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Martin Luther King Jr.’s enduring legacy: ‘Beyond Vietnam’



(Photos/Public Domain)

It is 50 years beyond 1968, and today on April 4, 2018 it is EXACTLY 50 years beyond the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.  While I prefer to reflect on the life and legacy of Dr. King on the anniversary of his birth, this year because of reaching the half century mark I will do it on this anniversary of his violent death.

Sometimes words remain appropriate, not only for the era in which they are spoken, but for multiple eras, and perhaps for the length of humanity’s struggle to overcome the worst aspects of our collective nature – greed, avarice, hypocrisy, racial, ethnic and religious hatred and the bondage of others to forward one’s own self interests – in other words, as long as humankind walks the earth.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s words of April 4, 1967 now known as his “Beyond Vietnam” speech are such words.  They illustrate the depth of Dr. King’s comprehension that Civil Rights are the struggle of more than one race in one nation at one point in history.

These words, spoken exactly one year to the day before his assassination, are why some pause periodically to remember and celebrate his life; while others are simply reminded of why he was and continues to be so hated by others.

While specific places, ideologies and circumstances may have changed, the underlying themes are a constant in the conduct of both our personal and national lives.  To ignore Dr. King’s words of 51 years ago is to – well, I fear collectively we HAVE and look at where we find ourselves today as a nation and a people: bitter, fearful – all too often of the wrong things, the wrong people – and divided; with that division fed daily by the angry, “alternate fact”-fed rhetoric emanating from someone I would imagine has never reflected on the words below offered to all of us for yesterday, today and tomorrow as a challenge of our spiritual and social depth. Due to the speech’s length, some introductory comments and other details on the Vietnam era have been edited out – deletions are indicated by (…) – and some points have been emphasized with bold highlights.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

‘Beyond Vietnam’

I come to this great magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join you in this meeting because I am in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization that brought us together, Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam. The recent statements of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart, and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” … The truth of these words is beyond doubt, but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one …

Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world … Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak.  And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation’s history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history … For we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us

“Why are you speaking about the war, Dr. King?” “Why are you joining the voices of dissent?” “Peace and civil rights don’t mix,” they say. “Aren’t you hurting the cause of your people,” they ask?

And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live …

Since I am a preacher by calling, I suppose it is not surprising that I have seven major reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field of my moral vision. There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I and others have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor, both black and white, through the Poverty Program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam, and I watched this program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything on a society gone mad on war. And I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic, destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such …

My third reason moves to an even deeper level of awareness, for it grows out of my experience in the ghettos of the North over the last three years, especially the last three summers. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected, and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked, and rightly so, “What about Vietnam?” They asked if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today – my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent …

Now it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read “Vietnam.” It can never be saved so long as it destroys the hopes of men the world over. So it is that those of us who are yet determined that “America will be” are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land.

As if the weight of such a commitment to the life and health of America were not enough, another burden of responsibility was placed upon me in 1964. And I cannot forget that the Nobel Peace Prize was also a commission, a commission to work harder than I had ever worked before for the brotherhood of man. This is a calling that takes me beyond national allegiances.

But even if it were not present, I would yet have to live with the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. To me, the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I am speaking against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the Good News was meant for all men – for communist and capitalist, for their children and ours, for black and for white, for revolutionary and conservative? Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the one who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them? What then can I say to the Vietcong or to Castro or to Mao as a faithful minister of this one? Can I threaten them with death or must I not share with them my life?

… Finally, as I try to explain for you and for myself the road that leads from Montgomery to this place, I would have offered all that was most valid if I simply said that I must be true to my conviction that I share with all men the calling to be a son of the living God. Beyond the calling of race or nation or creed is this vocation of son-ship and brotherhood. Because I believe that the Father is deeply concerned, especially for His suffering and helpless and outcast children, I come tonight to speak for them. This I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation’s self-defined goals and positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation, for those it calls “enemy,” for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers.

And as I ponder the madness of Vietnam and search within myself for ways to understand and respond in compassion, my mind goes constantly to the people of that peninsula … They must see Americans as strange liberators  … We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the village. We have destroyed their land and their crops … Now there is little left to build on, save bitterness … They question our political goals and they deny the reality of a peace settlement from which they will be excluded. Their questions are frighteningly relevant. Is our nation planning to build on political myth again, and then shore it up upon the power of new violence?

… At this point I should make it clear that while I have tried in these last few minutes to give a voice to the voiceless in Vietnam and to understand the arguments of those who are called “enemy,” I am as deeply concerned about our own troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved … and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy and the secure, while we create a hell for the poor.

Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now.

I speak as a child of God … I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as one who loves America, to the leaders of our own nation: The great initiative in this war is ours; the initiative to stop it must be ours.

This is the message of the great Buddhist leaders of Vietnam. Recently one of them wrote these words, and I quote: “Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the heart of the Vietnamese and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. The Americans are forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom, and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism.”

The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit … and if we ignore this sobering reality, we will find ourselves organizing “clergy and laymen concerned” committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about … Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end, unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy.

And so, such thoughts take us beyond Vietnam, but not beyond our calling as sons of the living God. In 1957, a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution … It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments.

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin … the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, “This is not just.”

It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say, “This is not just.”

The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them, is not just … America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing except a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering our priorities so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood …

We must not engage in a negative anti-communism, but rather in a positive thrust for democracy, realizing that our greatest defense against communism is to take offensive action in behalf of justice … It is a sad fact that because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries … A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies … This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all mankind … When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response … I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality … This Hindu-Muslim-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John: “Let us love one another, for love is God” …

We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late … Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words, “Too late.”

There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. Omar Khayyam is right: “The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on.”  We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace … and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors.  If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight … Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world …

As that noble bard of yesterday, James Russell Lowell, eloquently stated:

Once to every man and nation comes a moment do decide,
In the strife of truth and Falsehood, for the good or evil side;
Some great cause, God’s new Messiah offering each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever ‘twixt that darkness and that light.

Though the cause of evil prosper, yet ‘tis truth alone is strong
Though her portions be the scaffold, and upon the throne be wrong
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.

And if we will only make the right choice, we will be able to transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of peace. If we will make the right choice, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our world into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. If we will but make the right choice, we will be able to speed up the day, all over America and all over the world, when justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.

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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.

Matthew Shaffer
Winchester, VA

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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.

M. Bancroft
Linden, VA

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Remembering and mourning our foreign partners on Memorial Day



Vietnam Memorial on Memorial Day. Deliberately setting aside the controversies of the war, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial honors the men and women who served when their Nation called upon them. The designer, Maya Lin, felt that politics had eclipsed the veterans, their service, and their lives. She kept the design elegantly simple to allow everyone to respond and remember.


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

Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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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
Linden, VA

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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
Front Royal

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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
Front Royal

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