Essays/Opinion

Recent Articles

Fall Reflections and 2020

Opinion: There’s no denying that fall is upon us in the four states area.  We are seeing colder days, Halloween has passed, trees are changing colors, and leaves are gently floating down to the ground.  Fall seems to mark the end of each year as the leaves start dancing through the air outside my office window, a reminder that the end of the year is almost here. 

From this point forward we will celebrate holidays, eat, shop, and for many of us, we will try to pretend that 2020 has never happened.  Some of us have lost loved ones, friends, and co-workers this year.  We have watched as politicians argue, debate, and try to find some happy balance between shutting society down and opening it up.  We have debated masks, political agendas, and even argued over how real or unreal this pandemic is or is not. 

2020 was a unique year to say the least.  We started off with rumors of war quickly escalating to talk of another world war.  We watched as Congressional leaders tried to impeach a President and a pandemic raced around the globe. Many of us shut ourselves away at home while “essential” workers carried on the day-to-day task of keeping society moving.  We faced riots, demonstrations, and chaos in some of the cities around the world.  We watched as a global economy suffered the effects of the “Stay at home” cry, and we marveled to some extent as pollution levels dropped across the states, perhaps a cry of relief from mother nature as our pollution output slowed.  Finally, many of us watched as a loved one, friend, or stranger struggled for air, gasping as a ventilator tried desperately to keep the life-giving oxygen flowing.  In some cases, with no rhyme or reason, the COVID patient survived or barely showed symptoms.  In other cases, as our hearts were torn and ripped from us, we watched as COVID destroyed life.  2020 has been unique is perhaps an understatement. 

As we close out 2020, political disarray is still the line for mainstream media, social media is still rolling with rumors, lies, truths, and perhaps half-truths at times.  We seem to be divided, first as a world and second as a nation.  At a time when COVID should have forced us to come together, join one another, and fight against the common enemy of a disease…many of us chose to focus on our masks, our rights, our feelings.  Was it self-centered?  I really don’t know.  History will have to look back and judge how we handled the pandemic.    All I do know is that 2020 will come to an end and 2021 will roll in on January 1.  Maybe in these last days of the year, we should all take time to reflect, maybe reconnect with a political enemy or simply talk to our neighbors.  If just a few people will reach out in our communities with a smile, a positive word, maybe a helping hand we can all be reminded that we are bigger than 2020.  We will have 2021 and that is something in itself to be thankful for as we move onward. 

So watch the leaves fall, enjoy the colors,  and look into your own heart.  Is there a way you can help make 2021 better?  Maybe, in the end, it’s all a matter of how we approach each day, each person, and each situation we come across.  Maybe it does boil down to you, and me, deciding it’s going to be better, and then we can all work together to  make it so much brighter each day. Continue Reading →

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Reflecting on Veteran’s Day

Veterans for Congress PAC

Sometimes we Americans need reminders about our veterans and today is one of those reminder days.  Today, we celebrate Veteran’s Day.  It comes and goes each year and often with little fanfare or notice.  Sure, some people put out flags, others have federal holidays, and if we are in a crowd of people we recognize and thank the veterans present.  But what does being a veteran really mean? Being a veteran in its simplistic form means that a man or woman joined a branch of the United States military and served our country.  That person may have been drafted, or he or she may have decided to volunteer.  Regardless of the method of the call, that man or woman answered it.  They showed up, signed up, and completed some physical exams.  From there they were sworn into the service and given a date for basic training. 

Imagine being a young person, perhaps 18 or 19, and deciding to leave home.  Just yesterday you were playing football for the local high school team or cheering them onward.  You were in classes with friends.  You celebrated Christmas and Thanksgiving with your family.  Your mother was likely still cooking your dinner and maybe even washing your clothing.  Now, on the day you prepare to leave for basic, you are going into an unknown world.  You are leaving home no longer a child, but an adult with adult responsibilities. 

In a few short hours you will be prepared, given new clothing, and most likely introduced to someone way more demanding than your school teachers ever thought about being.  You will be in rooms filled with others following the same footsteps.   You will train, you will learn, and then you will train some more.  Just when you think the physical and mental training is complete, someone will have the bright idea that you need to be pushed just a little more.  So, you will be pushed.  Finally when all that training is done, you will be ready to serve…somewhere. You may find yourself on a ship in the middle of the ocean, or a remote outpost secluded by woods, snow, or even sand.  You will have time off, but not really since you are almost on call twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.  After all, our military has to be ready for anything. 

You will sign up for exotic places to serve like Japan or Hawaii and you will end up serving somewhere like Afghanistan.  You will just get used to the language, the people, and make new friends when the military will decide you need to go somewhere else. 

If you have a family, you will drag them around the world as you move.  One day you may be in Germany and then next day you may find yourself back in the states.  You will put in for the transfers you want, and accept the transfers you get.  If you are lucky, the only time you will fire a weapon will be for practice.  If you are unlucky, then your country will call you to fire that weapon in the name of freedom at people you have never met or known. 

Then, for some maybe as fast as it started, you will come home.  There will be changes to your hometown.  You will not recognize the football team anymore, the city will have grown or maybe faded.  Your mother will be older and your father will be slower.  For a time, you will feel like you missed so much.  Whether you are serving for two years, four years, or twenty, you will come back a different man or woman to a different home. 

At first you may not realize it, but you are a veteran now.  There have been times that being a veteran meant you were called “baby-killers” and other horrible names, but to those of us that recognize the sacrifice of youth, years, and time, you will be honored as a veteran. 

The title veteran does not come easy…it is earned.  It is earned from the moment the boy or girl takes an oath to serve to the moment a man or woman steps out of the service.  The veteran gives a part of themselves…they give a part of their lives to this nation.  The veteran has given so that the flag will still fly over this land.  The veteran has given so that the Constitution and the Bill of Rights will still matter to each American.  The veteran has given not for glory or for statues and great honors…no, the veteran has given for you and me. 

Today we honor those veterans who have given so much to this country.  We will put out our flags, smile, clap for them, honor them, and thank them for their service.  Tomorrow the flags will be put away, the “Thank You” post will stop on social media, and life will return as normal.  Today is our reminder day.  But tomorrow we need to keep in mind that the veteran is still here.  In a society that seeks heroes daily, it’s nice to know that the American hero known as the veteran can always be found among us throughout the year and not just on one special day.  
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Halloween 2020

Halloween 2020 presents the need for something different in the midst of a global pandemic

Willard Library

Halloween is almost here, and the only thing certain this year is that it is once again that “Spooky” time of the year.  October brings the time of the year when adults dress up to attend parties, teens tell ghost stories and visit haunted locations, and little ones seek that bag of candy, usually enough to last into the new year.  This year will likely be different.  With social distancing, masks, and pandemic concerns, nobody seems to have a plan for Halloween.  There is a good chance that many people will skip the “Trick or Treat” rounds this year and settle for some fun at home, a scary show, a small gathering with close friends, or maybe even a ghost hunt.   

If your family decides to skip the “Trick or Treat” rounds, you can still have a fantastic Halloween at home or abroad.  There are still small haunted houses and small ghost tours which can offer social distancing and safe interactions. If you decide to stay home, there are plenty of television shows for adults and children alike.  Naturally, the Internet offers a world of ghosts and goblins, all just waiting for you to complete a hunt online! Perhaps one of the first online ghost monitoring sites to arrive came way back in 1993 and not from the four states area.  An old library in Evansville, Indiana, put up some of the first “Ghost Cams” throughout their building.  For years, stories had been around when the city paper decided to embark on the unique idea of having ghost cams for the world to view located at the Willard Library. Willard Library was well over one hundred years old when the first ghost cam was installed.  The Evansville Courier and Press placed the cameras and ran the feed on their online page.  The newspaper quickly received several “sightings” worldwide as ghost watchers zipped over to the sight to watch.  In a short amount of time, the hits had already passed the hundred thousand mark at a time when the Internet was still just catching on with the world.  But before the Internet, the ghost had a long history of touring the old library in Indiana. Continue Reading →

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COVID-19 What Exactly Has Changed?

Opinion:  COVID19 descended on the United States like a blanket being thrown across an uncovered bed.  From New York to California, from Texas to Florida, COVID-19 leaped into our lives, disrupted our lives, and forced us to change.  The fact is, we had to change whether we accepted COVID as a threat or not.  We all modified our behaviors.  If you say you did not, then you must have had secret access to restaurants, non-essential businesses, churches, civic clubs, and other places that the rest of us knew nothing about.  You may have tried to ignore it, even said it would not affect you, but it did.  In March, daily briefings came from the White House all the way down to the local county and city governments.  Governors gave us daily updates on numbers.  Web sites went up – even the Four States News has a special page dedicated to the COVID-19 numbers – and many of us learned what working from home really meant.  Television commercials, entertainment, and even movies were all modified to support the COVID fight, support those at home, and provide encouragement during what may well be one of the darkest hours of this new decade.  March, April, May, and June all rolled by, and then suddenly, something happened.  

There are few of us that did not notice when “something happened.”  States like Texas began a “Phase One,” followed quickly by a “Phase Two” opening up.  Other states like Florida decided to open completely.  Places like New York allowed BLM gatherings, protest, and even riots to continue but then continued to condemn church gatherings, funerals, and even just yesterday broke up a Jewish Orthodox funeral.  While some areas seemed to accept that COVID was the “new normal,” other places continued to crack down and lockdown.  Nursing facilities in Arkansas are just starting to open their doors a little while nursing facilities in Texas can open, but only with strict policies, procedures, training, screenings, and even training for those who visit their loved ones.  In the meantime, the facemask signs have started to disappear from businesses, have become less enforced, and in some restaurants, the protections are completely ignored.  Sunday, National Taco Day, I went to a local restaurant to pick up an order and was surprised to see the restaurant full, no mask, and table, after table filled with people sitting next to each other.   In some areas, it seems that everything will be “back to normal” by November.  Even the schools that did not have students return in August are now discussing students returning to campus in January.  

But, the overall and burning question, continues to be since the onset of COVID-19 in the United States, “What exactly has changed?”    If we are to look at the numbers, there certainly has been a change.  We have now passed the 210,000 deaths from COVID-19 – if you believe the numbers being published.  We now have over 7 million people in the United States alone who have been infected at some point.  So, there is a change…but, in the big picture, we still have people getting the disease just like we did in March.  We still do not have a cure or a vaccine, and we are still learning new things about the disease.  Honestly, except for the numbers, nothing has changed, yet we are opening up as if everything is cured, completed, and done with COVID-19. 

I have said it before and will repeat it…the nation, the states, the cities, and the counties or parishes should never have shut down to the extent that they did.  It was a mistake that destroyed the economy, lives, businesses, and production in the country.  It did nothing – absolutely nothing – to stop COVID-19.  Sure – maybe someone could argue that it slowed it down some.  Maybe someone could argue that we would be at a million deaths now if not for the closings.  Fewer deaths and fewer infected certainly is a good thing…nobody would argue against that, but did it change anything in the long run?  If we are going to open now as if it’s cured, and over, then won’t the result of being open now, as we go into the flu season, be far worse than being open during the summer?  Will not opening everything now return us to the brink where we stood when they closed everything in March?  Sure it will.  

The bottom line is we should never have closed then, especially if we were going to open again while the crisis is still active.  Closing the country down in March was the equivalent of having a broken arm and deciding to break both your legs so you can stay home and mend your broken arm.  It was, and in my opinion, wrong.  Nothing has changed from March to now, except we have more infected and more deaths.  Because of the actions earlier, we now have conspiracy theories, those who are simply tired of the restrictions, and those who have decided it’s just not worth fighting anymore.  As a friend told me the other day in reference to perhaps a conspiracy theory, “We are over the election infection.”  No, nothing has changed except the number infected, the death totals, and our willingness to allow the government to restrict us.  Most of the evidence points to the fact that we simply delayed the spread and will now face greater numbers of infections and likely more deaths as we continue to disregard COVID because we are all tired of it. Continue Reading →

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Stewart Concludes His Gift During COVID-19 Pandemic

Sir Patrick Stewart has been reading a sonnet a day on Twitter. Sir Stewart from Twitter

Opinion: Often when the world learns of a movie star or musician from England being knighted, it takes little notice because most of these “Knights” are not given the title for heroic deeds. In most cases, these knights are given titles because of their star status and perhaps some charity work. While the world has been battling COVID-19, many of these knights have given money and support to the cause, but perhaps none of them have given as much as Sir Patrick Stewart. Yes, we are talking about “Captain Picard” from the famous series and movies in the Star Trek family, but Stewart rose above the fictional exploits of his Picard character with his actions during COVID-19. Continue Reading →

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Banned Books Week 2020

Should we even have banned books? Opinion: You may not have noticed, but this week, September 27 through October 3, is “Banned Books” week. The week is designated to celebrate our freedom to read. It is promoted by the American Library Association and Amnesty International. You may think of “Banned Books” as being a problem for other nations since we have the freedom of the press here in the United States, but banned books have a long and fruitful history here in the states too. Continue Reading →

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The 1918 Pandemic and the 2019 Pandemic

What we can learn from the two pandemics

Opinion: In 1918 a pandemic collectively known as the Spanish Flu devastated the world, much like the pandemic known as COVD-19 is doing today.  In the 1918 Pandemic, the official years are usually accepted to be 1918-1919; however, there is evidence that it lasted until late 1920.  At best, historians can say the Spanish Flu was a two-year pandemic, and at worst, they can extend it to almost three years.  The COVID-19 pandemic in our modern time is now, on a worldwide scale, at just under ten months.  If we use the Spanish Flu as a guide, then we can safely assume that we still, at minimum, have fourteen months to go, or one year two months, before we see this pandemic end.  

In reviewing the two pandemics side-by-side, it’s interesting to note some similarities between the two.  Anyone will immediately notice that the two pandemics occurred right at a hundred-year mark.   Both pandemics encompass flu-like symptoms and breathing difficulties.  Both pandemics are airborne and have traveled around the world through our transportation systems.  In 1918 the pandemic was transported by people on ships and returning from war.  In 2019 the pandemic was transported by people traveling by air.  There are several other interesting parallels between the two.  Consider the following areas which were and have been issues in both: 

Both had no known cure.Both had issues with skewed number counts – either too high or too low in some areas.Both required businesses, church groups, community groups to close by government order.Both required quarantine of the infected.Both resulted in deaths exceeding regular flu seasons.Both resulted in recommendations of face coverings to reduce transmission.Both resulted in modifications to social interactions.Both resulted in fines for failure to wear face coverings (in the U.S., $50 in 1918, $500 average for 2020)

From the 1918 Pandemic, we learned that fresh air, quarantining, face coverings, and distancing from others helped.  Ironically, those same lessons learned in 1918 are now being applied in 2020.  It’s further ironic that in 1918, there were groups called “Anti-Maskers” who believed the government’s insistence that people wear masks was a form of control.  There were also those in 1918 thinking that the numbers were wrong or inflated in death counts.  Many people during that time felt that the pandemic was overinflated by the media of the time.  

When we come to the end of the day, we can see many interesting parallels between the two pandemics.  It appears there will always be those who refuse to accept face-coverings, death count numbers, infection numbers, and the severity of the crisis.  However, on the same token, there are always pushing masks, modifying numbers of deaths, and perhaps exaggerating the facts.  History will judge, but from what is known of the 1918 Pandemic, it’s difficult to say who was right.  It’s more likely that both sides – those, let’s say pushing for mask and restrictions and those going for no mask and no restrictions are both right and wrong to a certain degree.  Hopefully, future generations will look at both sides of each pandemic and draw their logical and scientific conclusions.   However, if I was betting and there is another pandemic a hundred years, I would bet that there will still be two sides to the debate just as there is now and just as there was in 1918.  

Due to modern medicine, knowledge, and technology, we are fortunate in the current pandemic in one crucial way.  The 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic cost 50,000,000 lives worldwide in the two official years.  Right now, we just crossed the 1,000,000 mark worldwide.  This significant decrease in numbers is undoubtedly a clear indicator that we learned from the 1918 pandemic and advanced our medical and scientific approaches to handling this pandemic.  Unfortunately, with that said, the 1918 Pandemic saw 657,000 deaths in the United States.  Here in the land of the free, where we value our freedom not to wear a mask, and we love our rights, we have now crossed the 200,000 death mark at ten months into this pandemic.  If we stay true to that form, then by twenty months, we will reach 400,000.  Based on those numbers, to reach twenty-four months or the same two years accepted for the 1918 pandemic, we will likely get between 440,000 and 450,000 deaths in two years.  

While a projection of 450,000 is certainly 207,000 less than the 657,000 of 1918, it is still a staggering number.  Those who argue that we simply have a larger population now are correct; however, it is always disappointing to see some of the same disagreements from the 1918 pandemic directly affecting the 2019 pandemic.  Further, regardless of how you may feel or where your opinions may fall in the pandemic debate, a projection of 450,000 may seem like only a statistical number, but in truth, we must remember that is 450,000 U.S. lives.  Those potential 450,000 and already 200,000 lives were our friends, neighbors, business associates, and family members. 

When the count finally closes on this COVID-19 Pandemic, there will be very few of us not impacted by it in some way with a loss.  Regardless of debates and opinions over the mask or any other issue, a potential of 450,000 lives lost is the real tragedy of the 2019 COVID-19 Pandemic, which we will have to cope with for years to come. 
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The Awakening of American History Compared to American Mythology

Base of Frederick Douglass statue torn down July 4, 2020

Opinion:  Our nation has uplifted men from the founding fathers, to military leaders, to poets and politicians. We are only now admitting they are not as perfect as American Mythology would have you believe.  Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Madison, Jackson, Crockett, Bowie, Lee, Grant, Douglass, and so many other men and women make up the core of “American Mythology.”  Myths and stories have grown up around these men and women.   Some myths rose in their lifetimes, and some long after the person died.  This mythology based on Americans has become a new world mythology where these men and women seem to rise above the rest of us, and they seem untouchable.   Webster’s accepted definition of the word Mythology is “a popular belief or assumption that has grown up around someone or something.”   When we consider that the various heroes from the founding of the nation through our modern times have elevated men and women and built up popular beliefs or assumptions, we can easily see that America has its own mythology. If you studied the revolution, you will hear stories about how British bullets could not hit Washington. You understand how Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence, and Hamilton did not shoot first but shot the tree instead of Burr.  If you grew up in the south, you hear about Lee, Jackson, Forrest, and many other heroes of the south.  They would have you believe that Lee was the most brilliant military mind to live by all accounts.  In the north, Grant, Sherman, and others would seem invincible in their starch defense of the Union.  Lincoln was elevated to the most celebrated abolitionist to live.  When you look to the west, we have stories of the shootout at the OK Corel, Custer’s last stand, Geronimo, and others.   Who can forget the 1950 and 1960s coonskin cap craze where David Crocket, already a mythical character during his lifetime, would be elevated to killing a bear when he was three years old and holding back the entire Mexican army at the Alamo.  In most of these stories, the focus has been the positive, right, and heroic aspects of the men and women.   

With the age of the Internet, various “history” experts, the broad study and examination of history, we have begun to see that these mythological figures from our American history are often anything except what we were taught or led to believe.  Gradually that acceptance has led first to reports, papers, and articles indicating that “nobody” is perfect.  Dale Carnegie published the famous book “Lincoln The Unknown.”  A careful study of the Emancipation Proclamation will find that it did not free slaves in the Union.  The American Mythology has always been careful to avoid the fact that Lincoln’s in-laws owned slaves, and that five slave states were fighting for the Union.  It has also been careful to ignore that those slave states in the Union held slavery long after the Emancipation Proclamation.  To this day, the Proclamation is debated whether it was  Constitutionally legal since Lincoln had no power to change laws.  The list goes own. Continue Reading →

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The Fourth July and a Nation Tested

Flag

The other night I was watching a show. The characters were complaining about all the riots, burnings of businesses, peaceful and non-peaceful protest, the government overreach, abuse of powers, and all the significant issues affecting the United States.  For several minutes the main character went on a rant about everything that is wrong with the United States.  He talked about how we treat people, the way we have expanded, our tendency for wars, and how our leaders have been corrupt.  It all struck a chord, and for a moment, I thought I was watching a news commentary from today.  A quick check of the show’s original air date indicated it aired first in the 1970s.  The program was over forty years old, but it sounded like a newscast from today.  It served as a gentle reminder that what we face today is nothing new for the United States. The United States has always been tested.  It seems that all great nations are tested throughout their history.  From the very start, we faced tests as a small country rolling into the unclear waters of rebellion against England. We had no idea how it would turn out.  The men who met secretly and signed the Declaration of Independence knew they could be the signing their death sentences.  Many of them lost fortunes, lives, and all they had for merely signing their names to a paper that said we want to be independent.   Had they lost that war, there would be no United States, and since the winners always write history, there would be no heroes in Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, and others.    These men were not perfect.  In fact, in their times, they were very far from perfect.  We must remember that had they been faultless, they would have been excellent subjects to the crown.  They would have been loyal, trusting of the King, and they certainly never would have risen in rebellion.   

From that moment forward, the United States has been tested.  We have faced foreign invasions, the issues of slavery, reconstruction, expansion at the cost of land that belonged to others, and an inequality system that often elevates the rich over the poor.  Even during the formative years, we often forget that things like the Boston Tea Party had little to do with a “party.”  The truth is their protest turned into a riot that destroyed property as tea owned by merchants was tossed into the harbor.  While we celebrate it today for the Sons of Liberty and their finest moment working as a catalyst that eventually sparked independence, it was a riot.  

Since Independence, tests continued with world wars, conflicts, financial crisis, desegregation, racism, and so many more challenges.  No, we are not perfect, and neither are the heroes who came before us.  Most American heroes were simply men and women in the right place at the right time to take a stand or action that helped propel the United States forward. Through each test the United States has faced, we have grown and grown better from it.  Regardless of the flaws of the founding fathers, the fact is their actions secured this nation.  Tests came in the forms of horrible events toward our fellow men and beautiful moments of discovery and advancement.    Whether you like the history or not, it has been a test for the United States.  The country has risen above and grown to be better today because of the test. Continue Reading →

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The Use of “Emergency Powers” May Be Just Another Test of Control

Opinion: There has been a lot of talk about government overreach and control recently. Government overreach and control was especially seen during the three months of “shutdown” and “stay at home” orders of the pandemic. People debated, discussed, and worried that the government was exercising excessive overreach and control. Like many, I believe in some areas; officials did overreach the limits of their power. I also think those instances of overreach will need to be discussed, reviewed, and someone will have to deal with the consequences of overreach. Continue Reading →

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