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Thursday, Dec. 8, 2005 02:59 pm

Letters to the editor

In and around Springfield

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We welcome letters, but please include your full name, address and a daytime telephone number. We edit all letters for libel, length and clarity.

Send letters to: Letters, Illinois Times. P.O. Box 5256. Springfield, Illinois 62705. Fax: (217) 753-3958. E-mail: editor@illinoistimes.com



BUILD A HEALTHIER SPRINGFIELD
I read with wonder the “Up in Smoke” article by R. L. Nave in the Dec. 1 edition of Illinois Times. I smoke cigars occasionally but never in public, for even people who smoke get highly annoyed. So OK, no problem. I believe that any bias would be muted for this fact. I did not know that the reason for this legislation was to save service employees from breathing tobacco smoke. I find this hard to believe, for if the legislators are so concerned, why not national health insurance for everyone who works? Why not offer free nonsmoking classes and seminars for those who do smoke and now, because of this law, need to find a way to get on with their lives in an industry that does not allow it? If smoking really concerned nonsmoking citizens and workers of Springfield, they would simply not go where the smoking exists. It is a law that takes no planning, no funds, and little work in the art of compromise. If the City Council is concerned about the health and welfare of the citizens, how about more car-free bike trails, more parks, more activities for the youth, and a couple more beaches on the lake? Apparently it is simply easier to ban than build a better community. August Lamczyk Springfield

EXTREMISTS DISGRACE SOLDIER’S MEMORY
On Dec. 10, followers of Westboro Baptist Church will visit the Virden community. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this group, they are a church organization from Topeka, Kan., who travel the country, protesting at the memorial services of soldiers killed defending this country overseas. They protest at these memorial services by waving banners of hate, preaching their views, and kicking around and walking on the American flag. It is their belief that God is killing servicemen overseas because they are defending a country that allows homosexuality. The WBC’s next stop on a long crusade against fallen soldiers is the celebration-of-life service for 1994 Virden High School graduate Staff Sgt. Gary Harper Jr. This man, with whom I went to school and played football, dedicated his life to defending his country. He joined the Army on May 30, 1993, and served his country until being killed in action on Oct. 9, 2005. I’ve never publicly written about my views or beliefs before, but, being a member of the armed forces and a Virden community member myself, this is a topic that hits too close to home. As much as I believe in the freedom of speech and religion, I, too, believe that the family, friends, and community of an American hero like Gary Harper should be able to have a memorial service in peace and without the protests of religious fanatics like the WBC. Gary Harper and other soldiers paid the ultimate sacrifice to ensure that Americans have the freedom of speech and religion, and for the WBC to use those freedoms to try and ruin their memorial services is a disgrace. I have nothing against people protesting or publicly preaching their beliefs whether I agree with them or not, but not at a funeral. Why doesn’t the WBC protest in Washington, where laws protecting homosexuality are made, or at military installations? If this church wants to protest against homosexuality and the military, they have every right to, but to do it at the funeral of a soldier who gave his life defending the freedoms the WBC hides behind is cowardly. Gary Harper no longer has a voice to defend himself against those who would twist the words of the Bible to preach their views against him and his family. He gave it up to protect them from terrorists overseas. So to all Americans who support our troops overseas, I hope you will join me on Saturday, Dec. 10, at 1 p.m. in the Virden High School gym to pay tribute to a fallen soldier and stop those who would try to ruin his funeral. Gary gave his life to protect us. The least we can do is ensure his family can have a memorial service in peace. Staff Sgt. Jon M. Hopkins Illinois Air National Guard Virden

WE DESERVE TO BE HATED
President George W. Bush spoke Wednesday (Nov. 30) about his “Plan for Victory” in Iraq. In his speech, he stated that “we know that free societies are peaceful societies.” I wonder to which free societies he is referring? If he is referring to the U.S., I think he would be hard-pressed to provide any evidence to support that claim. We are one of the most warmongering nations in the world. We are one of the largest, if not the largest, exporter of arms in the world. We end up fighting nations using weapons we have provided them.
 I suppose it’s amazing we aren’t fighting most of the world at any given moment. They hate us, and with good reason. It’s not because we are free and they desperately desire freedom. It’s because we are wasteful, greedy, and profane people. We refuse to recycle our waste for the most part — why should we? It’s too much trouble. Besides, someone will come haul it away and take it somewhere. We continue to buy gas-guzzling vehicles and then complain when gas hits $3 a gallon. We talk about how God has blessed us and how he is on our side, and then we live our lives in ways that do anything but bring glory and honor to the God we claim is guiding us. We talk the Christian talk, we go to church every Sunday, we know which political party is God’s party, but we don’t do a very good job of walking the Christian walk we claim the world needs and to which we are staking our eternal salvation. God bless America? Maybe. Chris Babb Rochester

SPRINGFIELD MUST SPEAK ON IRAQ
Shall President George W. Bush and Congress commence a humane, orderly, immediate, and comprehensive withdrawal of all U.S. military personnel and bases from Iraq? This is the significant question that must be placed before the voters of Springfield on the March ballot. Americans were led into this war on false pretenses. No weapons of mass destruction were found. Saddam Hussein’s tyranny has been replaced by chaos and the potential for civil war. U.S. military personnel are ill-equipped for the mission and disrespected by a Congress that cuts military benefits. More than 2,000 U.S. troops are dead and many more scarred for life. More than 100,000 Iraqi civilians are dead. Iraq’s infrastructure is devastated for years to come. The occupation places significant strains on military preparedness, evident in a glaring inability to coordinate responses to natural disasters. The Iraqi war drains billions of dollars from the public treasury, funding better reserved for the urgent needs of education, health care, and housing. Global terrorism has increased as a result of the conflict. Evidence and investigations prove deliberate deception on the part of the executive branch. Many municipalities across America have taken a firm stand on this great issue of our day, affirming that the American people are light years ahead of Congress — turning against war and pursuing withdrawal as the alternative to continued catastrophe. Big cities and small towns have voted for withdrawal. Now, it’s time for Springfieldians to take a stand by participating in an advisory referendum and say to Washington and the nation, “Not in our names.”
This is not cut-and-run; this is sanity. I am circulating petitions to include the question on the March primary ballot. Signatures are required by the filing deadline of Jan. 3. Please contact me at zirim@ic.edu. Let us pursue justice and peace.
Michael P. Ziri Springfield

THANKS FOR GOOD WORK
Bless you all for some great journalism this past year. You folks really showed some great J-school talent, integrity, and just plain guts, especially in Dusty Rhodes’ expose of the phony political Silver Star and then the questionable Illinois State Police “professional standards.” Please keep it up — you made this a real Thanksgiving for a lot of people.
Raymond W. Phipps Springfield

HERE’S A HANDY BUDGET TRICK
If temporary taxes were not given an expiration date, they wouldn’t need to be made permanent at a later date. Donald E. Palmer Springfield
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