The forest has taken over the trees.

These days it seems anger, disappointment, all the darkness of overgrown forests have captured the platforms of America and its ideals. We hear sounds that remind us of hyenas and wolves that bray at night.

Anyone who has lived at the edge of civilization and faced a sleepless night will tell you of these hideous sounds. They are frightful. They are filled with panic. They bring to mind images of lost and forgotten people.

Every day, we hear of another gathering questioning the rights and manners of some of our fellow citizens. Sometimes the complaints are based on hearsay and many times, the products of sick minds and imaginations.

Recently, some delegates obtained permission from the Portland school system to hold meetings and discuss political platforms. Some of the participants took it upon themselves to censure the materials affixed on classroom walls.

The reason, I believe, was to make a political statement, as if addressing the poster and saying, “I disagree with you; therefore, I will destroy you.”

Some who attended and met in the rooms where this desecration took place said, “It is incumbent upon us to uproot the evil that surrounds us.”

They said, “We are beyond the law. We feel the law agencies are impotent. We are the new warriors defending American values”.

They forget! A major American value is freedom of speech. The good teacher always surrounds himself with material that makes a point. Sometimes it may be considered radical, far out, etc. The good teacher realizes the need to present his pupils with all sides of all questions.

In any democracy, one expects above all things the presentation of all issues in a multisided way. If we only express the feelings and beliefs of one part of the community, it loses its democratic base. The demos is not the few but the many.

So, what can we expect from our opinion makers, political leaders, teachers, preachers, and idea formers and promulgators? First, the truth. Second, respect for each other. Third, that the welfare of the nation be uppermost in their minds.

Of late, we have suffered from many disasters. Some were acts of nature. Others were the result of improper and careless regard for the moment. The oil spill in the Gulf, the damage caused by tornadoes, the floods that washed away the coastlines of Louisiana and other Southern states, all show that this is a very disturbing period of history.

We know more about nature and its idiosyncrasies, about unexpected diseases, about causes of epidemics than ever before. We have many answers, yet unfortunately, many of the officials who have been given the sacred task of protecting us in times of terrible toil and strain have not lived up to the requirements of their calling.

We can’t do anything about spilled milk, but we can look to the future and hope that the errors of the past have been imprinted in our everlasting memories.

Harry Sky is a retired rabbi who lives in Maine.

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