Letters, Winter 2014

Letters, Winter 2014

Readers respond to the Fall 2014 issue.
Winter 2014


Alzheimer’s care

As an elder law attorney, I’ve found that over half my clients over age 85 are afflicted with Alzheimer’s (“Alzheimer’s Caregiving Takes a Village” by Jade Angelica, Fall 2014). Once you understand what is going on “behind the scenes” you become much more comfortable spending time with those afflicted. You also begin to understand the challenges faced by caregivers, who are really unsung heroes. Understanding the disease is a precursor to exercising the First Principle (recognizing the inherent worth and dignity of those afflicted) and the Seventh Principle (respect for the interdependent web of existence).

Bob Gasparro
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Church of the Larger Fellowship
posted on uuworld.org, September 23

As the daughter of someone with Alzheimer’s disease, I read this article with interest. Yes, caretaking is more than a spouse or an immediate family can handle, especially in later stages, but other than visits I do not see much that a church community can do. In later stages, in my experience, the afflicted are not interested in the simple tasks that are suggested as a way for them to participate; the personality has changed, the formerly agreeable are sometimes, and unpredictably, aggressive. Yes, respite care helps, as do social visits, though at some point respite care probably needs to be professional.

Reading this article online, I followed links to other UU World articles about Alzheimer’s. “Finding Spirit in the Sundown” by Laura Randall (Spring 2010) correctly shares the understanding I have read elsewhere that “Alzheimer’s wins”; that the reality of the victim can not be contradicted. The story in that article of a nursing-home employee taking on the role of cruise director to fit in with the resident’s confused perspective was a perfect example, so important. The article lost me when it tried to find something “more” in Alzheimer’s. That is so, so not the experience of my father, as I perceive it and as expressed when he is himself. This is a miserable, rotten disease; it robs those suffering from it of so much, robs family members of the recognizable personality that they loved. As UUs, many of us look for a spiritual side, something positive in any affliction; this is understandable, but from my perspective it is not reality and is doomed to failure.

Sally Jane Gellert
Woodcliff Lake, N.J.
Central Unitarian Church of Paramus

Surveillance state

I served as minister of First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles, where the Rev. Stephen Fritchman was my friend and mentor, from 1978 to 1989. I write therefore to correct the false allegations leveled against Fritchman in the most recent UU World by Joshua Eaton (“Challenging the Surveillance State,” Fall 2014).

Eaton writes: “[Fritchman] was also active in Boston’s network of Communist Party cells and Popular Front organizations.” This echoes and amplifies charges in the 2011 self-published book by the Rev. Charles Eddis, Stephen Fritchman: The American Unitarians and Communism, to which Eaton pays tribute, in which Eddis, based upon pages of shoddy evidence amounting to little more than hearsay, concludes “it is likely that Stephen Fritchman was a key Communist Party insider.”

The reality is that Steve was never a member of the Communist Party, though such accusations led to many years of smears, slanders, and surveillance by the FBI attempting to destroy his life and career. I challenge Eaton, Eddis, and your editors to offer a single piece of documentation to back up such claims and, failing to do so, to apologize for posthumously assassinating the character of a great UU.

The Rev. Dr. Philip Zwerling
Edinburg, Texas

Joshua Eaton did not repeat the allegation that Fritchman was “a key Com­munist Party insider.” There is strong evidence, corroborated by historians and by other people who knew him, that Fritchman was active in Popular Front groups and sympathized with Commun­ism, although no clear evidence has emerged that he joined the Party. Our story highlighted the FBI’s intrusive surveillance of all manner of left-wing activists. “Com­munist” was the FBI’s smear, not ours. —The editor

Starr King

After reading “Starr King Tracing Leaked Documents” (Fall 2014), I was struck by the ease with which progressive-sounding language can be used to justify any behavior. The Starr King Board of Trustees’ unrelenting pressure tactics, which affect their students’ future livelihoods, are called “an investigation,” and restorative justice is presented as a tool to catch and punish whistle-blowers.

Claiming that the suspect students may lack sufficient “character” to be ministers is just another pressure tactic, a loophole for denying diplomas. The school’s claim that their actions are “an act of faithfulness to our calling and our mission: to educate UU ministers and progressive leaders” is an Orwellian use of religious jargon.

How can we expect to have the moral authority to confront injustice and coercion elsewhere in the world if we can’t acknowledge our own personal and institutional failings?

Ellen Lawrence Skagerberg
Santa Rosa, California
UU Congregation of Santa Rosa

Zentangling chalices

Zentangling (“Chalices, Doodling, and Meditation,” Fall 2014) is both fun and a spiritual practice, and I am thrilled to see it highlighted in UU World.

Kim Wheat Condas
Herndon, Virginia
UU Congregation of Fairfax
posted on uuworld.org, August 30

Changing hearts

In writing about climate change, UUA President Peter Morales notes: “While we UUs can and will advocate for change in public policy . . . this is not where our central focus should be. Our religious challenge, now as always, is to help change hearts and minds” (“Changing Hearts, Not Just Opinions,” Fall 2014).

UUs will find enlightenment and justice when we move beyond climate change lectures and into a better understanding of energy. Look at the ways in which energy is produced, distributed, and used. Think about mountaintop coal removal, fracking, the disposal of radioactive wastes, and other energy-related problems. Who profits in the present system, and who pays the price?

Even if your neighbors deny the reality of climate change, they’ll still need your assistance when things go wrong in the environment. The real threats include fear and ignorance and indifference.

The Rev. Robert F. Murphy
Cataumet, Massachusetts
UU Fellowship of Falmouth

Fossil fuel divestment

The news story “Fossil Fuel Divestment Resolution” (Fall 2014), about the UUA General Assembly’s June vote, neglected to mention one of the most important parts of the resolution: the call on the UUA to invest an appropriate share of the UU Common Endowment Fund holdings in “securities that will support a swift transition to a clean energy economy, such as renewable energy and energy-efficiency-related securities.”

Eleanor Hall
Chicago, Illinois
First Unitarian Society of Chicago

How did our Association move from a core principle of rejecting the imposition of any specific dogma on its members to the formal adoption of specific social and political dogmas, of which the fossil fuel dogma is only the most recent?

Bill Slye
Fort Collins, Colorado
Foothills Unitarian Church

UU World welcomes letters to the editor. Send to “Letters,” UU World, 24 Farnsworth St., Boston MA 02210-1409, or world@uua.org, but do not send attachments. Include your name, address, daytime phone number, and congregation on all correspondence. Published letters with author’s name, city, and state will appear on www.uuworld.org. Letters are edited for length and style; a maximum length of 200 words is suggested. We regret we cannot publish or respond to all letters.

This article appeared in the Fall 2014 issue of UU World (pages 58-59).

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