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As president of the board of the Northwest Arkansas Center for Equality I am writing to call for the resignation of School Board member Clint McCance of the Midland School District in Independence County. I find his recent comments regarding the bullying of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer students and related suicides appalling. As an elected official his statements are unacceptable and are a threat to the wellbeing of students not only in his district but around the state of Arkansas.
McCance's cheering on of youth suicide and death from HIV/AIDS is an issue of public importance. In light of recent youth suicides that were influenced by bullying at schools, Mr. McCance's comments go beyond being merely insensitive. His comments are supporting bullying on the basis of sexual orientation. The Arkansas Department of Education Rules Governing the Code of Ethics for Arkansas Educators specifically identifies "engaging in harassing behavior on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, religion or disability" as unethical conduct. McCance is also perpetuating the misconception that HIV/AIDS is just a "Gay Disease." This type of ignorance puts everyone at risk particularly youth who are coming to terms with their sexual identity. The Arkansas Constitution calls for suitable public education for all the people of Arkansas. The state of Arkansas cannot possibly achieve this constitutional goal when an elected official tasked with managing education in Midland School District so cavalierly dismisses the lives of their students.
NWA Center for Equality
What an unmitigated moron Clint McCance has turned out to be. I hope the people of the Midland School District are as embarrassed of being a native Arkansan as I am, because we are all now associated with him, like it or not. At least he put Midland on the map. Maybe the school district will get an award of some sort. Imagine: "Midland, the land of Moron McCance!" Obviously you can do nothing about his elected position, therefore, he is yours and yours alone. Good luck, good buddies in Midland. You must be deeply proud.
Attention from throughout the western world is presently focused on the state of Arkansas due to the calloused, uncivilized and insensitive statements made by a school board member, amidst the reaction to the disturbing number of suicides across America due to bullying. How does someone like that ever get accepted into the sphere of influence that is compelled to be supportive and protective of young people? I don't think I need to tell you that this man's actions not only marginalize the lives lost, but they also tarnish the reputation of your state.
H. (Bart) Vincelette
My recent letter seems to have come as an almost providential forerunner to the foul, revolting comments of that outstanding Christian Arkansan, Clint McCance. This is the face of Arkansas. Stupid, semi-literate, murderous, vile, nauseating. Congratulations on your natural state.
James A. Means
In reply to your "Observer" column of Oct. 21: Either Observer's Religion 101 was woefully inadequate or his memory is faulty when espousing his views on Quakers. The column was a rather snide dig at a religious group of which there are many in Northwest Arkansas, the large majority of whom do not wear black hats, who often drink wine and beer in moderation, and could even have fun of the whoopin' and hollerin' kind that appears required by Observer to live here. And yes, perhaps some have even been known to "sin"; although, since Quakers are an open-minded and forgiving movement there are fewer things for Quakers to "sin" about. But what Quakers would find unforgivable is to denigrate those of another religious group. We, as Quakers, respect all religious groups and treat other people's religions with the respect that all deserve. It is a pity that your columnist did not feel moved to do the same.
From China with love
Recently I was gifted with a couple of nice promotional items from the City of Little Rock, a reusable shopping bag and a fluorescent light bulb. Both were emblazoned with the proud Little Rock city logo and promoted recycling and energy conservation. Then I read the labels and discovered that not only were they made in China, they were paid for with stimulus funds! True, some importer made their cut on the sale, but how sad that these stimulus funds did not go to support American products and jobs.
Has the Democrat-Gazette come up with anything worse than the possibility that House Speaker Robbie Wills might use a state-owned car to stump for congressional candidate Joyce Elliott, as alleged in an Aug. 28 editorial "Speaker and Freeloader"? The Sept. 22 editorial "A test of character" accused Sen. Elliott of slinging mud. Did she do anything worse than raise the questions about the former Karl Rove underling Tim Griffin's background that we all would like answered? The basis for the questions about his appointment as a U.S. attorney is found in the report "Professional Responsibility in the Justice Department" on the firing of eight U.S. attorneys including Bud Cummins, considered by his boss one of the finest U.S. attorneys in the country.
The lie that Mr. Cummins was lazy, if it didn't begin with Tim Griffin, was at least passed on by him. Why shouldn't the question about his role in the direct mail that was to scare or misinform the poor, minorities and the military out of voting be pressed? Even for a rabidly Republican newspaper, editorials that question Sen. Elliott's ethics while ignoring the evidence about Mr. Griffin's ethics is outrageous. Besides Tim Griffin, if anybody flunks a character test, why isn't it the Democrat-Gazette?
Where's the ethos
A recent letter to this paper is entitled "Where's the ethos?" I can only assume that the headline writer actually was satirically posing the question, not of the reader, but the writer himself. Ironically, although Mr. Means and I grew up in the same town (if even then there was considerable distance between Park Hill and Rose City) and graduated from the same college in the same year, our opinions of Arkansas and Arkansans are light years differ.
During World War II, I lived the first three years of my life in an apartment above a dry cleaners on Main Street in North Little Rock. Most people wouldn't remember the cleaners but the store next door, with its plate glass window providing a cornucopia of decorated cakes: wedding cakes of three or four tiers, white roses cascading down the layers under the watchful eyes of a tiny bride and groom atop; birthday cakes with a colorful bouquet providing a marquee for the birthday child's name. Wide-eyed children would stand on tiptoe at that window, as amazed as they might have been by a Christmas scene at the Blass store over the bridge in Little Rock.
Now I pass that window as I drive in from the suburbs on Sunday evenings to attend a worship service on Main Street. Like many other cities, North Little Rock is a part of a vigorous urban renewal, and this area is being reclaimed by upscale apartments, coffee houses, specialty boutiques, and First Methodist Church NLR's new church plant, Argenta, which meets in the Starving Artist café. No church windows or much in the way of spiritual gewgaws, but century old tin ceilings, unfinished walls filled with eclectic art, good coffee, hot cookies. Most of the "congregation" are 20 something, about half young couples with babies, a few handsome young men and women searching for God and one another, a handful of older people, drawn to this new experience of worship.
As I sip coffee near the window and watch the trolley go by, already decked with light for the holidays, I can see again a little girl not quite three, dressed in overalls, posing on the post office steps across the street, waving her hand to an unseen admirer, no doubt a soldier. You see, the Starving Artist Café area, just two blocks from our apartment, was during World War II a bar, a popular watering hole for G.I.s stationed at Camp Polk, and frequently I visited the bar with my Papa. Like my own daddy fighting in France, many of these men were more than 50 miles from home for the first time. I'm told the G.I.s, so lonely for their own families, gave me so many dimes that I started carrying a Mason jar with a hole in the lid to collect my loot.
Like most Arkansans, I have travelled very little, and even now live only five miles or so from the abandoned Koehler Bakery, the old post office, the Starving Artist café. Oh, I was in Paris once, I have walked the streets of Stratford, and seen the Circus Maximus in Rome. I have attended a play in New York City and strode the boardwalk in Miami Beach. I have eaten a meal with two presidents and had communion in a service led by the Pope at St. Peters. But though these were all fascinating experiences, in truth they make up little of who I am. I am an Arkansan, with my view of the world, my sense of right and wrong, my interpretation of what is reasonable and what is not, shaped by a life that began above a laundry in North Little Rock. An Arkansan able to moderate a missionary Baptist heritage with the redeeming love of a Methodist Sunday School teacher. An Arkansan who was fortunate enough to graduate from Hendrix College in 1965 because the Aluminum Company of America paid union wage to my machinist father and yet the company was farsighted enough to give generous scholarships as well. My ideas were formed largely through Arkansas experiences and my impressions largely confirmed or rejected by Arkansas people and events.
Since Mr. Means and I graduated from Hendrix in 1965, Arkansans – not unlike the rest of the planet – have grown, frequently learned from our mistakes, and ever so gradually begun to gain confidence in ourselves. That confidence has, among other things, elected a president and spawned several corporate giants, but also created some of the foremost hunger programs in the world. It is that confidence, not invective, which will provide a vehicle for an ethical dialogue among the diverse people we Arkansans have become.
Dana F. Steward
The 2010 Pledge of Allegiance: "I pledge allegiance, wrapped in the flag, to the Corporate States of America, and to the profit margin for which it stands, one free market, under the Cross, with the illusion of liberty and justice for the rest of us."
First, I make no apologies for being a true liberal progressive. As such, there are a number of President Obama's domestic and foreign policy positions that I do not fully embrace, but my position is based on facts, not emotions. I find the anti-Obama rhetoric related to the economy, health care and a wide range of other issues to be simply emotional. The facts are very clear.
The facts are that Ronald Reagan ran up enormous deficits; The Clinton administration paid the debt in the amount of $600 billion. The George W. Bush administration ran up deficits to unprecedented levels, deregulated financial services and a number of other vital services, and handed out tax cuts, paid for by borrowing, to the wealthiest people in our country. He also presided over the disastrous invasion and occupation of two countries. Every president (and congress) in history, prior to President Obama, has essentially turned a cold shoulder to the fact that Americans die every day because they have no health insurance.
The facts clearly show that deregulation of banks and other financial services companies, tax cuts for the rich, and wars in two countries were the major causes of the most recent Great Recession. As the war in Afghanistan sucks more and more of the life and prestige out of our country, we will inevitably conclude that invasion and occupation of that country was a grave mistake. A rational analysis of the invasion and occupation of Iraq absolutely show that this war was also a monumental mistake. Government oversight and regulation of critical industries like banks and investment firms is absolutely necessary. There is a definite dark side to capitalism.
The facts remain that we are where we are relative to economy, deficits, health care and military quagmires, because of the actions and policy positions of previous Republican administrations. Blaming a two-year old administration for these huge national and international problems is wrong and misinformed. If we really want constructive, positive change, we must educate ourselves and face some truths: Democracy is probably not the answer for everyone; progressive taxation is the least painful and most reasonable way to fund essential government programs; health care is a right, not a privilege; and, war seldom solves anything.
The current political atmosphere looks and sounds like the Jerry Springer Show - an emotional, irrational approach to conflict resolution that is sickly entertaining but will never solve anything.
Ora Barnes Stevens
The Republican party left our economy in the biggest hole since the Depression.
No matter who you blame or how you phrase it, they had 8 years to see what was coming and to lessen the blow. They did nothing but add to that blow. They are still refusing to help:
1. They want to repeal financial oversight reform, student aid reform, and health care reform, denying coverage to millions while bringing back the worst abuses of the insurance industry.
2. Rewarding big corporate donors. As Democrats got tough with BP Republicans were calling it un-American. You can bet the GOP puts sweetheart deals as their top priority.
3. They embrace the Radical Right in spreading lies about "death panels", "birther' lies against President Obama, unemployment compensation is unconstitutional, whatever cheap rhetoric it takes to rally the fanatics.
4. Republicans voted NO against job plans for small businesses, manufacturing, clean energy and infrastructure.
Instead of thinking with common sense their only plan for a budget is to eliminate domestic spending, including the training funds we need to equip Americans to fill five million jobs that are open but unfilled because of the unavailability of trained workers. What is the meaning of the word Domestic?
Of home; of family; of one's country...... you want to eliminate spending on these?
5. Why would anyone want such near-sighted leaders?
Staring hatred in the face
A little over a week ago, A Ugandan magazine released the names and address of 100 gay and lesbian residents, situated next to a bolded message "Hang Them." As of Wednesday night, four people had been attacked, with several fired from their jobs, and many more now in hiding for fear of losing their lives.
With the most recent slew of publicized deaths resulting from gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender bullying, the very real effects of hatred and prejudice have been reintroduced into the American dialog. But too many people have looked to this atrocity—the preventable deaths of our fellow humans—and responded, "But I would never hurt anyone."
To these folks, I ask, "Is prejudice and hatred really any different when the results are the same?" Homophobia is homophobia, even when dealt with a healthy dose of Christian love. Gay and lesbian citizens of Arkansas—children even—have died because of homophobia. Homosexual citizens of Arkansas are still fired from their jobs because they lack basic worker protections from homophobia. And don't kid yourself into thinking homosexual citizens of Arkansas aren't in hiding—they just haven't told you yet. Uganda and Arkansas don't seem to be that different after all.
When staring hatred in the face, I challenge everyone in this state to act with true compassion and love, not engage in pitiful and meaningless self-gratification.
Middle class tax cuts
Mercy me, sakes alive, and carrot coffee! As a friend and admirer of Ernie Dumas, I must respond to the recent letter of David Harper, a severe critic of Dumas! Speaking of the Bush tax cuts for the extremely wealthy, he writes, "I can personally assure him that several middle income families in Arkansas will suffer immensely if those tax cuts expire". Come now, Mr. Harper! Will their children go without food, or clothing? Will they not have adequate health care? Will their home mortgage be foreclosed? Further, he should tell us just how much income these "middle income" Arkansas families have now, such that they will suffer if they have to pay their fair share of taxes.
Or, could it be that they just won't be able to buy off as many politicians as they have been doing before! What a shame!
Kermit C. Moss
The mosque debate
The enormous debate over the building of an Islamic Cultural Center near what used to be the Twin Towers of the New York Trade Center troubles me greatly. It seems tied to at least two other issues that are also debated of late: The personal religion of President Obama and the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution.
The proposed building of the center has been likened to placing a Japanese pagoda or symbol at the site of the bombing of Pearl Harbor or a Nazi symbol at the Holocaust Memorial. Well, anyone who would use those comparisons needs to go back to school. The bombing of Pearl Harbor was the work of the Japanese Empire, a nation state, and the horror of the holocaust was the work of the Third Reich, a nation state. As horrible as the bombing of the Trade Center was, it was NOT the work of a nation state or a religion. It was the work of a few fanatical individuals who have no allegiance to anything but what they concoct as their brand of whatever. They seem to wish to ally themselves with some form of Islam, but they are not representative of the religion of Islam. Those who make this association need to read and learn about Islam and perhaps get to know a few Muslims. This may shock many readers, but the few Muslim friends I have are some of the most Christ like people I have ever met.
The personal religion of President Obama: He refers to himself as a Christian and that is good enough for me. However, if he is, indeed, a Muslim, so what!!! The First Amendment gives all of us that right. I quote: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."
So, could we now lay these debates to rest and get on with solving the critical issues of the day: Education, the economy, the deficit, immigration, etc.
Brenda Ball Tirrell
Hot Springs Village
America is the greatest Country on the Planet. It is our Constitution and the principals stated therein, that make us what we are. Everybody says they know and understand this. But in practice, few do.
I say the Mosque near ground Zero should be built because we are a Nation that believes in Freedom of Religion. America was not attached on 911 by Islam. We were attached by Al Qaeda. Those people responsible for 911 killed women and children, non combatants. This is forbidden by the Quran.
America should send the message to the followers of Islam that we are what we say we are. If we let the right wing, so called religious, nuts control this debate and prevent the Mosque from being built, we send a message to the followers of Islam that we blame their religion and all who believe, for the actions of Al Qaeda. That is morally wrong.
Do we allow the argument against building this house of worship carry over and not allow Jewish Synagogues near Christian Churches because the Jews murdered Jesus, and do not believe he is the son of God?
Do we not allow a Catholic Church to be built near, well any living thing, because of the Inquisition?
No, that would be, insane. If we think we are protecting our rights by denying others theirs, we have already lost what is great about America.
Build the mosque.
Stem cell research
Federal District Judge Royce Lambert granted an injunction stopping the federal funding for study of human embryonic stem cells. The ruling was based on the premise that the research would destroy the embryo and cited law banning the use of federal funds for research that would result in such destruction.
It is interesting that destroying the cells in the process of trying to find a remedy for any number of debilitating conditions and diseases is considered evil in some circles while disposing of the same cells in a trash can or an incinerator is morally neutral.
The idea that the knowledge of stem cell possibilities is a bell that can be un-rung by fiat is simply unrealistic. Knowledge itself is neutral. It is force that is neither good nor evil but strong enough that it will be discovered whether or not the powers that be institute legal or ethical prohibitions or invoke even the most draconian punishments. Human beings, with our innate need to master the secrets of the universe, once we are made aware of a new idea, will struggle through whatever obstacles to master the knowledge.
Knowledge is never good or evil. It is only behavior that calls into question the idea of morality. As a person who may possibly benefit personally from the study of embryonic stem cells I recognize I am not free of bias, but I confess I fail to grasp the notion that throwing frozen zygotes onto a trash can or incinerator is morally superior to using these abandoned cells to possibly gain release for those with incurable diseases and conditions from their terrible and inevitable ends.
Support health, not war
It was reported recently that the Pentagon cannot account for 95 percent of the $9.1 billion provided by taxpayers to reconstruct Iraq. The $8.7 billion has just vanished.
During the Vietnam War some idiot stated that "if you have them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow." That did not prove to be true.
For those right-wing nuts like Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Hannity, Beck and the Republican Party, who keep harping about the waste in the federal government, hear this. Would it not be more Christian, more humane, to have our tax dollars spent to provide health care for every citizen in America, than to have the Pentagon waste money like they do. Clean up the Pentagon, get out of the business of war, and the rest of America's financial problems will be much easier to resolve.
Over-extension in wars helped bring Rome down, and it will destroy America if we do not stop this.
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