands that have died, multiple times more than died when the towers fell, in our nearly ten years of senseless war: some of them our own brave soldiers, of course, but many more non-combatant, innocent Iraqi and Afghani citizens.

As I said, I've deliberately stayed away from the news this past week, but I have been told some of the circumstances of the raid on bin Laden's compound. I understand that the "official" story has changed and I would presume that we may never know exactly how events transpired. Although I cannot second-guess why the special forces troops on the scene decided they had to shoot instead of capture, it just doesn't strike me that cornering and then killing an unarmed bin Laden in his own bedroom, while surrounded by family, can ever be regarded as our nation's proudest moment or most noble achievement. We've been told that the death of bin Laden serves justice, brings closure, or causes satisfaction. The Columbus Dispatch even used the word solace. But I don't feel any of these sentiments. Rather, just thinking of this entire affair makes me feel hollow and gives me a sinking feeling. Hence the somber mood I've been in.

Violence begets violence. Or, as put far more eloquently nearly two thousand years ago, "all who take the sword will perish by the sword". This past week, another friend blogged on the myth of redemptive violence. I highly recommend reading it. Already al-Qaida is plotting revenge on their new martyr. When will it end? Why couldn't we have ended it at the beginning, by responding differently to the initial attack?

I don't pretend that my words here are the last word on the subject. I'm still trying to make sense of this event and don't feel I could give a definitive word if I tried. If you think you must break off contact with me because of what I wrote here, do what you feel you must do. But I would hope, even if you disagree with me, you will read these comments in the spirit in which they are written: the cries of an anguished heart, concerned about what our country has become; and that you will receive them in that way.