Democracy's fate is in our hands

American democracy is under siege from the corrosive realities of religious/racial bias, smug elitism, emboldened hate groups and inflammatory discourse that rarely takes a holiday. Partisan derangement from all factions leaves scant acreage for common ground. Some Americans fear the inevitability of a second civil war.

Fittingly, the words of Abraham Lincoln have renewed urgency. In his Lyceum Address Lincoln cautioned, “At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher.”

We are the authors of the present chapters in the American story and there will be no escape from the verdict of history. What that verdict will be depends on reclaiming the better angels of our nature.

JACK STRAFFORD

Lynchburg

Rhetoric is overheated

If I may suggest, people who write letters to the editor to The News & Advance need to tone down the rhetoric.

On Aug. 11, the editorial page editor allowed Scott Myers to write a personal attack against Bob Snell. I find that completely unacceptable to engage in this kind of invective. The other letter that day accused all liberals of being impressionable and ignorant, a view I just might hold about all Trump supporters. Today, Tuesday, I was subjected to a letter that had the word “idiot” nine times in seven paragraphs.

The fact is that these zealous letter writers will never convince me their personal opinions are worth even a half drunk can of stale beer if they make it clear they totally disrespect others’ opinions. I do note that several words and phrases I had only rarely encountered are now disturbingly common, such as “complicit,” “Dunning-Kruger,” “gaslighting,” “xenophobic” and “misogyny” all since President Trump came on the scene.

Not only do I blame his rhetoric for contributing to Charlottesville and El Paso among other attrocities, I can see it in the tenor of the letters his supporters are writing. I get most people in this area think I’m a stupid liberal, but really? It’s not like you will ever again see me in a conservative evangelical church or voting for a Republican. I know where I’m not welcome. Can those who write these letters convince me of the error of my ways or to respect their opinions? It’s really, really doubtful.

KENNETH NAUGLE

Forest

Drug courts save lives

Mass incarceration has been a policy failure since the 1970s.

The United States makes up 5 percent of the world’s population, yet we incarcerate more individuals than any other country. We spend $50 billion on running the prison system, yet we do not measure what we’re really spending in terms of human costs.

Incarcerated individuals may experience physical and sexual abuse, develop mental health and substance use issues and have a hard time finding employment after being released. Their families also suffer, and their children are at higher risk of being incarcerated.

A change of attitudes is needed, and that is why I’m so pleased that Lynchburg has received funding to continue Drug Court. Drug courts work and have been found to reduce recidivism and costs among program participants in contrast to comparable probationers. Drug courts have also been found to not compromise public safety. If we want to break the cycle of incarceration we need less punitive approaches and more clinically informed approaches.

Horizon Behavioral Health is honored to be part of a community of law enforcement, courts, probation and parole and alcohol and treatment providers that want to support nonviolent individuals that want to break their dependency from alcohol and substance use. The solutions for breaking the cycle of incarceration is not going to come from the federal government, it’s going to happen city by city and county by county.

I’m very pleased that the communities of Lynchburg and Central Virginia are doing their part. On Aug. 7, Lynchburg had its first Drug Court graduation: Congratulations to the five graduates that are now on their way to motivate others to do the same.

DAMIEN CABEZAS

CEO, Horizon Behavioral Health

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