Turning darkness into light

~a column by Colleen O’Brien

I just finished, for the fifth time, a book titled The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

The only other book I’ve read as many times is Gone with the Wind. Four of those reads happened between seventh grade and 12th grade, the final read when I was 20 or so. It took me that many trips through the story to figure out that Rhett was done with Scarlett. Prior to that I figured he really did give a damn.

But this Potato Peel Pie Society book has yet to lose its charm for me. I do not tire of the writing, the story or the people. It is full of beauty and questioning, things we humans are stunned by on a regular basis. The lives of the Guernsey Islanders are revealed through letters between them and a London writer who wants to tell their stories. Throughout, the book is full of the human spirit rising above malevolence.

In that, it is always a book for the times.

It was written about the 1940 to 1945 Nazi occupation of Guernsey, one island in Britain’s Channel Islands, where on a clear day one can see France. The Nazis bomb the island, then occupy it.

At first, they are somewhat genial, considering they are the enemy, but their lying ways soon morph into cruelty: they take all the livestock for themselves, order the islanders to grow only potatoes and turnips if they want to eat, confiscate their radios and flat-out falsify the tides of war, set curfews that change by the day. They kill islanders for slight infractions and send others to prison camps in Germany for helping one another.

One of the Guernsey men says after the war, “I hated the Occupation…. Makes me mad to think of it. Some of those blighters was purely mean… push you around. They was the sort to like having the upper hand…their motto ‘Get even.’”

Just before the bombing by enemy forces, the children of Guernsey are shipped off island to the interior of England to save their lives. This is such a horrific situation that friends without children are asked to be the ones to put the children on the refugee boats, for the parents cannot bear the thought of their offspring clinging to them crying, begging, “Why do we have to leave you?”

It was the memory of this passage – “…all those little children bereft in the world, I was glad I did not have any…” — that prompted me to read the book again, in this particular news cycle.

The Nazi occupiers, whose increasing demands quickly terrify the native farming and fishing families, grow more unbearable by the day. But a few Guernseyites meet anyway to read books and share whatever strange concoctions of food they can come up with (potato peel pie, for example). The Literary Society survives as a stalwart group through the “distraction of reading” as they briefly escape despair whenever they can talk about books and authors.

What is most important about The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is its pertinence through the years I’ve read it (it was published in 2009), and especially right now. This historical novel is one more tale piled on many versions across the world and over the centuries of good people turning darkness into light. The need for this repetitive story throughout humans’ long and troublesome history arises again and again; we think we are becoming better and suddenly some rude guy comes to power.

I’m learning that gathering in the name of literature does provide some light.

Miller, 20 AGs demand end to cruel, illegal immigration tactics

The deliberate separation of children and their parents is wrong, letter says

Des Moines — Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller and 20 other attorneys general called on U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to end the cruel and illegal actions against children and families lawfully seeking asylum in the United States as they seek protection from domestic, sexual and gang violence. Continue reading Miller, 20 AGs demand end to cruel, illegal immigration tactics

A new heyday for Jefferson

~a column by Colleen O’Brien

It is the middle of June, and Jefferson is lush with spring. It is a rain forest of fifty shades of green, flowers blooming in the jungle, birds crazy with song dawn to dusk. On the edge of town the corn is two feet tall, and people are as busy as the environment – prosperity in the soil and along every sidewalk. Continue reading A new heyday for Jefferson

Letter to the editor – Dick Finch

Re: New jail

Spend, spend, spend, and really soon property taxes will be out of sight and out of affordability. They’re bad enough now – but wait!

Sheriff Jack Williams has asked for a new jail. $12 million because he says 90 percent of the crime in Greene County is fueled by drug use of meth and marijuana.

Sorry Big Spenders, but that’s the wrong approach to the problem. Continue reading Letter to the editor – Dick Finch

Making mincemeat of a commentarian

~a column by Colleen O’Brien

I’ve been using a computer I haven’t turned on since the early winter of 2017. I scanned through my documents from then to see what I’d saved from a season of unbelievable presidential campaign and its aftermath. Several of the columns I published at that time had to do with a man running for President of the United States who, shockingly to everyone including him, won the job. Continue reading Making mincemeat of a commentarian

Letter to the editor – RAGBRAI exec committee

re: RAGBRAI finances 

To the editor:

Jefferson’s day to host the 46th Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa® (RAGBRAI) is approaching quickly. This year’s RAGBRAI is going to be the largest iteration to date, and the Jefferson RAGBRAI executive committee, advisory board, sub-committees and volunteers have already tallied thousands of hours ensuring that riders leave Jefferson believing we were the best small-town host community on the route. Continue reading Letter to the editor – RAGBRAI exec committee

Letter to the editor – Pat Griffin

Re: Charges in fatal accident

To the editor,

If it was the responsibility of Greene County to file charges in the death of Pat Fields from Paton on June 6, 2017, the person responsible for filing either dropped the ball or had no balls. The semi Mr Shaw was driving struck the rear of the tractor Mr Fields was driving. Mr Fields’s tractor entered the north road ditch and the tractor landed on him. Mr Fields was dead at the scene. Continue reading Letter to the editor – Pat Griffin

The impact of decriminalized marijuana

~provided by New Opportunities

As other states begin to decriminalize recreational marijuana, one may wonder if it is a good idea to decriminalize marijuana in our state. There are currently nine states that have decriminalized marijuana.

It’s important to remember that even though there have been changes regarding possession and it may seem to be acceptable in those states, marijuana remains federally illegal. Here are some facts about the impact of decriminalized recreational marijuana in other states. Continue reading The impact of decriminalized marijuana

Flowers for the fallen

~a column by Colleen O’Brien

A year ago on Memorial Day a friend and I picnicked in a large, town cemetery in southwest Florida. A few graves held plastic flowers which could have been there all year or placed the day before. The two of us dropped orange hibiscus blooms on family graves she knew; we were the only people in the cemetery.

Because I’ve not been to many Florida cemeteries on Memorial Day, some may have more action than Indian Mound Cemetery in Charlotte County, but I do know that the Midwest is devoted to its cemeteries on Memorial Day weekend. Continue reading Flowers for the fallen

Truth, Lies and Leadership

~a column by Colleen O’Brien

A Higher Loyalty – Truth, Lies and Leadership is the title of former FBI director James Comey’s recent book (2018 Flatiron Books [Macmillan]). It is a good title, for the point of the book is about his president asking him to be loyal to him first. Not to the Constitution, which Comey swore to uphold (as did his president); not even to a political party. He was asked to be loyal to a man. Continue reading Truth, Lies and Leadership