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Opinion

2018 to 1984 – Make Oceania Great Again

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As politics in America deteriorates to what has been described by some historians as its most tribal and divisive level since the 1850’s, the very idea of facts have come into question.

Cries of “fake news” or “liberal bias” meet every critical analysis of President Donald Trump, no matter how steeped in documentable evidence that analysis may be.

And if Trump popularized the term “fake news” to dismiss criticism or unfavorable analysis of himself, his administration and policies, the idea has been lovingly embraced by a Trump base of support increasingly mired in a cult of power and personality that has been cultivated around him.

Without the blink of an eye, Trump supporters accept notions of “alternate facts”, “which truth?” or even Trump’s assertion that you “cannot believe what you see or read (about the national economy)” but only what you are told by the president or his administration spokespeople.

Which, one might ask, is a greater threat to the American Republic – a president mired in an increasingly apparent web of legal jeopardy and personality disorders triggered into hyper-drive by public scrutiny of that jeopardy, or those who enable and justify his behavior regardless of consequences or facts?

Ah, but that silly little problem – “facts”.

As the end of the second decade of the 21st Century approaches, exactly how are facts determined in American public life?

We may be 34 years past 1984 but we seem to be slipping backward in time toward that ominous George Orwell prediction penned in 1948 of an English-speaking totalitarian state called Oceania where “Big Brother” and his State operatives define reality for its people.

To determine factual content versus non-factual assertions in any sphere from scientific to political analysis, two important intellectual qualities are required – the ability to think critically and to objectively analyze the information present in the equation you are trying to solve.

In the Orwellian world of “1984” such critical, analytical thought is increasingly impossible.

Why?

For starters, because it is not tolerated and is violently suppressed in the bowels of the Ministry of Love, the government agency responsible for law and order – but at a deeper level in the world of “1984” the party leader “Big Brother” and his state political apparatus are moving its population toward a variation of its native English language, to “Newspeak” where words and phrases can mean their opposite and where independent or dissident thought has no verbal framework for expression.

How far, one might ask, are some of us in today’s American political landscape from blind acceptance of “Newspeak” principals like “Ignorance is Strength”, “War is Peace” or “Freedom is Slavery”?

Russia collusion; obstruction of justice – “Fake News”

Potential presidential lies to federal investigators – “Which Truth?”

And the recently offered presidential notions that transferring money from a private source to suppress negative stories prior to the election “is not a crime” or that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election on his behalf is “illegal” – “Alternate Facts”

But as noted above, the ability to re-define reality for others can be achieved in multiple ways.  For Winston, the Party dissident of “1984”, it was achieved through torture.  O’Brien, the party official responsible for Winston’s torture and reintegration into society, begins with a simple exercise in the nature of truth.

“How many fingers am I holding up, Winston?” O’Brien asks.

“Four,” Winston replies.

“And if the Party says that it is not four but five – then how many?”

Winston’s reply of “Four” launches him on a path of pain that will lead to “enlightenment” – enlightenment as it is defined by the State.

Eventually O’Brien explains the intellectual “mistake” that has led Winston to this point, alone and at the mercy of a State that will not and cannot accept a non-sanctioned perception of reality or a truly objective appraisal of facts:

“You believe that reality is something objective, external, existing in its own right … But I tell you, Winston, that reality is not external.  Reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else.  Not in the individual mind, which can make mistakes, and in any case soon perishes; only in the mind of the Party, which is collective and immortal.  Whatever the Party holds to be truth is truth.  It is impossible to see reality except by looking through the eyes of the Party.  That is the fact that you have got to relearn, Winston.”

O’Brien asks Winston to repeat a Party slogan at the root of their conflict:

“Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.”

And eventually after days, weeks, months – Winston was never sure how long he was being tortured in the bowels of the Ministry of Love – and his fateful trip to Room 101, he finally comes to terms with reality as it is defined by the State.

And in that moment of final surrender Winston understands – there is no future other than pain, only worse unendurable pain in his questions about the State and the nature of truth – a “truth” that he was responsible for helping manipulate for the masses in his job at the Ministry of Truth – the government department responsible for dissemination of “news, entertainment, education and the fine arts”.

And in that moment Winston, who had only sought inter-personal love and the objective truth behind the State veil becomes free, a free advocate of Big Brother and the State.

“Slavery is Freedom”

How far from this dark scenario are we allowing ourselves to be placed when without a blink we can accept a presidential order and Ministry of Justice, oops I mean Justice Department decree that children, including infants and toddlers, be ripped from their parents arms on “legal” pretenses in order to deter future immigration and refugee efforts by certain kinds of people from certain parts of the world?

With over 500 children still detained without parental contact for months despite the passing of a court-ordered deadline they be reunited, one might see the State questioning beginning in detention centers out of the public eye, as Winston’s was in the windowless Ministry of Love:

“You want to come to a nation historically known as a beacon of freedom and second chances to the world, parentless child?” – It is a question likely also posed to those children’s now-missing parents prior to State-ordered deportations without their children.

And for both child and parent, the final question posed by State interrogators would be:

“How many fingers do you see pointed in this direction, toward the U.S. border?”

And despite history to the contrary and the still-beckoning hand of the Statue of Liberty on Ellis Island, the correct answer now for those at our southern border can only be, “None”.

I wonder, for how many of U.S. President Donald J. Trump’s political support base does the phrase “Torture is Justice” make perfect sense?

When power for power’s sake becomes the driving force of partisan politics; and when support of one’s political Party rests on a cult of personality and tribal allegiance steeped in ignorance (“I have the most loyal people – where I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters, okay, it’s incredible”) and fear (They’re stealing my chance at the American Dream) and negative stereotyping (They’re all rapists and gang members), how far are we from George Orwell’s nightmare vision of the rise of an English-speaking, Western totalitarian State – a State beyond accountability, beyond human compassion, beyond facts?

Never forget, citizens of Oceania – “The Truth is a Lie” and “Ignorance is Strength” …

(This is the opinion of the writer)

Opinion

Letter to the Editor: Protest Board of Supervisors’ attempts to silence Egger

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All law-abiding citizens of Front Royal are strongly encouraged to attend a public hearing in the County Government Building, 220 N. Commerce Ave. across the street from the post office, on Tuesday, January 22nd at 7 p.m. — and protest the disgraceful actions of three members of the Warren County Board of Supervisors to silence Mark Egger a courageous member of our community.

The three board members — Tony Carter, Dan Murray, and Linda Glavis — are shamefully trying to force a change to Warren County Code 56-3 that has been on the books since 1975 — a total of 44 years. The current law allows a private citizen to appear before the Board Supervisors and talk at length on an item of public interest that two members of the board consider important enough to be heard.

The change to Code 56-3 that Carter, Murray, and Glavis want to implement would:

Eliminate the ability of two supervisors — a minority on the board — to demand a citizen of Front Royal be allowed to speak at length on a subject that the two members deem important.

Limit a speaker to no more than three minutes at any one meeting.

Limit the number of meetings at which a speaker can talk on the same subject to no more than three in a twelve-month period.

The reason Carter, Murray, and Glavis are pushing this change is that Mark Egger had the audacity and courage to stand before the Board of Supervisors at meetings in February, May, and November 2018 and talk for a total of about 37 minutes in detail about the hanky-panky — dirty-trick shenanigans — of the Economic Development Authority (EDA) board appointed by the Warren County Board of Supervisors.

Carter, Murray, and Glavis did not like what Mark said.

In his testimony, Mark presented clear and convincing evidence that:

The EDA board awarded thirty acres of EDA property to a shell company.
Two fake crimes appeared to have been committed.
The EDA board held closed meetings under questionable premises — and the Warren County Board of Supervisors did nothing.
The EDA board told the Front Royal Police Department to stop investigating a crime — and the Warren County Board of Supervisors did nothing.
Members of the EDA board refused to answer legitimate questions from the Warren County Board of Supervisors that appointed them — and the Board of Supervisors did nothing
$140,000 of taxpayers’ money is now being spent to investigate clear financial irregularities of the EDA board — money that could have been saved if the Board of Supervisors had taken prompt action a year ago when Mark brought evidence of irregularities to their attention.
The entire EDA board should be fired and a new one appointed by the Board of Supervisors.

The citizens of Front Royal must not allow Code 56-3 to be changed. The law must remain on the books exactly as written.

If Carter, Murray, and Glavis do pass this change by a 3-2 vote, they must be told at Tuesday’s public hearing — in no uncertain terms — that a rising groundswell of opposition to the corruption of the EDA board will spare no effort to vote them out of office at the first opportunity — and Change 56-3 back to what it was!

Pass the word to family and friends to come to the public hearing and sign up to speak on Mark’s behalf. Get there early to sign up. Speakers talk in the order in which they sign up. Each speaker will be given three minutes to talk.

There are four public hearings on the 22nd. Make sure you sign up for the correct one.

Let’s pack the meeting room at the County Government Building at 7 p.m. on the 22nd with Mark Egger supporters!

P.S. For those of you who want to see and hear Mark speak before the Board of Supervisors in February, May, and November 2018, here are videos of all three appearances:

November 20, 2018

May 1, 2018

February 20, 2018

John Lundberg is a citizen of Warren County.

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Opinion

Move Over Law: Drive safely to protect first-responders and highway workers

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The families of three firefighters were forever changed on the night of October 11, 2018 when a tractor-trailer crashed into the back of a Hanover County firetruck on Interstate 295. Lt. Brad Clark’s family is reminded daily of his tragic death. Our prayers and thoughts go out to them as they prepare to spend their first Christmas without him. We wish the two firefighters who survived the crash strength and wellbeing as they continue their journeys of recovery. That incident occurred during the heavy rains of Tropical Storm Michael.

Record December snowfall Dec. 9, 2018 led to at least four Virginia State Police troopers being struck by skidding vehicles in a 12-hour period on slick interstates in Central and Southwest Virginia. Thankfully the troopers’ injuries were only minor and the other drivers remained safe.

For the men and women whose “office” is the highway, these incidents are not limited to major weather events. Close calls, injury and death are a daily risk to every state and local law enforcement officer, firefighter, EMS worker, highway maintenance employee, and tow truck operator working across the Commonwealth. Even the arrow boards, crash cushions and barrels in a highway work zone are not enough to guarantee one’s safety. In February of this year, a Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) contract employee was struck and killed in an active work zone on Interstate 95 in Prince George County by a distracted driver. Another family we remember during the holiday season.

At the beginning of this month, Governor Northam issued a directive to establish the Executive Leadership Team on Highway Safety. The mission of this collaboration among the Virginia departments of Education, Health, Motor Vehicles, State Police and Transportation and traffic safety advocates is to reduce the rising number of fatalities on Virginia’s roadways. The directive is to save more lives through the advancement of education, engineering and enforcement relative to traffic safety. Those most committed to achieving such objectives are the very ones most at risk or harm for the purpose of saving others.

Like all 50 states, Virginia has what is called a “Move Over” law. It’s a state law designed to protect those working alongside the highways by requiring motorists to move a lane away from vehicles stopped on the side of a road with flashing red, blue or amber lights. If unable to move over, then the Code of Virginia requires a driver to pass such vehicles “cautiously”. Simple as this concept may be, those few extra feet can mean the difference between life and death. Yet across the nation traffic incidents continue to be the leading cause of death for law enforcement and highway maintenance workers; and the second leading cause for firefighter deaths in the nation.

There are a number of special days and weeks designated to recognize these professionals and their work. April has National Work Zone Awareness Week. June is designated in Virginia as “Move Over Month.” There are efforts underway to designate a National Tow Truck Operator Week in September. In October, Virginia has special days designated to recognize firefighters for their service and sacrifice. Our firefighters, state troopers, police officers, sheriff’s deputies, highway maintenance workers and tow truck operators – spend every day on our highways working to serve and protect the motoring public. They are dependent on every driver observing the Move Over law every day and not just some of the time.

The first priority of a police officer is to go home to his or her family at the end of the shift. This applies to all those working alongside a Virginia highway in a vehicle with red, blue, or amber lights. It is time for Virginians to take a serious step forward to help save the lives of those who have chosen a career to look out for and save ours.

Virginia Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine
Virginia Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran

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Opinion

Elections Matter?

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Last week, the Stephens City Town Council appeared to take a page from the GOP playbook when they decided to confiscate powers from the newly elected mayor, Michael Diaz. The Council voted to remove powers given to the Mayor by the town charter and transfer them to the town manager.

Mr. Diaz was elected in November to the mayoral position, but the Town Council took it upon themselves to strip the new Mayor of supervisory duties and relegate his role to being “consulted for general advice.”

This unfortunate notion that one party believes their views so correct that they justify usurping the public’s will expressed by voters seems to reflect the Republican view that has seized power in other instances across the country. Apparently, patriotism does not extend to voter representation when it conflicts with the Republican right to rule.

Steve Foreman
Chair, Warren County Democratic Committee

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Opinion

What Christmas is all about: “We cannot go to Him; He had to come to us”

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Wonderful? Marvelous? Glorious? What words could adequately describe the experience of yet another Christmas?

Yes, Christmas, the celebration of His birth. Whose birth? God’s birth! God incarnate, the God-Man!

Yes, the God of the Bible, the One and only God who created all that exists, including creating and breathing life into man.

Yes, the only and very God who walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden Of Eden! The Scriptures speak of Him as the One “whose going forth are from of old, from everlasting.”

But why? His own great love and nature compelled Him to do so, for mankind had fallen into sin and was lost and separated from Him. The result was that death came upon all men, not only physically but spiritually as well.

For scripture says man became a living soul, and the soul that sins will die. Further, it says “there is none that sinneth not, no, not one.”

Thus, being/having a soul, we are all lost and without hope of living and escaping death. Perishing is where we find ourselves. Our situation: we cannot remove the stain of sin and thus perfect ourselves before God and His law. We cannot find Him. He has to find us.

Further, being temporal, physical beings we are unable to approach Him, and, however earnest and pure in thought, plead our case to Him.

We do not have such standing before His holy, righteous and majestic throne. Simply put, WE CANNOT GO TO HIM. Simply put again, HE HAD TO COME TO US!

And that is what Christmas is all about. He saw that mankind needed deliverance; hence, a Saviour, a Redeemer. God delivered! And because of the babe in the manger, I and all others who accept Him can shout with the hymnal writer, who, in speaking to our physical deaths, says; “….this robe of flesh I’ll drop and rise to seize the everlasting prize!”

God’s gift is eternal life, never to die. Death has been swallowed up in victory!

Rev. Jess Shifflett
Front Royal, VA

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Opinion

Jesus, Miracle Worker

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Seeing the words, “I make beer disappear” on a man’s shirt, I asked him if he worked miracles since he was able to make beer disappear, and he replied that all he did was put it in his tummy and his tummy did the rest.

Miracles? I immediately thought about Jesus, the greatest miracle worker of all the ages. It was, however, about water, not beer. Not only did he make it disappear, he turned it into wine!

Jesus said that he was doing things that no man had ever done before, which helps people understand that he was saying that he was God; saying “If you can’t believe my words, believe for my works’ sake!”

As God, Jesus could say, “I am the light of the world, and he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” And further, that he would lay down his life for his sheep; indicating the path he would take in order to bestow eternal life to his sheep.

Being God, Jesus could ask when healing the man with palsy, “Which is easier to say, your sins be forgiven you, or take up your bed and walk?” The Jews had just remarked that God alone can forgive sins. Well, only God could do either one! Jesus said further that he said what he did in order that “…you might know that the Son of Man has the power on earth to forgive sin,” saying, in effect, I am God!

But how could God give his life for mankind; who, having spurned his love in the Garden Of Eden, continues to reject him to serve other Gods? Well, God says it’s not about us (who are as filthy rags in his sight; therefore, nothing to love) but all about him. For he said; “I am God and not man!” So in his perfect love he loves us IN SPITE OF our sinfulness and unworthiness. So, can you possibly fathom that God; yes,  Almighty God, the Heavenly Father, in order to “win back” his lost love, came “courting” to regain what was lost to him? Remember that the Scriptures say, “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son.” Truly, he must be saying, “Be Mine!” Believe and follow me and I will give you the water of life and you will never thirst again; and the bread of life and you will never be hungry again; and not only will you never die, I will never leave you nor forsake you!

It’s been said that to love someone you must get to know them. Well, Jesus knows us through and through because he created us! Could it be then, that he doesn’t love us as we are but for what we have the potential to become as the result of the workings of a wondrous miracle of God; or more pointedly, from “the touch of the Master’s hand?”

Rev. Jess Shifflett
Front Royal, VA

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Opinion

Veteran: Jennifer Lewis will protect health care for those with pre-existing conditions

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To the Editor:

I have been fortunate to count so many veterans as friends and family. As a veteran myself, I am familiar with the many sacrifices these men and women make for our country. I never experience combat myself, but I know some veterans who have and some still carry those scars with them suffering from PTSD or struggling with substance abuse. This issue got my attention recently with a shocking statistic. The Iraq and Afghanistan wars have resulted in nearly 6,000 combat deaths of our service members. In that same period over 200,000 veterans have committed suicide, twice the rate of non-veterans.

On November 6th we go to the polls to pick our leaders in Congress. Leaders who will decide the future of health care, including mental health care, in this country. In the 6th district, one candidate wants to eliminate health care coverage for 20 million Americans and strip us of protections for pre-existent conditions, including PTSD. His opponent is a mental health care worker who has promised to expand access to health care for all and to protect health care for those with pre-existent conditions. That candidate is Jennifer Lewis.

Jorge Amselle
Front Royal, VA 
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