Thursday, April 7, 2005

A real hero

The article by Joseph Curl titled “Iraq war hero earns first Medal of Honor” (Page 1, Tuesday) should be on the must-read list for schools across the United States.

I made sure my three sons (ages 11, 8 and 7) read it and discussed Army Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith’s courage, honor and selflessness.

At a time when sports figures undergo steroid testing, get suspended for brawls with fans and chase the richest contract, our nation is blessed to have a true hero, Sgt. Paul Ray Smith, to look up to.


Champlin, Minn.

Celebrating freedom

Whether or not you wear the kilt, Tartan Day on April 6 is your chance to celebrate the Declaration of the Rights of Nations, signed in 1320 by 38 chiefs and noblemen at Arbroath Abbey in Scotland (“Emerging pattern,” Culture, et cetera, Tuesday). One commentator recently described it as the first declaration of human rights in world history.

The Arbroath declaration urged Pope John XXII to explain why Scots opposed English invasion. It tells of a people free since ancient times and affirms their right to live in freedom “as long as but a hundred of us remain alive” because “it is not for glory, riches or honor that we fight but liberty alone which no good man loses but with his life.”

Unlike the Magna Carta of a century earlier, which delineated the rights of barons against the king, Arbroath declared on behalf of the entire Scottish people their irreducible identity and right to live in liberty.

Arbroath’s seeds reached America, where Scots and Ulster Scots founded nearly all the major educational institutions outside New England. Of the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence, 21 (almost 38 percent) were of Scots ancestry. Even if Massachusetts, Maryland and Connecticut provided no Scottish delegates, in the remaining 10 Colonies almost half who risked their lives signing the Declaration were of Scots blood.

Ten of 13 Colonies had Scots governors during the war for independence. Washington, Hamilton, Jefferson (a descendant of Robert the Bruce), John Paul Jones, Henry Knox, Anthony Wayne and figures like James Wilson and John Witherspoon were either Scots or of Scottish extraction. Less than 7 percent of the white Colonial population, they galvanized both the American Revolution and the building of the nation.

At home and abroad, Scots have followed the spirit of Arbroath like a filament of gold through the labyrinth of the world’s tyrannies. Tartan Day, therefore, shining down through the centuries, celebrates free peoples everywhere, and, in turn, deserves their celebration.



Truth eases the pain

In the article “Episcopalians told to suffer for beliefs” (Nation, Sunday), Julia Duin incorrectly reported that both the American and Canadian Episcopal/Anglican churches have been asked by the Anglican primates to “withdraw from the Anglican Communion” until the issue of homosexuality can be rethought.

This is not accurate. The American and Canadian branches of the Anglican Communion have been asked not to send their respective representatives to the meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council. There is an essential difference. Please note that no church has been asked to withdraw from the Anglican Communion. Incorrect reporting causes further pain and damage to our church as we struggle to find our way through these difficult times.


Trinity Episcopal Church


Church secrecy wounds all

Your recent coverage of Pope John Paul II’s death and Roland Flamini’s analysis of papal selection (“Conclave a question of numbers,” Web site, Tuesday) opens a complex wound for many Catholics. We feel pride in the world’s memory of our dead pope’s global ministry of personal freedom, dignity and open dialogue among all people of faith — while simultaneously feeling an exquisite pain of betrayal and abandonment that we were denied such considerations as the people of the church he led. We are left to struggle under a leadership greatly compromised by its appointed obedience to the worldwide cover-up and secrecy of all but the worst behaviors of its clergy, and only then when such behavior became a public scandal.

We are all human, but compromised leadership from the need for secrecy wounds all the people of the church. Secrecy and separatism are still the hierarchy’s response to the widespread crisis of priests compromising their own leadership through civil or canonical misconduct involving adults, financial improprieties, employee mistreatment and other abuses of power. Obviously, simple obedience is not the answer — for our ordained or for the people of our church.

Spiritually and theologically, as the people of our church, we are the church. We must rely on the wisdom of the Spirit working through the people to restore an open, honest and inclusive leadership, regardless of the results of the cardinals’ conclave. The roots of our faith show us that, together, we not only can make a difference — we’re required to do so.


National director

LAMPS for Healing & Change in Our Church

Branson, Mo.

Don’t give up rights for safety

I strongly agree with Walter Williams’ “Airport security stupidity” (Commentary, Wednesday). Unfortunately, airport security is only the most high-profile form of security stupidity.

At Union Station, where I ride the MARC Brunswick Line, a train’s track is not displayed until 15 minutes before departure time. No one has explained how this is supposed to prevent terrorism. At the Germantown station, the ticket agent has threatened to shut down the railroad for any unattended bags, even though there have been no serious incidents in 30 years.

Almost all government buildings, and more than a few private ones, have X-ray and metal-detection gadgets one must pass through when entering. Some bank branches have installed bullet- and blast-resistant plastic shielding in front of tellers.

It seems that since September 11 we’re all considered guilty until proven innocent. Like Mr. Williams, I find that insulting. And to go along with all this, I’ve talked with too many people who feel that it’s OK to give up some constitutional rights for safety’s sake, which really worries me.

Benjamin Franklin said it best when he wrote, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” And history shows that once rights are given up, it’s next to impossible to get them back.



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