Politics Behind the Flags

As a veteran and former CIA counterterrorism specialist, I am always pleased to see the American people remember our fallen soldiers, sailors and Marines. It was, however, a bit disconcerting to see the front-page pictures in the June 2 Loudoun Extra showing flags commemorating "1,600 Americans who have died in the war against terrorism."

One hundred eighty-six American soldiers have died in Afghanistan, which was truly a just war waged against a terrorist group and the government that was protecting it. One thousand, six hundred and sixty-six Americans have died in Iraq, which had nothing to do with terrorism, in a war that has been waged under false pretenses against a country that posed no threat to the United States.

Equating Iraq with "terrorism" may be comforting, but it is untrue, even when the Bush administration deliberately seeks to meld the two to justify its unconscionable behavior. It would perhaps be more appropriate to remember the brave men and women who have given their lives for their country without the political spin.

Philip M. Giraldi

Purcellville

Part of a Dramatic Tradition

Sabrina Audrey Jess, the Stone Bridge High School playwright, is in good company for trying to portray the effects of intolerance and bullying and for shining the light on the need for diversity and understanding in our community.

Three generations ago, the legendary Mae West was thrown in jail for writing, producing and starring in her play "Sex." In 1956, or thereabouts, Grace Metalious created a furor in her little town when she published her novel "Peyton Place." Naturally, nice people in a little town went bonkers when reality as expressed in fiction collided with their sanctimonious bent.

I didn't see Jess's play, but from what I read, the final scene presented a question that everyone who is making such a to-do should ask himself or herself, just as in years after "Peyton Place" small-town people had to ask themselves: What about reality and the way life really is scares the hell out of you? Ryan, the gay protagonist, asks: "See me as a person, inside. Do you see one just like you? Is that the problem? A little of me hiding in you? Is that the problem?"

Jess just might be another Lillian Hellman or Tennessee Williams or Gore Vidal growing up here in Loudoun County. It would seem to me that she would be lionized for an obvious rare talent and even rarer sensitivity to diversity and to tolerance. Obviously Jess had great guidance in the direction and production of her play in that "the kiss" was a necessary part of what she was portraying, but the tastefulness of a dark stage and "the kiss" in the viewer's imagination is a technique of class and style like the legendary stripping by Gypsy Rose Lee as compared to a performer in a 14th Street dive.

This unfortunate controversy points out that we haven't come very far from the era of Mae West and Grace Metalious. Contrary to the way the country in general and our county specifically is drifting, it is ever more imperative that we insist upon a separation of church and state. Every attempt at censorship and evoking religious tenets to rule the general populace should be stopped the minute it rears its ugly head.

High school kids, whether we like it or not, are sexual beings and should be educated to deal with a world where all the possibilities exist. It will enable them to know themselves and to make decisions that will lead them to a satisfied and healthy life.

Del. Richard H. "Dick" Black (R) and Supervisor Eugene A. Delgaudio (R-Sterling), in particular, have demonstrated an unbelievable bigotry, to say nothing of an abysmal lack of savvy, when it comes to getting the drift of what a playwright intends in his or her work. Since the Messrs. B & D have, in my opinion, squandered and pillaged our open spaces for greedy development, I suggest our county kick in a little more money and send them both to New York City for a theater party and after-dinner supper at Sardi's. The Broadway musical "La Cage Aux Folles" should be a fun way to get them to ponder Ryan's questions.

I can only hope that at the end of the musical our two esteemed elected leaders will have seen something of themselves the way Ryan in the play asks them to do. If they do, I'll bet they will be swinging with the rest of the audience to the tune "It's the Best of Times" as the curtain falls, and when they come home and spread the word, we'll be singing that song, not "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?"

Bill Gorondner

Leesburg

Military Force the Answer

I take issue with S. Ann Robinson's prescription for world peace as expressed in her letter of June 2 ["For a More Peaceful Future," Loudoun Extra].

She lists her military pedigree, and I shall do the same. I am a veteran of the Marine Corps-Korean War; son of a World War I veteran; brother of a World War II/Korean War veteran; brother-in-law of a World War II veteran; the uncle of two Army officers currently serving our country, both veterans of the Cold War, the Balkans and the Gulf and Iraq wars; and I am the father of seven and grandfather of 24.

She states that "we must turn our thoughts to securing peace for future generations" and goes on to set forth things that we (presumably the United States) must do in furtherance of that effort, such as "bringing our energy consumption more in line with our share of the world's resources," "develop passion for justice in the distribution of the dwindling supply of safe water" and "demand fair labor standards around the world and sustainable development while respecting the belief systems of others, we might have a chance for a more peaceful future."

My reading of history over the last 100 years tells me that the kaiser, Hitler, Mussolini, Hirohito, Stalin, Khrushchev, Milosevic and Hussein, who visited unspeakable horrors on their own citizens as well as their neighbors, and the 19 terrorists who flew aircraft into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania, did not commit their acts over energy consumption, potable water, the minimum wage, zoning laws or religious tolerance.

There are people in this world who hate Americans just for who we are. There is no more generous, compassionate and religiously tolerant nation on this planet than the United States. Witness our response to natural disasters around the world, most in countries that do not share our Judeo-Christian beliefs.

Nowhere in her letter does Robinson suggest that others in this world bear at least some responsibility for the conflicts into which our nation has been drawn. It's about time that those who blame America first realize that there is evil in this world and that the counter to that evil, when it's committed against the United States and its allies, is overwhelming military force, not platitudes.

Sir Edmund Burke said it best. "All that is necessary for evil to prevail is that good men do nothing." I pray for the safe return of her son and all the military men and women deployed around the world in defense of our freedoms, and I look forward to the day when the entire world lives in peace.

T.A. "Pat" Blake

Ashburn