Photo by Edward F. Palm)

About Me

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Forest, Virginia, United States
A long time ago, my sophomore English teacher, Father William Campbell, saw something in my writing and predicted that I would someday become a newspaper columnist. He suggested the perfect title for my column--"Leaves of the Palm." Now that I have a little extra time on my hands I've decided to put Father Campbell's prediction to the test. I'm going to start using this blog site not just to reprint opinion pieces I've published elsewhere but to try to get more of my ideas and opinions out there. Feedback is welcome. To find out more about me, please check out my Web site: www.EdwardFPalm.com (Click on any of the photos below for an enlarged view.)

Friday, May 23, 2014

My Current Column

ED PALM | Slouching toward intolerance

By Ed Palm
Friday, May 23, 2014
The Supreme Court giveth and the Supreme Court taketh away. That’s how I view their two most recent rulings.

The April 22 decision upholding the right of states, Washington included, to bar the use of affirmative action in college admissions, as I see it, was a boon. Ensuring that the students and faculty of our colleges and universities reflect the diversity of our nation is a legitimate goal, and there was a time when giving preferential treatment to underrepresented minorities was warranted. The problem is that our colleges and universities have gone too far, making a veritable fetish of diversity.

What Western Washington University’s President Bruce Shepard recently said about his university being “too white” is a case in point. Shepard went on to characterize the lack of diversity on college campuses as a “national crisis.”

According to the U.S. Census website, in 2013, 11.7 percent of Washington residents were Hispanic, 7.7 Asian, 3.9 African-American, and 1.8 Native American — totaling 25.1 percent. In the “Quick Facts” section of its own website, WWU reports that 22 percent of its students are “students of color.” The university is only 3 or 4 percentage points from our state demographic.

Also, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics, in 2012, among the 18-to-24 age group, 59.8 percent of Asians, 36.4 of African-Americans, 37.5 of Hispanics, and 27.8 percent of Native Americans enrolled in college — compared to 42.1 percent of the white student population. How does this qualify as a “national crisis”?

Clearly, Shepard believes that hyperbole in defense of affirmative action is no vice.

Having gone around in academic circles myself — pun intended — I have learned that academics are no more open-minded than anyone else. They’re just better at articulating and defending their prejudices. The communist political officers of old, who were charged with ferreting out incorrect thought, would envy the orthodoxy found on today’s liberal college campuses. Professors who want tenure, and administrators who want to keep their jobs, have to guard against expressing politically incorrect attitudes and opinions. Shepard is pandering to the liberal ideologues who predominate in academia today.

Two arguments I’ve heard in support of affirmative action are that African-Americans and Hispanics are still lagging behind in academic and professional achievement and that legal segregation has given way to voluntary segregation. We do indeed still have a racial divide in this country, but affirmative action won’t bridge it. Giving people of color preferential treatment breeds resentment and reinforces racist attitudes, the worst of which is the presumption that a deserving person of color would not have gotten into an elite college or a prestigious profession but for affirmative action.

As for that other Supreme Court decision, clearing the way for government agencies to open meetings with a prayer, I affirmed it before in these pages, and I’ll affirm it again: What truly set this country apart was the decision to erect a wall of separation between church and state. Those who believe that our founding fathers intended no such thing would remind us that our currency is inscribed with “In God we trust.” True, but that’s a sacrilege. Christians should demand that the inscription be removed. It was a coin, after all, that Jesus used in commanding his followers to “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” I can’t think of a better endorsement of the separation of church and state.

I’m also aware that not all our founding fathers were deists. Some were Christians. But I imagine that, like me when I’m visiting my mother-in-law, they could set aside their personal convictions for the greater good. My mother-in-law says grace aloud before every meal. While I don’t believe that ours is a personal God we can appeal to, I bow my head respectfully until my mother-in-law is finished. I do so because I’m in her home, and she gets to display her convictions in her home.

A government meeting, however, is a public and a secular forum. It should set a fully inclusive tone, one reflecting the diversity of our nation. No religious viewpoint should be privileged over another. Everyone in attendance should feel welcome and respected — Christian, Jew, Muslim, atheist, agnostic, Wiccans, and whatever. No one should be made to feel like an “other.” This is why, as I’ve written before, I respect and admire France’s uncompromising commitment to keeping religion a private and not a public matter. The French believe that a true commitment to “liberty, equality, and fraternity” requires that all citizens set aside their personal convictions in public and that they meet as equals on a secular plane.

We took an important step in that direction when we banned prayer in public schools. Now, thanks to the Supreme Court, we’re backsliding toward intolerance.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

My Current Column

ED PALM | Echo back to the Old West

By Ed Palm
Friday, May 9, 2014
Let’s face it. With the advent of Georgia’s new “guns everywhere law,” the NRA is poised for final victory. That being the case, Washington might as well jump over to the side that’s winning. We’re already fellow travelers. No permit is required to carry a gun openly in our state, and our concealed carry permits require no firearms safety training whatsoever. What I’m proposing, therefore, is that we curry favor with the NRA by reaffirming that mythic code of the Old West.

If any number of movies and television programs are to be believed, that code allowed two gun-toting men to face off in leather-slapping, quick-draw duels-to-the-death with no legal repercussions. Think of how we could free up our overcrowded civil-court dockets if people were allowed to resolve their disputes in this fashion.

To be sure, this would occasion some collateral damage. Innocent bystanders might be injured or killed in the crossfire or by ricochets. And the human body does not always stop a high-velocity bullet. But we could take our cue from those Air Force public affairs officers who still field complaints about sonic booms and routine jet noise. It’s the price of freedom!

Those who have any qualms about this modest proposal of mine should consider how we’re almost there now.

In 1992, on Halloween, a Michigan homeowner shot and killed a Japanese exchange student who had mistakenly come to his door in search of a party. That homeowner was acquitted.
Last fall, again in Michigan, a homeowner shot and killed a drunken 19-year-old woman for being on his porch.

In Florida, in 2012, George Zimmerman walked after killing Travon Martin.

Also, in Florida, a man was recently shot to death during an argument over texting in a movie theater, and a teenager was shot and killed for playing loud music at a gas station.

And just last month, a man in Montana killed a German exchange student he found in his garage. The shooter, who had twice been burglarized, was reportedly staying up nights hoping to shoot the burglar.

This last case does raise a possible objection. I am reminded of something the popularizer of military history Gwynne Dyer once said: “Countries that prepare for war inevitably get it.” There is a kind of person who purchases a gun just looking for an excuse to use it. Some of these people will inevitably overreact, resorting to gunfire for light and transient reasons. But we’ll all benefit in the long run. Family and friends will be able to avenge unjustified killings. Weak and timid people are likely to lose their gun battles, thereby improving the gene pool. With so many people taking the law into their own hands, we’ll be able to lay off a lot of police officers. That will help lower our tax bills and help get big government off our backs.

The only other objection I can anticipate is the tired old argument that guns are better left in the hands of those who have been properly trained to use them.But when I was foolish enough to advance this argument in the past, one reader put me in my place by affirming that the Second Amendment is absolute and that the government has no right to require us to get concealed carry permits.

Finally, think how much more exciting life will be once we’re all gun-toting rugged individualists living under the code of the Old West.

New topic: You had to have been living under a rock over the past two weeks to have missed the controversy stirred up by the racist comments of Nevada cattle rancher Clive Bundy and NBA Clippers owner Donald Sterling.

Just the other week, however, my 86-year-old white mother-in-law, Amelia Muelenaer — who lives in Roanoke, Virginia, and who was born in that same state — had an experience suggesting that the racial divide in this country is not quite as wide as the pundits would have us believe.
She was checking out several items at Walmart when she noticed that a young black man behind her was buying only a pair of flip-flops. “If that’s all you have,” she said, “please go on ahead of me.”
He demurred at first but did accept her offer.

As the young man was leaving the checkout line, Amelia happened to look down and found a $20 bill lying on her purse. She tried to give it back, but the young man wouldn’t hear of it. He kept walking, except to turn around and blow her a kiss.

Amelia intends to pay it forward, giving the bill to a Walmart shopper who seems to need it.
Make no mistake about it: Slavery was our original sin in America. But if people in the South can get past it, so can the rest of us.