Trumpster Nation

by W.D. Ehrhart Recently, I had occasion to drive the length of the Pennsylvania Turnpike all the way to the Ohio border. Western Pennsylvania is beautiful and mountainous. It is also, for the most part, solid Trump Country. Indeed, aside from Philadelphia and its suburban counties, and less dependably Pittsburgh, the entire state is as red as a male cardinal. I did not see a single billboard supporting Democrat John Fetterman’s bid to win a U.S. Senate seat. And the only billboard mentioning current Democratic state attorney general Josh Shapiro’s run for the governorship was sponsored by his Republican opponent and Trump-endorsed Doug Mastriano, that …

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The New Normal

by W.D. Ehrhart My wife and I recently spent four days in the Adirondack Mountains with old friends of ours. It is a six-hour car trip from our home in Pennsylvania, but thanks to Anne’s company, the time passed enjoyably. And it was a great pleasure to spend time with our hosts, the wildlife conservationists Amy Vedder and Bill Weber, whom I’ve known since our college days over half a century ago. We hiked in woods up and down hills and around lakes, visited the Adirondack Experience Museum, and reminisced for hours while watching chipmunks, hummingbirds, blue birds, and wild turkeys, and enjoying the view …

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Let’s Talk About Original Intent

by W. D. Ehrhart In a withering, indeed breathtaking, succession of recent decisions rendered by a U.S. Supreme Court now dominated by justices vetted by the Federalist Society and nominated by presidents who did not win the popular national vote, most of the past 120 years of legal progress and precedent have been obliterated. The rationale for this assault on common sense and common decency is a doctrine called “Original Intent,” which states that only those guarantees intended by the framers of the Constitution in 1787 and set forth in the document ratified two years later are valid. This is also sometimes defined as “strict …

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How Vietnam got under America’s callused cowboy skin

by Jean Stimmell Because America chose to wage a war in Vietnam, Thich Nhat Hanh was exiled from his country and ended up a renowned spiritual teacher and peacemaker, instrumental in mellowing our macho culture. It was even more of a turnaround for Ocean Vuong, the acclaimed writer and poet: He tells us he literally wouldn’t exist without the Vietnam War. That’s because his grandfather, an American soldier fighting in Vietnam, met his grandmother, “a girl from the rice paddies,” ⁠1 and married her. And then, there’s me: a hapless 19-year-old who stumbled into Vietnam after dropping out of college. I enlisted before the big …

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The Way Things Are

by W.D. Ehrhart Back in the May 20th issue of the Gazette, readers may remember an essay of mine called “Woe Is Me!” I began by cataloguing a litany of disasters and lunacies that leave me feeling hopeless about the future of this country and the planet. But then I spent a wonderful day with some friends of mine reminding me that there are indeed still many good things in this world, and lots to be grateful for. Which is certainly true. The world is full of sad stories, but none of them are mine. And for some people, life is better now than it …

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A Farewell to Arms?

by W.D. Ehrhart Back in 1990, at the first Conference of U.S. & Vietnamese Veteran-Writers in Hanoi, Le Minh Khue, a novelist who had been a teenager with a young volunteers team assigned to the military engineering command, told me that she had gone off to the war with several books in her knapsack: translations of Ernest Hemingway and Jack London. “I learned a love of life from Jack London, as well as the courage to transcend death, to keep up hope against any odds,” she said.  “I cherished the anguish of Hemingway, whose wonderful short stories deal with loneliness, death, and love of life, …

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