Eugene Robinson's article should have been entitled "No one is beyond redemption." The loss of hope for redemption underlies all forms of disdain for human life, from terrorism to wasting of natural resources to capital punishment to abortion. We simply refuse to believe that life can be turned around, that every liability can be transformed into an opportunity and an asset.
In the current political climate, Sen. Robert Byrd would have been forever ostracized for his initial racist views, or alternatively he would have been compelled to cling to them for political expediency. In either case he would have not been afforded the opportunity to redeem himself
In ancient Judaism the redeemer was the family member who prevented the enslavement of a man and his family by paying the debt he had contracted. In our time, redemption consists in "transforming the material of the human nightmare into beautiful and durable works of art" as Octavio Paz suggested in The Labyrinth of Solitude.
In my experience redemption is the foundation of all lasting human relationships. In a marriage, the couple is called to the mutual healing of wounds inflicted by others, to use one's healing ability as fundament and nourishment of love. Love is intended as "agape," that in ancient Greek meant sharing a meal, sharing one's talents and shortcomings. In other words, a successful marriage hinges on mutual redemption.
In ministering to cancer patients for more than 30 years, I learned that the only way to conquer death is to live with death as a unique human experience. Death is the opportunity to distillate the meaning of our life, including the love we have given and received, the joys and the pains we have caused, the letters we have been able to end, and those that we have left unfinished. This concentrate of meaning is what survives of ourselves long after our earthly adventure is finished, like a concentrate of Bulgarian rose that contains in each drop the perfume of thousands of flowers withered long ago.
Though commonly used with Christian connotations, redemption transcends all creeds. In addition to Paz, Hemingway emphasized that the basic human vocation is a call to redeem each other in For Whom the Bell Tolls. By the word of Dr. Rieux in The Plague, Albert Camus expressed the hope that there may be redemption even in the absence of a deity
Lodovico Balducci, Tampa
Pinellas school start times
We can help School Board make better decisions
I was one of the individuals who took advantage of the Internet to solicit support and a call of action to the community. I was also a participant in the June 29 School Board meeting where I asked the board to create a task force or initiate a special study immediately. I stated the goal should be to look into ways to create a longer term bell schedule for our community so that we do not continue to go through this every year. With a $50 million cut expected next year, there will be more tough decisions for the School Board to make.
If we were able to generate enough support/exposure to finally get the School Board members to change their vote, using only our tiny little group within a 13-day window, imagine the possibilities for change if the news outlets continue to ask the tough questions, investigate the political ties to some of the line items and decisions and continue to expose to the stakeholders the process of working through a very complex budget.
I believe that the board is made up of honest hard-working individuals who genuinely have our best interest at heart. What people need to know is that so much of what they do is bound by outside law above the board's jurisdiction. They also need to appreciate how big/complex our budget is and that the board could not possibly absorb enough of the information to make good decisions on every issue.
With the tools we used to find success, the board hopefully has better understanding that the exposure to how they arrive at decisions is becoming more public and accessible more quickly than in the past. They need to seek outside resources and their community to aid them in more of the decisions so that stakeholders can assist and communicate their interests.
I truly believe it was the tools the Internet provided us that made the difference. Although the board utilizes some of the tools, usually after decisions are made, they should adapt more ways to communicate through the same tools we used.
Theresa L. Casey, Palm Harbor
School times won't change | June 30, story
The board's blunders
The Pinellas County School Board lost on a "triple play" with the reversal of its decision on changed school times.
The first "out" was that the changed schedules would have saved an estimated $2.25 million. So how will the board "find" the money to plug the deficit? I expect the replacement cuts will be a lot more painful than having some parents rearrange their schedules.
The second "out" is that the board reacted based on opposition by "dozens" of parents — hardly overwhelming opposition as stated in the introduction to the article. Where was the voice of those who liked the decision? The article tells the story of one family's opposition, but I know there are many families with an equally compelling story to support the new schedules. If the board wanted their June 15 decision to simply be a referendum, they should have said so and asked for comments.
So the final "out" was that the board failed to carry out their responsibility to represent the school community and the taxpayers. Shame! But the board can recover its credibility by reinstating the June 15 schedules and save the $2.5 million.
Owen and Carolyn Thompson, Belleair Beach
In real pain, and real concern | June 27
Be part of the solution
I have no sympathy for Dr. Willem Nel or his lamenting the damage to his reputation or that of his business by the proliferation of illicit pain management clinics in our community. Considering the hundreds of deaths just in our country alone, and all the other misery caused by the uncontrolled use of prescribed pain medicine, his industry deserves all the "stains." Is this the first time he felt affected or even remotely responsible for the widespread production and easy access to the drugs of his trade?
Why does it take the voice of grieving families to promote legislation to control the industry? Why haven't Dr. Nel and other legitimate, board-certified pain management professionals lobbied lawmakers to prevent the widespread use and distribution of these drugs? Where is the backbone of pain medicines' voice in Tallahassee?
If Dr. Nel doesn't want the police at his door, he should be helping to control and curb production of oxycodone and these other highly addictive prescription pills. The manufacturers of these drugs are making billions off uncontrolled prescriptions written by pain professionals. Those who carelessly prescribe these drugs and the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture them should be held accountable.
My sister is 58 years old and was born with spina bifida — and, yes, her pain is legitimate. However, the major health risk she faces today is an addiction to oxycodone, and she will attest to the fact that it is the most difficult addiction to overcome. It is especially difficult because of the drug's easy availability. A vast number of people without pain are nevertheless prescribed the drug by "professionals." Because nothing is being done to prevent overproduction and uncontrolled prescriptions, she can get it off the streets just as easily as by visiting a doctor.
If the pain-management industry is truly concerned about its reputation and its patients, they should be actively involved in a solution to the irresponsible production and distribution of addictive prescription drugs.
James J. White, Clearwater
State pension fund
Don't take the risk
As a former stock broker and now a retired college professor after 37 years of service here in Florida, I would be sad to see the state gamble with 16 percent of the state pension funds in unregulated low- to no-transparency funds.
The market facts reveal that rewards of this tactic of investing seldom if ever outweigh the risks especially in the long term. Short-sighted funding, risks, and careless budgeting have caused many of the state's current problems. Please don't compound these problems with risk we can't afford.
David Galaher, St. Pete Beach
We still need to drill | June 27, letter
We need the oceans
Everything we do must be assessed to weigh risks versus benefits. No one can ever compare a plane crashing to the disastrous oil spill in the gulf. A plane crash might kill a couple hundred people. Although tragic, it cannot compare to the lives shattered, the mass killing of sea life, mammals, birds, and damage to gulf waters — not just today, but for many years to come. It would be more like a plane crashing every day.
Twenty years after the Exxon Valdez spill, you can still find oil just under the surface and under the rocks. The letter writer is missing the bigger picture here. We are killing our oceans; the seas have increased in acidity, even before the oil spill. This only adds insult to injury. The oceans provide a significant amount of the world's oxygen. Without oxygen everything dies, including us! The oceans can only take so much abuse before the damage is irreversible. The risk far outweighs the benefit.
One more point I'd like to make: Oil is finite, it will eventually run out. We need renewable energy. It's time to get off the dinosaur fuel — both literally and figuratively.
Yvonne M. Osmond, Dunedin
I went to the beach this past week with my two young children and looked out on the horizon as they played innocently in the surf. I thought to myself, will my beach see the same fate as the beaches of the Panhandle?
I see reports of tar balls in the headlines and I fear desperately for our coastal lifestyle. The near future is uncertain for us. Will my children be able to have the same experiences of a childhood free of an oil-slicked beach? The thought makes me angry and extremely unsettled.
I have been a Florida resident my whole life and I have lived on the barrier islands for 16 years. The beach is my lifeblood. Tourism pays for my family to survive.
I know that we have the technology to lead the country to a clean energy future; this is the solution to my fears. A clean energy future is not a Democratic or Republican issue, it is not a rich or poor issue, it is not a black or white, brown or tan issue. This is an issue that affects every aspect of life, ecology, economy and the pursuit of happiness.
It is time we act together to move our country in a direction that allows our future generations to prosper and progress. I do not want to lose all that I have because of our dependence on oil. Now is the time for Sens. George LeMieux and Bill Nelson to protect Florida's intrinsic natural resources and its residents by passing clean energy and climate legislation this year.
Kelly Vargo, Madeira Beach
Navy Vets trying to polish dinged image June 26, story
Working the system
Bobby Thompson is a pretty smart guy. He created a business, called it a charity, got tax exempt status, beat the bureaucrats at their own game (raising millions of dollars annually) and has been living a good life ever since. He has rubbed elbows with the powerful, contributed to campaigns, took advantage of photo-ops, created access for himself and his fake charity. All this and he remains out of public view.
I think it stands to reason the charity is a sham and has been from Day One. Paying 60 percent to 90 percent to call center marketers to collect donations is beyond reason for a legitimate charity especially when paying out less than 10 percent. Add to that the phantom corps of officers, directors, members, income and expense statements and you have a complete picture of the true nature of the U.S. Navy Veterans Association.
Bobby Thompson most likely should be a permanent guest of our federal government. But given the extent to which he has scammed the system, I expect he will be able to do the same to the legal system well into the future.
Imagine how many more Bobby Thompsons live among us taking advantage of the goodwill of others.
Robert Weisman, Tampa
Jury awards $5.6m in RV crash June 29, story
In the continuing dumbification of America, the "it's not my fault" mind-set continues to hit new lows. Juries apparently are chosen to think only of the case, and check their common sense at the door. Plaintiffs portray their avarice as something which helps society.
I refer to the highway accident where a man driving an RV while towing an auto (without hooking up the supplemental brakes) felt his steering wheel vibrate for five minutes and somehow left the driver's seat while the vehicle was traveling at high speeds (cruise control?). He was surprised that there was a crash with injuries, but was comforted by lawyers citing that the manufacturer "improperly approved" the tire for continuous use at 75 mph, so he "had a case."
A jury awarded him $5.6 million for unclear reasons. The driver, John Schalmo, said this was to prevent the "crazy mess from happening to somebody else." I am not sure as to how the large award would be helpful, as there is no statement that Schalmo is setting up any legal funds, victim aid groups, etc. My bet is that his "prevention" is that he "won the (product liability) lottery" and is splitting the proceeds with his lawyers.
Michael Shear, M.D., St. Petersburg