I waited a day before commenting at length about the recent tragedy at my alma mater, Bridgewater College, in order to pray and gather my thoughts. There were several reasons for this, but none more prevalent than my desire to ensure that what I had to share would be measured, meaningful, and most of all, from a place of healing rather than pain. So here goes…
Tragedy and trauma are intrinsically linked; the former births the latter. As I watched the news footage of the situation unfolding, scrambling to social media for additional info, it was trauma that I felt. Now, keep in mind that it’s been two decades since I was a BC student and much has changed. Driving through the campus last year I was struck by how built up it had become, practically unrecognizable from my time there. But I noticed one thing that did remain the same, all these years later: Flory Hall.
In addition to the President’s and Academic Dean’s Offices, Flory Hall houses the Departments of History, Political Science, Foreign Language, and Education. As a History/PolSci/French Major with teaching certifications for my undergrad, I pretty much spent 90% of my college experience in that building. To quote Dickens, “I could walk it blindfolded.” So when I watched the WHSV reporter give updates with my beloved stomping ground as his backdrop, police presence and yellow caution tape littering the storied landscape, I quite literally hurt.
Yes, I hurt for the students, faculty, and staff facing this ordeal (at that point, we did not yet know about the shooting and subsequent deaths of the two campus police officers) and for their families who were desperate for information on their loved ones’ safety. But, perhaps selfishly, I hurt for myself and those who came before. For those of us who walked those sidewalks without fear or care in the world. And for those who will walk those same paths in the future, robbed of the safety and security I took for granted.
I was hit by a wave of memories of my friends, some of whom have passed in the intervening years, and the good times we shared. I was reminded of 9/11 and trying to process that within those very walls. I thought of being the last teaching assistant to leave the building before Christmas break, enjoying the calm of an empty school building and the peaceful glow of a beautifully decorated Christmas tree as I walked out into the cold, dark December night. I recalled the smell of the chalk dust that filled the classrooms that as yet were still unconverted to the more modern marker and smart boards that no doubt are in their place today. I hurt for what felt like the violation of a place that, for four years, was not just my site of learning, but my home. In so many ways, I grew up there.
With the news of the death of Officers J.J. Jefferson and John Painter, and the critical role they played in protecting the campus inhabitants, my hurt turned, temporarily, to anger. More than that, it was rage. Hence my need to delay public comment, as nothing good comes out of giving voice to unbridled, raw rage.
So I went to sleep the night of February 1 asking the Lord to direct my thoughts to how He sees this situation and what He would have me tell people.
I awoke the following morning with the song, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” in my head and have not been able to shake it since. Based on the Longfellow poem, it recounts his inner turmoil processing the considerable trauma of the Civil War (and those traumas within his own life) with his innate belief that God is good and is our hope and future. As I pondered the words, singing them to myself as I went about my morning routine, I found my disposition changing, softening. Sure, I was still angry, frustrated, and hurting for all those involved, most notably the families of the slain heroes. But the rage was gone, replaced by the incomparable peace and joy that passes all understanding.
It may seem bleak. The darkness may seem so very invincible. But as Longfellow discovered, “Then pealed the bells more loud and deep, ‘God is not dead, nor doth He sleep. The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, good will to men.’”
Good will. Pass it on.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And in despair I bowed my head;
‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said;
For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
‘God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.’
Dr. Matthew B. Pandel is a mental health consultant, theologian, and educator. He resides in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley with his wife, Carolyn.
Choosing common-sense over partisanship: Why Timmy French deserves your vote
A vote for Timmy French is a vote for common sense politics and a vote for the hard-working people of the Shenandoah Valley.
In a country increasingly dominated by polarizing politics and candidates pandering to the extreme fringes, Timmy is running to represent reasonable people like you and me. I will tell you what Timmy is not: he is not a career politician; he is not a lawyer; and he is not a zealot. He is the father of three upstanding young men, owns and operates a small business, and is driven to represent the similarly dedicated, conservative citizens of our beautiful region.
Timmy is the youngest of 9 children (all of whom still live in the Valley) and runs a dairy and cattle operation with two of his brothers. His business experience and common-sense decision-making are the fundamental reasons I support Timmy’s campaign. He is determined to find solutions, not to create partisan discord that never produces meaningful results.
In a short three months, Timmy’s campaign has gathered tremendous support across a broad swath of District 1, including donations from more than 300 individuals and businesses. This is a genuine grassroots campaign that represents a diverse cross-section of our community. No other candidate has earned more individual donations or support from so many varied backgrounds, including teachers, police officers, farmers, small business owners, firefighters, government employees, and retirees. In fact, several other campaigns only have donations from a handful of family members or, even more deceptively, have loaned their campaign large sums of their own money. No gimmicks here. Timmy French’s common sense, community-driven campaign speaks for itself.
As the June 20 primary approaches, please consider which candidate will best represent you in Richmond: a deeply partisan career politician or a common-sense farmer driven to produce results over politics. As a father of three, a small business owner, and a U.S. Navy veteran, I take the right to vote very seriously and ask that you join me in casting your ballot for Timmy French.
Countering views on LGBT-themed books in Samuels Public Library
I recently came across Richard Hoover’s response to Paul Miller’s Letter to the Editor regarding book selection at Samuels Public Library. Mr. Hoover expressed concerns about the inclusion of LGBT-themed books, and I would like to offer a different perspective on this issue.
It is important to recognize that public libraries, including Samuels Public Library, have the autonomy to decide which materials to include or exclude. The responsibility for making these decisions lies with the library staff, directors, and boards, who determine what is appropriate for their community. Local libraries have a duty to curate their collections based on the needs and interests of all of their patrons.
Mr. Hoover mentioned the concerns of Warren County taxpayers who believe that children should not be exposed to LGBTQ materials. He expressed worries about such materials encouraging homosexuality. However, it is crucial to understand that sexual orientation and gender identification is a natural aspects of human diversity, and access to information about different identities does not promote or encourage any specific orientation. Public libraries serve a wide community and work to provide a large range of materials that meet the needs and interests of everyone. I would suggest that most of our neighbors value inclusivity and recognize that access to diverse perspectives fosters tolerance, acceptance, understanding, and empathy.
Regarding Mr. Hoover’s reference to the Judeo-Christian principles upon which our country was founded, it is essential to remember the value placed on the separation of church and state in the United States. While religious beliefs should be respected, public institutions like libraries should remain neutral and cater to the diverse beliefs and values within the community. Additionally, interpretations of religious texts can vary, and not all individuals share the same perspective on matters related to sexuality and identity.
Public libraries strive to balance the diverse needs and interests of their community members while upholding the principles of intellectual freedom and inclusivity. By engaging in open dialogue and respectful discussions, we can foster a harmonious society that respects the rights and perspectives of all individuals.
I appreciate Mr. Hoover for expressing his concerns, and I hope this response offers him a different perspective on the matter.
Remembering and mourning our foreign partners on Memorial Day
Beginning with the Revolutionary War, almost 1.4 million Americans have died in our nation’s wars, including about 667,000 killed in combat. We remember, honor, and mourn those gallant souls every year on Memorial Day – May 29 this year. Those Americans who have served in or near war zones carry their memories throughout the year. It should not be just a once-a-year observance for everyone else.
The country’s more recent conflicts, starting with Vietnam, have seen a blurring of the battle lines, where American service personnel have teamed up with local forces to fight a common enemy. For those who have worked hand-in-hand with local forces – South Vietnamese, Iraqis, or Afghans – it is hard to forget those local troops who died for the common cause. Although our Memorial Day is for a commemoration of our war dead, I think it would also be appropriate to honor those foreign partners on this special day.
For most of my tour in Vietnam, I lived and worked beside South Vietnamese soldiers (ARVNs), mostly Roman Catholics or members of the Cao Dai Church. As human beings, they had the same hopes and aspirations as most Americans. I trusted them with my life, and I believe most of them felt the same. I can’t think of America’s fallen without thinking of them. Almost 300,000 ARVNs died in the war, and we left many more of them to a horrible fate. They deserve remembrance and respect. I know that many Americans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan feel the same about their foreign partners. When you form trusting bonds in wartime, it is hard to break them.
Although our bonds with the people of Ukraine are at a different level, where we are mostly non-combat partners providing moral support and weaponry from the sidelines, I have that same feeling about those valiant humans. The Ukrainians are fighting and dying in a war that serves the vital national interests of the United States and NATO, as well as our allies on the other side of the planet. Ukraine is the proverbial point of the spear that protects freedom and democracy from the despotic regimes in Russia, China, and Iran.
If we allow Russia to prevail, it will give great encouragement to the autocrats, quite possibly leading to a spread of hostilities to Taiwan and any number of Asian, African, and South American nations in the sights of Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping.
Although I rarely find issues upon which I totally agree with U.S. Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, Ukraine is one such issue – an exceedingly important one. The senator realizes that it is essential to America’s strategic interests that Ukraine prevail in Putin’s genocidal war. I agree with his view that the U.S. needs to increase and expedite the supply of war materiel to Ukraine. Sen. Risch has observed that “the Ukrainians are fighting today for what our founding fathers fought for in 1776.”
Incidentally, that observation was made when the senator recently recalled his meeting in Ukraine with a former Green Beret from Boise, Nick Maimer, who had been volunteering to train Ukrainian civilians on how to defend their country. Maimer was reported to have been killed by Russian artillery fire earlier this month. God rest his soul. He joins thousands of Ukrainians who have died in the fight.
Ukraine has reportedly suffered 124,500-131,000 total casualties, including 15,500-17,500 killed in action and 109,000-113,500 wounded. Because their fight is largely our fight, it would be most appropriate to remember and mourn them, along with our war dead and our foreign partners who died in supporting American troops. On Memorial Day, I’ll be remembering my 58,220 brothers and sisters who died serving their country in Vietnam. I’ll also be thinking of Lieutenants Dinh and Tanh, Captain Thanh and interpreter Tom, who were with us all the way until we abandoned them to their ugly fate in 1975.
By Jim Jones
Jim Jones served as Idaho attorney general for eight years (1983-1991) and as a justice of the Idaho Supreme Court for 12 years (2005-2017). He also served in the Vietnam War. His weekly columns are collected at JJCommonTater.com.
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Does removing LGBTQ books from libraries undermine First Amendment Rights?
I write in response to letters by Mr. Richard Hoover (May 27th) and Mr. Paul Miller (May 18th) concerning the proposal to remove LGBTQ-themed books from Samuels Public Library. Mr. Hoover contends that removing such material aligns with the principle of free speech and the values of our community. I humbly beg to differ. I feel it is essential to shedding light on the significance of literature in building empathetic societies and the importance of upholding the inclusive ethos our public libraries are meant to embody.
To begin with, Mr. Hoover’s assertion that the First Amendment has no bearing on local libraries is fundamentally mistaken. Public libraries, while administered by local officials, are still public institutions meant to facilitate the free exchange of ideas. The First Amendment is not a mere technicality prohibiting Congress from stifling the press or individuals; it is a principle that symbolizes our commitment to intellectual freedom, open discourse, and diversity of thought.
As for Mr. Hoover’s argument about the community’s wish to exclude certain materials, we must remember that, as Mr. Miller pointed out, a community is composed of diverse individuals with varied beliefs, cultures, and experiences. Yes, it’s true that some community members may disapprove of LGBTQ themes, but it’s equally true that there are many who understand, support, and even belong to the LGBTQ community. They are taxpayers, too, and have an equal right to see their experiences reflected in the library’s collection.
To suggest that exposure to LGBTQ themes might “encourage” children in a particular direction also oversimplifies human sexuality and identity. Education about diverse identities and experiences doesn’t “turn” children; it equips them with knowledge, understanding, and empathy. Fear of the unknown breeds prejudice; understanding and familiarity breed acceptance.
As for Mr. Hoover’s puzzling speculation that Mr. Miller might next advocate for a “Drag Queen Story Hour,” I have carefully read Mr. Miller’s letter (twice), and he never suggests anything of the kind. Having said that, it is crucial to remember that such events aim to foster acceptance and understanding and are typically voluntary. In the event that such a program was introduced at any library in our area, those who felt uncomfortable with the premise would be under no obligation to participate.
In conclusion, the aim of any public library is to represent and cater to the diversity of the community it serves. It is neither a battleground for ideological domination nor a platform for promoting a singular worldview. We cannot presume to shield children from understanding the diversity inherent in human existence; instead, we must equip them with the intellectual tools to navigate this diversity with empathy, understanding, and respect.
L. K. Henderson
Reader challenges library’s inclusion of LGBT-themed books citing community and religious concerns
I take exception to the May 25th commentary by Mr. Paul Miller labeling the exclusion of LGBT-themed books from Samuels Public Library a violation of the First (“Free Speech”)Amendment of the Constitution. The First Amendment prohibits Congress from restricting the right of the press and of individuals to write and speak freely. That has nothing to do with local public libraries where making decisions to exclude or include books is the right of library staff, directors, and boards. In Warren County, I only hope that SPL officials are listening to the insistence of Warren County taxpayers that children not be exposed to LGBTQ materials.
True, as both Mr. Miller and the SPL’s Strategic Plan point out: “Every effort will be made to (ensure) that a diverse range of materials is available to meet the needs and interest of everyone in the community.” Nevertheless, that hardly diminishes the legitimacy of present community demands to exclude unsuitable materials for the sake of children. After all, we are a country founded on Judeo-Christian principles, and both Testaments, Old, and New, explicitly condemn homosexuality as an abomination and, therefore, ungodly. It is not likely to find parents who would have their children exposed to material that could encourage them in that direction. Most parents, not a “small fringe of homophobic individuals” (per Mr. Miller), will vote and fight to ensure that this does not happen. Mr. Miller’s admonition that we “learn to live peacefully within a pluralistic society” hardly counts when an aggressive element of that mix is not content to remain as it is but works to take down the rest of that society, starting with its children, in order to promote its values and practices.
What next? I do not know what decisions the SPL will make about books but, quoting from his letter, I would ask Mr. Miller what he and his “LGBTQ community” would like to see coming next to Samuels. Might that be something to accentuate the “diversity of the community,” something enabling both “the children and the adults raising them to see their families reflected (in) their local, publicly funded library?” A children’s Drag Queen Story Hour comes to mind, as recently featured by public libraries all over the country, including those in Alexandria, Richmond, and Montgomery County. Is this what Mr. Miller wants, where we are heading in Warren County?
Richard W. Hoover
Beyond politics and ideologies: The universal language of hugs
I’m a hugger. I am not ashamed to be a hugger. Hugging is good for my soul. It’s touching, heart-to-heart. You should be a hugger, too. I want everyone to be a hugger.
What is it about a hug, you ask? I say a hug is sincerity. A hug melts the safe space of two into one. A hug is consequential. Hugs talk. They say I like you (Not a perfunctory hug but the real thing.) There’s nothing better.
Keep in mind that pecks on the cheek are not hugs. I call them obligations. Hugs are more than barely touching. They are substantial contact, often cheek firmly pressed against the cheek. A hug says I mean it. If you’re going to hug, hug. Go big.
You can’t really hug someone and be angry at them at the same time. Hugging prevents conflict and settles disputes. Best of all, hugging heals old wounds. As such, hugs have medicinal properties. They’re magic.
Hugs are apolitical and cross party lines and ideology effortlessly, taking the edge off extremist views with civility sandpaper. Very important: Never force or fake a hug. The tentative nature of pretending to hug telegraphs an ulterior agenda. It’s a sin. Real hugs have no reason.
For many, hugging does not come naturally. They have to be taught, which is why novice huggers are often awkward on their first few tries because they haven’t learned that hugs are sexless.
Practice hugging with a solid friend to help you adjust. Rehearsal provides an opportunity for even more hugs, more caring, and more love for the humanity in each of us. Hugs are exercise. (Show me a hug that you can do while sitting down.) Standing up to hug someone is good for the legs. Hugs are great, aren’t they?
Though hugs appear physical in nature, they are 100% purely spiritual. The after-effects from a good hug linger, timelessly. It’s been said some hugs are still fresh 30 and 40 years later, endlessly echoing in sweet harmony.
A hug imparts a sense of belonging, bringing people together, a social event because you can’t hug yourself. As such, hugging will draw out any die-hard hermit or loner. None of us has to be lonely as long as we have one hug left. And, please, don’t wait until it may be too late. If you owe someone a hug, pay them now. The benefits of hugging are cumulative and expansive. You get out of hugging way more than you put in.
So, that’s my take on hugging. I hereby proclaim every month with an “R” in it “National Hug Month,” and those without an “R” as well.
By Jay Buckner