Clearing Up Assumptions

I wanted to thank S. Ann Robinson for an articulate discourse ["Perceptions on Patriotism," Letters, Loudoun Extra, May 9] in response to my letter in defense of conservatives ["From the Other Side," Loudoun Extra, April 29].

I had to smile after reading her comment, "Jeffrey Morse's assumptions betray his prejudices." My incorrect assumption was that her son (being in the service) could help her understand the tendency of military voters to vote for conservative candidates and the preposterousness of her comments that Republicans are "eager to wage war" and do so with "enthusiasm and cheering" ["High Cost of Hypocrisy," Letters, Loudoun Extra, April 18].

I hoped her son could also clear up her misconception that the Republican Party believes it "owns the military and its sacrifices." But I'm still at a loss as to what my "prejudices" might be.

Neither party claims to own the military, contrary to her assertion, but one certainly benefits more from the votes of service members at the polls and therefore is generally more attentive to their needs. It is not clear whether this fact escapes her or just makes her angry. She clearly has already earned the right to give a soldier's perspective. I attest to the fact that her viewpoint is not based on ignorance of the military lifestyle.

Serving one's country is not a requirement for being patriotic, nor does it make one's opinions on policy more precise. Examples of the undue importance being placed on this misconception abound in the 2004 presidential race. What serving one's country does provide is a much greater appreciation for the sacrifices made to keep our nation free.

In my comments in support of patriotism, I made neither sweeping generalizations nor direct attacks against liberals (despite Robinson's brazen use of these against conservatives) but merely defended the commonly held conservative viewpoint.

Her family clearly displays an impressive dedication to the freedoms we enjoy, and for that she has the right to brag. I find it difficult to brag about my father's flag-draped coffin, my grandfather's status as "missing and presumed dead" after his ship was sunk in World War II or my stepfather's Bronze Star for service in Vietnam. I am proud of their service and acutely aware that my own sacrifices pale in comparison.

After 18 years of service as a naval officer, missing weddings, birthdays, Christmas and my son's birth, I look forward to the day when I can provide my family with the attention it deserves in a country that is secure from terrorism.

Our families are remarkably similar. . . . Her description of "generations of service to our country" could have just as easily been written by my mother or wife.

I never stated nor did I imply that because an individual is not a conservative, he or she loves his or her country any less. I did not state or imply that it means that one loves God less. I simply responded to Robinson's mistaken and gross generalizations that Republicans are enthusiastic about killing people, hate the poor and hide behind religion to attack homosexuals.

Such fallacious generalizations scare me, particularly as I look to the current prisoner debacle in Iraq: Radical Islamists are using the same arguments to indict all U.S. and British service members as torturers. Her son and my colleagues deserve better than to be painted with so broad a brush.

Robinson touted her jobs as a security officer and an accountant for a defense contractor and pointed out from an insider's view that "there is a significant amount of waste going on in some companies." Some companies? Which companies? Is this another sweeping indictment and gross generalization? If not, did she, as a steward of taxpayers' dollars, do something about it? Patriotism takes many forms.

I have enjoyed our ongoing discourse over the past several weeks but find such rhetoric about the "yell[ing] and scream[ing] and throw[ing] temper tantrums" to be tabloidesque -- high on hyperbole but lacking in fact. I agree with her statement, "There is a debate here, but it must begin with integrity." Unfortunately, this type of debate seems to be a dwindling commodity these days.

I applaud her efforts at fundraising for Fresh Air/Full Care. It sounds like a very worthwhile organization. However, I choose to donate to Christ House, (703-549-8644 or 703-548-4227). Christ House provides food and clothing to those in our area who are in desperate need of such. It provides meals to an average of 80 people a day and urgently needs donations.

Jeffrey Morse

South Riding

Another Transit Solution

Andrew F. Pitas ["Two Routes Needed," Letters, Loudoun Extra, May 20] and Leesburg Town Council member Robert J. "Bob" Zoldos are right on the mark for advocating the "techway" on top of Route 28 as well the Western Transportation Corridor (WTC).

I would go further and say that a third route is imperative: an enhanced, four-lane Route 15 as a "Far Western Corridor," or "FWC," to the Point of Rocks bridge through the town of Lucketts.

Maryland has already agreed to the FWC, and Frederick County is widening the Maryland side of Route 15 to four lanes. Frederick has approved zoning for thousands of homes, and it is ironically Loudoun County's archaic zoning that is preventing progress of the FWC.

The FWC would promote increased trucking freight to the Dulles area to augment Interstate 81. It could be built for a fraction of the cost and in less than a year, as the road and bridge already exist and need only to be widened. The FWC would also prevent the tragic fatalities that occur on Route 15, which is inadequate for today's traffic growth, and could transport hazardous materials more safely than the antiquated roads we have now.

The only major town affected would be Lucketts, a town of 100 or so, and attractive sound barriers and medians could be built through town and access could be limited. The numerous gas marts and hotels along Route 15 would benefit, thus increasing our tax revenue from out-of-state travelers.

Once again, I support and applaud proposing visionary transportation solutions for the future of Loudoun. I am taking this opportunity to recommend an additional solution that would provide a more immediate bridge to our transportation issues.

Tom Campbell


Tragedy Here at Home

As a loyal American, I have become deeply engrossed in the news coming out of Iraq. Hoping that the soldiers at greatest risk live to see another day. Praying for some shred of reason to lift itself up from the violence and chaos.

But even as the bullets fly over there, I'm distracted by a domestic tragedy that many Americans may not realize is reaching the point of no return: the 225 American plant and animal species on "extinction death row." These include wildflowers, birds, amphibians and more awaiting their turn to be listed and protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Government agencies have studied these species and know they are in danger. Still, these plants and animals have remained unprotected and on extinction death row for an average of 17 years.

ESA limbo is a dangerous place. From 1974 to 1994, the United States lost 83 species on extinction death row -- plants and animals that became extinct because we failed to act quickly enough. Regardless of how the Bush administration and its industry supporters feel about the ESA, delays that result in extinction are criminal. And the Bush administration is notorious for its delay tactics.

President Bill Clinton put 65 species a year on the endangered list. President George H.W. Bush averaged 59. President Ronald Reagan, 32. George W. Bush's administration averages just nine listings a year and has not listed any species or designated any critical habitat except under court order.

Even while the bullets fly in Iraq, we must meet our domestic responsibilities to endangered species. If President Bush will not act to break the logjam, opposition candidates -- and all of us -- should make him pay the political price for it.

Andrea Gaines