To the editor:
This last week, I had the pleasure to visit Berlin. This was my first trip to New Hampshire and I was not disappointed. Stepping out of my hotel room each morning and looking up to see the White Mountains capped with a little snow was truly breathtaking. I did not bring my fishing pole this trip, although I could feel the river calling me each day. I was also outsmarted by the local moose who stayed hidden in their mountain timber and refused me a genuine moose sighting. What a trip!
The only part of my trip that was not perfect, was breakfast at a local restaurant, I picked up a copy of the Berlin Sun and spotted a letter written by Elizabeth Ruediger, titled "America’s behavior is baffling." I was intrigued by the title, but as I read the article, I found the author’s words to be baffling.
I do not pretend that the Missouri Ozarks is perfect, but the people that live here and the culture of hard work, self-sufficiency, and caring for one another is deeply ingrained in these Ozark hills. I travel a lot throughout Missouri and I would love to know where Ms. Ruedinger claimed to have seen racial signs that told non-whites to be out of town by sundown or “no Jews.”
As far as the Trump signs or Let’s Go Brandon stickers, Missouri does have those. So does New Hampshire. Matter of fact, I saw Trump signs and talked to several Trump-supporting, Concealed Carry license-holding, Christian people while staying in Berlin. But I don’t believe, for good or bad, that my small sampling of people defines your town or state.
I travel several times a month, all over the United States to teach law enforcement and corrections staff. I can tell you what I see in America is much different. I attended a funeral last week for a fallen firefighter in Southern Missouri. I saw 50 agencies show up to pay their respects, families raising money and donating food to help his family. I saw hundreds and hundreds of American flags waving proudly from fire trucks and front porches as people saluted the procession.
I see correctional officers and police officers across this country who go to work every day, short-staffed, underpaid and giving up huge amounts of their family time to quietly protect the communities they serve. I visited a correctional center where the inmates are taking old wheelchairs and walkers which they disassemble, clean, repair and then give back to the people in the communities that cannot afford them.
I see the local Masonic Lodges gathering coats, gloves, hats, and scarves to give to school nurses for distribution for the children who could not afford warm clothes this winter.
This is the America I see. This is why I was baffled by the hateful and divisive words that were stated as fact by Ms. Ruedinger. I hope that she can learn that her own prejudices are forming her skewed view of the America. I hope that she can get out and travel more from her “Yankee hollah’ in the North Country.”
Mark Twain (a Missouri boy that moved to New England) once said "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime."
America always has been a work in progress, since the beginning. We have never been perfect, and I don’t believe we ever will be. But, like anything else in life, what makes us great — is that we try. Thank you to Berlin for letting me visit, meet some great people and discover a great place in America. I am going home to Missouri now, another great place in America. Please come visit and see for yourself the great people and beauty of my state.