Reader Mail

All the Lonely People

Some of the places they come from. Plus more Potter and the Pope, and much else.

7.18.05

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THE GOOD STUFF
Re: Ben Stein's Mr. Lonely:

I have a tear in my eye after reading Dr. Stein today (if he isn't a doctor, please get him an honorary degree). I am going to find some single military people to invite to my next party. Thanks for the idea!
-- John P.
Elmhurst, Illinois

Thank you for yet another wonderful and insightful article. You put into words what many of us can only feel. As a single mother for the past 10 years, I can testify to what loneliness feels like. It's that empty feeling when you go to bed at night with no one to talk to. It's that jealous feeling when you see couples walk down the street. It's that envious feeling when you hear your friends talk about their husbands and what they did last weekend. It's that sad feeling when people talk about getting together with other couples and you aren't invited. Because you aren't a couple. You are only one. There are very few people who will actually take the time to do what you suggested and invite a single person to dinner. Or call him or her. Or ask him or her to go camping for the weekend.

I don't know why that is. Is it because a single person is a threat to the couple? A reminder of what they once were and could be again?

God bless our service men and women and their families. God bless America.
-- Lisa

Ben, I lost my beautiful wife to cancer two years ago after 42 years and it does not hurt any less despite the passage of time. Your musings as usual are so apropos.
-- Jack Wheatley
Royal Oak, Michigan

Thanks, Ben Stein, for pulling me out of my self-imposed, shallow pity pot. Inspiring.
-- Clasina Segura
New Iberia, Louisiana

When I came to this forced bit of political correctness, "Men whose wives are in Bosnia or Okinawa," I read no further.
-- John Connolly
San Diego, California

My hubbie and I have been bringing communion to the sick for well over ten years now. We started when our girl (now 13) was just a few months old and our son (now 18) was just getting ready to receive his first communion (we're Catholic).

It was a bit of a hardship for me at times because I had the two kids and a full time job as trial lawyer for a local public entity. However, the benefits were mine more than those we served IMHO.

My two children would accompany us as we would visit people who were in convalescent homes. We also visited some being cared for in their homes. Sometimes, my husband would actually get my daughter to sing a hymn for them during holiday times. Mostly elderly, these folks adored seeing our little ones. However, our kids learned about the cycles and fragility and value of life. They would occasionally learn of the death of some of those we visited and weep. My mother (70 something) told me a few years ago, when my daughter was around 9 or so, that my daughter said to her "grandma when you get old, don't worry, I am going to take care of you." I would also marvel at the bravery and selflessness of those I visited who were fighting illnesses and caring for gravely ill or handicapped . I realized then that I was the one who was really benefiting from this ministry as much if not more than those I "served." I related this as past tense because this summer, for the first time ever, I put our name on the "substitute only" list because of our commitments to kids and jobs.
-- Name withheld
P.S. both kids are members of SAG and fans of Ben's cable show Beat Ben Stein.

Ben Stein did his usual great job of writing a column, this time about the lonely and the solitary. He mentions most groups -- war widows and widowers, and people in long marriages who one day come home alone from the hospital or wherever -- like my old, sainted Mum, for instance. There is one group he left out, however -- the men and women whom nobody especially wanted anyway, and who spend their entire lives more or less alone.

This group is mostly ignored, except as figures of fun. I have lost track of the number of times in our culture -- or others -- that the "losers" are made fun of, or sneered at. Check out the average movie or TV show now -- there is often at least one character set aside to be dumped on by the others, and humiliated, and have his life made even worse than others, while the audience roars with laughter.

It's not precisely new -- the Victorians had old maid "humor." It was thought funny to mail them bottles of hair dye or wooden wedding rings or nasty valentines, for instance. Or think of Malvolio in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night -- all the "in" crowd of attractive and popular people get paired off at the end, with the final scene being a very public humiliation of Malvolio who was hoaxed into thinking the princess wanted him.

Still, our modern pop culture must be the worst at this, as in so many other things. The whole sorting-out process that takes place each generation among men and women would be a dangerous enough and heart-breaking enough scene even in the healthiest of societies. There will always be those who lose out. In a sicko society like ours, however, you get what we have got -- ever more vicious and arrogant winners, and ever more twisted and embittered losers.
-- unsigned

ON BOARD FOR BEN
Re: "Furman Ben" letters in Reader Mail's Harry Hardy Boy Potter, HNP's letter (under "Handicapping Ben") in Reader Mail's Word Possessors, Diane Smith's letter (under "Fine By Me") in Reader Mail's The Truth Hurts, and Ben Stein's Desert Stars:

I appreciate the more constructive replies to my letter regarding Ben Stein and his new house. I took a few hours last night to read up on Ben Stein to try and get some context for his "Diary," and found that I stand corrected. I must admit that I didn't really get where he was coming from at first. Maybe I was a bit cynical at first, but Ben Stein does seem to be an extraordinary person. You've got to admit that, for a somewhat new TAS reader (going on three years), the "Diary" is quite different from the intense politicism found in the rest of the magazine. I didn't get it, but now I do. I found the letter from the Furman University student to be quite nice. But as for the reader who attacked me as an Air America listening liberal -- try again. Since when does showing a lack of interest in Hollywood-types (I think that's the term I used) make one a liberal? Oh well. Thanks again for the positive responses that sought to educate me, not insult me. I'm on board for Ben now.
-- HNP
Placerville, California

NOT COMPLACENT
Re: Patrick Hynes's Democrats in Permanent Decline:

Patrick Hynes's article, "Democrats in Permanent Decline," was very interesting. I am among the percentage of people who have gone lukewarm on the Republicans for the very reasons he mentioned. Our party is wasting their majority status, and it makes me frustrated. However, Democrats should in no way think that this frustration turns into a vote for them. As my mother always told us, "You can fight with your brother all you want when you're inside the house, but the minute you step out, you stand together!"

One note, however. I would love to see a grassroots effort by Republicans to field and fund a new primary challenger against those of our incumbent Senators and Congressmen who have consistently let us down. You would see a real difference in behavior, I believe.
-- Mary Myers
Fort Myers, Florida

Kudos for an excellent analysis. I might temper it with a couple of observations. The internet is flattening the costs of impressions per voter when it comes to elections. At the same time cable television has so fragmented viewership that the effectiveness of airtime is coming into question. In Florida, Lawton Childs demonstrated shoe leather can beat airtime of so many years ago, if the candidate has the stamina for such a thing. And if a radioactive cloud appears over Detroit between now and elections, Bush's apparent unwillingness to solve the border issue will sweep the field of Republicans in every race and land a Democrat in the White House in '08.
-- John McGinnis
Arlington, Texas

THE FEARSOME MUSLIM MINORITY
Re: John Tabin's Muslims Pay Attention:

Mr. Tabin states that about two-thirds of Muslims feel that suicide bombing in never justified. Whew, what a relief! That means only about 500 million Muslims believe that it is justified, as least sometimes.
-- David Govett
Davis, California

TIME WASTERS
Re: Lawrence Henry's Slackers:

Larry Henry writes: "Of course, if you want to work, you can do that, too, and probably get ahead and end up supervising a honeycomb full of drones arranging haircuts, talking to their kids on the phone, downloading computer games and music, or doing their taxes."

Don't forget "or reading TAS online." Woops.
-- William H. Stewart

THE IRAQ CONSPIRACY
Re: Geoffrey Norman's Washington Reruns:

The latest lie that the Democrats and others on the lunatic left are prating is that Valerie Plame was "a covert operative," or "an undercover CIA Agent," which is not true. She may or may not have been a field agent at one time, and there are both overt and covert field agents, by the way, but at the time that Mr. Novak published her name, she was, and had been for some time, an analyst, at CIA Headquarters. Another term for that job is, "desk-bound bureaucrat." Analysts are absolutely not "covert." That they are CIA employees is not a secret, and so "revealing" that information is not a crime. So, all you hate-driven anti-Bush fanatics repeat that last part to yourselves until it finally sinks in, and you acknowledge the fact that Mr. Rove did not commit any crime at all. Then sit down, and shut up.
-- W. B. Heffernan, Jr.

OK, everybody, I've grown tired of the so-called "scandal" involving Karl Rove, Valerie Plame's name, etc., etc. Allow me to quote Mr. Herman Cain, promoter of the "Fair Tax," former CEO of Godfather's Pizza and former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, during his stint substituting for the hosts of the syndicated "Quinn and Rose -- The War Room" radio program out of Pittsburgh (which uses a lot of material from TAS): "Don't go for the Democrat head-fake." The Dummycrats are trying to throw everyone off-balance with this smoke-screen hoopla over a non-issue involving a non-covert CIA employee who just happens to be married to a clown (thank you, Ann Coulter) who has a vindictive streak against the Bush administration. Their intention is to create as much turmoil in the capital as possible in order to prevent anything from being done regarding judicial nominees, Social Security and tax reform, and just about everything else President Bush seeks to accomplish. It's time to apply a rather large gavel to their pointy little heads, thrust them out of the way, and get something proper done!
-- Jim Bjaloncik
Stow, Ohio

WICKED WITCHCRAFT
Re: J. Peter Freire's Harry Potter and the Chair of Peter and Reader Mail's Harry Hardy Boy Potter:

The problem with the Harry Potter novels is that its views of magic, witchcraft, and religion are syncretic. That is it mixes up religious beliefs and traditions so that up is down and vice versa.

Biblical Orthodox Christianity teaches that witchcraft and magic are sinful and contrary to God's Will for us. They are not needed for salvation and are often tools by which Satan draws people away from God. Rowling never deals with this fact because she is a post-Christian author. Her success says much about the cultural wasteland our world has become. Her books are not bad. They are worse because they deal with spiritual issues in a very mediocre and naive way.

The best example of the problem is the celebration of Christmas by the witches and warlocks at Hogwarts. Christmas celebrates the Incarnation -- God becoming Man through Jesus Christ as the means of salvation. Witches and Warlocks do not believe in the Incarnation and do not celebrate Christmas. Christmas is contrary to what witchcraft is all about. Yet there it is! If the witches believed in Christmas, they would abandon witchcraft. Rowling is unaware of such spiritual nuance. Her theology makes as much sense as that stupid game they play on broomsticks.

The question that Ms. Rowling never answers is why are these children studying witchcraft at all. Why? What purpose does it serve besides tapping into the innate spiritual hunger of today's younger generation? Her books are spiritual cotton candy for children. Very sweet with no nourishment -- like the Turkish Delight the evil queen feeds children in the Chronicles of Narnia. Except for Harry's occasional acts of bravery and selflessness, the Potter books are bad news because they are spiritually convoluted.

I commend the Pope for his opinion.
-- The Rev. Fr. John W. Westcott, III
Anglican Church of the Resurrection
Ansonia, Connecticut

Mr. Freire's article "Harry Potter and the Chair of Peter" correctly points out the duty of a Pope to defend his flock from evil influences, even if the source be children's books.

It is a pity that Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict and his predecessor did nothing to protect children from the evil influences of perverted priests and bishops. In fact, John Paul II appointed the Cardinals and Bishops that protected these wolves in sheep's clothing. In addition, there are numerous cases of nun's and priest openly practicing occult beliefs and teaching others to do the same. Both of the above problems have been brought to the Vatican's attention for decades with no corrective actions taken. But what can one expect from a Pope that shares the stage with a voodoo priest?
-- Joseph Sheppard
Marietta, Georgia

Reader Dwight Lewis writes that the Potter books "are silent on religion." Nonsense. They center around a wizard who practices witchcraft. Wicca is a recognized religion, and the Potter books promote this religion. They should not be taught, or even mentioned, in the public schools, as to do so would be an unconstitutional state sponsorship of a particular religion.
-- Andy Sloss

MISSION BLINDNESS
Re: D.A. Moroco's letter (under "Republican Cowards") in Reader Mail's Harry Hardy Boy Potter:

Oh how validated in my thoughts did I ever feel in reading Colonel Moroco's letter to the Spectator! The absence of spine in our Republican congressfolk, to include the senators, could today qualify as an official disability worthy of a social security benefit.

Perhaps our feelings, that of the Colonel's and mine, are due to our military service. I was but a lowly sergeant in the Army Airborne (101st and 82nd) and served as a grunt in Vietnam, but the lessons learned in the military culture have served me all of my life. These fundamentals are as follows:

-Face problems immediately and solve them head-on.
-Never pass the buck.
-Civility has an important place, but leadership and assertiveness are paramount to the mission.
-Be personally accountable in all decisions and actions.
-Go into a fight with only one thing in mind and that is to defeat the enemy.
-Breathe fire in the process.
-Demand courage from yourself.
-And this biggest rule of all: It ain't about you, soldier.

The comfort and prestige of being a politician in D.C. apparently intoxicates and thus blurs the original purpose of their mission(s). As well, the desire to perpetuate this personal binge eliminates any semblance of effective service in the cause of true freedom -- from our enemies and government intrusion.

Thanks for the inspiring words, Colonel Moroco. I'll continue to push your message here in Michigan.
-- Marlin Newburn
Auburn Hills, Michigan

THINGS TO KNOW
Re: Jack E. Junck's letter (under "Anatomy of a Scandal") in Reader Mail's Harry Hardy Boy Potter:

Memo to Jack E.:

There are lots of things that you apparently don't know. Among them:

a) that John Kerry, whose boots you licked (in the Quad-City Times) during the 2004 debates, divulged the name of a deep-cover CIA asset on the floor of the Senate-- even though he had been requested to refer to the asset by the nom de guerre "Mr. Smith."

b) that more details have come to light -- Karl Rove has been exonerated. The LEPPs (Long-Eared Plow-Pullers) who mixed the Kool-Aid which you've been regurgitating have folded their tent and are desperately seeking another lame "scandal" to monger.

c) how to type your last name -- you added a superfluous "c."
-- David Gonzalez
Wheeling, Illinois

ON THE OTHER HAND
Re: R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.'s Terrorists Have Feelings Too:

Mr. Tyrrell sees the half-empty glass when he writes:

"Tony Blair is hustling through Parliament a so-called Racial and Religious Hatred Bill. If passed it would send a person to jail for seven years if he is accused and convicted of authoring words found offensive by aggrieved religious and racial groups, for instance, I suppose, aggrieved terrorists. "

But consider the words of the Mohammedans that are quoted in the piece:

"The Rev. imam ... described Jews as "scum of the earth," "rats of the world," "monkeys and pigs who should be annihilated." "

"[Muslim Weekly]'s Sheikh Dr. Abdalqadir as-Sufi: '... parliamentary democracy in Britain must be replaced by "a new civilization based on the worship of Allah....'"

These statements make me the member of "aggrieved religious and racial groups." As a white man of European lineage, I am offended by the sheikh's assertion that civilization be based on the worship of Allah. As a Catholic, I find it offensive that Jesus, and his Blessed Mother Mary, Jews that they be, can be characterized by the imam as "scum, rats, monkeys and pigs."

Surely, these statements would be offenses against the proposed Racial and Religious Hatred Bill. Surely, the imam and the sheikh would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and sentenced to the maximum 7 years sentence. Yes, in time, the cultural imperialism of the Mohammedans may chip away at the edges of our civilization -- the day may come when the penalty for these hate-filled statements will be the removal of their tongues.
-- Dan Martin

SOPHISM OF THE DAY
Re: George Neumayr's The New Eugenics:

I think your writer needs to lookup the word "eugenics." To save him some time here it is: "The study of hereditary improvement of the human race by controlled selective breeding" (from dictionary.com).

The reason why this word does not apply in this case is that virtually none of these aborted fetuses would have ever bred if they had been born. Since they would have already been out of the gene pool, aborting them could not be called eugenics.
-- Bob Salomon

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