Even with a response, Congressman remains unresponsive to constituent


Many thanks to the Orleans Hub for kindly publishing my letter about my unresponsive Congressman. It is only fair that I provide this follow-up.

Shortly after my letter appeared, I received an e-mail communication from my Congressman. “Ah, the power of the press! He must have seen my letter in the Hub,” I thought. “Finally, he’s responding!”

But a quick review of the letter indicates that my Congressman did not actually read my original message because his response has little to do with what I wrote to him about. In fact, his letter seems to be praising me for agreeing with him, which is a 180-degree spin on my original letter. And, once again, he did not answer my question. Unresponsive, even on those rare occasions when he responds.

I will carry this experience with me when I cast my ballot on November 8th.

Rev. James Renfrew
Clarendon, NY
Reprinted from the Orleans Hub

A glimpse at…

At this point in history, one might think that patriotism would be at an all time high. Particularly at this time of the year, one might expect it to be cresting. But I would suggest that many of the essential aspects of patriotism are in short supply today. What passes for patriotism on display today may be more about nostalgia and feeling good than it is a mindset that befits our history and is relevant to the present.

What does it mean to be patriotic? Does it consist merely of various—too often–empty expressions of love for—and pride in—one’s country? For too many, that is where it appears to begin—and end. As an aside it might be instructive to remember that those we routinely refer to as “patriots” –our Revolutionary heroes –were regarded as traitors by their government.

At this time of year we put on a good show. Certainly our “Freedom isn’t free” and “God Bless America” bumper stickers defy anyone to doubt where we stand. We gain an extra measure of credibility as patriots by displaying the flag and adorning our vehicles with “Support Our Troops” magnets.

But is patriotism really measured by such things? Bumper sticker patriotism may make us feel good but is hardly a substitute for the real thing.

In the early 1770’s John Adams, the man who would become our second President, defended the British troops who stood accused after the so-called Boston Massacre! The man arguably most responsible for convincing Jefferson to write the Dec of Independence a few years later didn’t accept the version of events pushed by Revere and others who might be thought of as super patriots.

Similarly, in the late 1790’s, in a letter to Jefferson, Adams confided that, “If Patrick Henry (another of the super patriots) had anything to do with the American Revolution, I don’t want anyone to think I had anything to do with it.” In today’s terminology, Adams might have dubbed Patrick Henry a “wacko.” Adams’ aversion to being associated with Patrick Henry’s extremism was yet another example of Adams’ ability to soberly assess reality, behave rationally and not be swept up in the type of hysteria that swirled around him much of his life.

Imagine how useful such an ability would have been in the hysterical period leading up to our involvement in Iraq.

Unless I miss my guess, Tom Paine, the transplanted Englishman who succeeded so admirably in convincing budding revolutionaries that he was more than equal to the task of popularizing treason, might wonder to what extent we are “summer soldiers and sunshine patriots” who put away what passes for patriotism the week after all the hoopla gives way to another workweek. Is it possible that bumper stickers and magnets will suffice to meet our patriotic responsibilities until July, 2009?

How should out patriotism be defined when the object of our professed devotion faces a serious challenge—or challenges too numerous to itemize? How readily are we blinded by those who use emotional appeals to manipulate our love of country? Has the intellectual independence and courage of John Adams fallen victim to opinion polls, mass media and our hectic lifestyle? Have the priorities required of the citizens in a democracy become a casualty of progress and complacency? Might our conduct insult the vision and courage of the founders? Does it belittle the sacrifices of all who have gone before us building and defending a glorious dream and a noble experiment? Do we have the strength to address misconduct in our elected leadership? Or are we inclined to allow the subject to be changed amid assertions of our country’s greatness while we wrap ourselves in its flag? Is the price of liberty no longer “eternal vigilance?”

Jefferson noted that, “A nation which expects to be both ignorant and free expects what never was and never will be.” A democratic society demands more of its citizens than a dictatorship. YOU are expected to provide vigilance, informed input and participation. A democratic society’s challenges must be addressed as they materialize to keep it from breaking down. You might say the periodic preventive maintenance it demands is similar to that required of an automobile. A democratic society, too, is a type of vehicle meant to ensure its members are able to enjoy life and liberty and experience happiness. It must be vigilantly maintained. Problems cannot be ignored by those it serves.

Does patriotism then sometimes have too limited a definition? For too many, I believe it does. It is, at best, a part time job for which we often have not been sufficiently trained. We understand military service to be an aspect of it, but what else does it consist of aside from bumper stickers that identify us as proud Americans and magnets that proclaim support for our troops?

To me, being patriotic is a full time, everyday responsibility. It requires that we further the interests of our country to the limits of our ability to comprehend them.

Every one of us certainly defines our ongoing commitment to our country differently. And it isn’t necessarily the case that those who include in their expressions of patriotism the display of magnets and bumper stickers do nothing else to further their country’s interests. For some, however, such display may have become a substitute for a more meaningful commitment.

Such a commitment might include practicing tolerance for diversity and strengthening the community through various types of service. Reaching out to those in need through acts of kindness and charity would count for a great deal. Informing ourselves about important issues to the best of our abilities matters. Exercising our freedoms to speak, assemble and protest is vital. Taking the Constitution seriously, defending it when necessary, and holding our elected officials accountable are important aspects of patriotic citizenship. Vowing not to be fooled as much as we have in the past might be a worthy resolution. Affording respect for others regardless of their condition in life is in our country’s interest because all of us matter. Giving an honest day’s labor for our pay and taking pride in whatever we do makes our country stronger.

In short, there is room to greatly expand the concept of what constitutes the behavior of patriots.

More than 15 years ago, the former director of the E.P.A., Russell Train, wrote a speech that awakened many Evangelicals to the imperative of environmental stewardship. “Caring for the Creation” was a speech that appealed to all religions to unite in an effort to save the earth. It challenged the unspoken premise that man’s purpose was to establish dominion over it. It must not escape us that, as the planet goes, we shall also go. For Train, the devout must become thoughtful stewards of God’s Creation. To ignore this imperative was to disrespect the Almighty and the Teachings of prophets—Eastern and Western.

“Whatsoever you doeth unto the least of these, you doeth unto me” has, since Sunday school, been one of my favorite Biblical references. Valuing what we have been blessed with, and respecting what even the humblest among us has to offer, would serve our interests while demonstrating appreciation for God’s gifts. Train’s speech and the response of religious Communities to the challenge of environmental stewardship is relevant to a discussion of patriotism in my view. It says to me that we are capable of getting it and is, therefore, hopeful. It may also be said that stewardship of our environment is properly viewed as a responsibility of patriotism.

Our democratic system assumes that the collective wisdom of an informed citizenry is the best assurance that our many challenges won’t take us down. But, if we as a people steadfastly maintain a concept of what it means to be patriotic that is essentially a superficial cop out, our great experiment and dream are doomed. Bumper sticker patriotism doesn’t cut it. Only we have the power to recognize our inherent responsibilities to perform the preventive maintenance our national vehicle requires.

Gary F. Kent
Albion, NY
July 3, 2008

Congressman has been unresponsive to constituent’s many letters


I have a problem. My Congressman is unresponsive. He appears to eagerly solicit my views on his web page. He even offers on his website a box for me to check if I would like a response from him. He has an elaborate log-in on his website to filter out non-constituents, so I provide my zip code to prove that I live in his district. But my Congressman is unresponsive. Month, after month, after month … nothing.

When I write to my Congressman I express my opinions, but I always conclude with a question for which I would like an answer. I can only conclude that my questions are not important in the lofty halls of the US Congress.

Two years ago I wrote my Congressman a letter and many months later he answered with a form letter that did not address the question I asked. The last time I received a response from him, a year ago it was the exact same form letter that I had received the previous year. Again, he did not answer my question.

The world constantly changes; war, injustice, climate change, politics, and the economy, but my Congressman’s form letter remains the same. My Congressman is unresponsive even on those rare occasions when he responds!

To be sure, I have written my Congressman many times, so it’s possible that he won’t get to every question I have asked. But the truth is that when I receive no response I feel an urgency to write even more messages to him, hoping that one of them will finally get his attention. But not one, not once in the last six months. My Congressman is unresponsive.

I have watched in vain for announcements about meetings with constituents in my town. Nothing. There was a candidates’ forum in Geneseo last month. He was a no-show.

I have many opinions that the Congressman probably disagrees with. I can deal with that. It would be a rare day that my elected representatives (of any party!) agree with all of my opinions, but most of them have had the decency to respond when I ask a question. My Congressman is unresponsive.

Accountability to constituents is cornerstone of our democracy. Our unresponsive Congressman has demonstrated that he needs to be replaced. At this point I have no use for him at all, so I am happy to reveal what I will do in the voting booth on Nov. 8. I will be voting for Diana Kastenbaum of Batavia to be our representative in the US Congress for the 27th Congressional District of New York.

And, Ms. Kastenbaum, just to warn you, I am planning to write you a few letters after your election, and I am counting on you to be responsive!

Rev. James Renfrew
Clarendon, NY


Dear Editor:

Bullying is something I have known from the time I began first grade. The fourth grade twin brothers who bullied me made me dread boarding K.C.S. bus number seven. Marshall Mayes safely drove our bus and did what he could to “discourage” them, but their bullying still gave me nightmares. When Mr. Mayes sat me on the heater beside his driver’s seat, it was a relief, even though doing so was one of his favorite disciplinary measures.

As an upper classman who occasionally rode the afternoon bus with kindergarten kids years later, it was my “mission” to make sure they weren’t bullied.

At 70, I considered myself fairly well-informed. “Social studies” was one of my ‘things”. But I never knew what a “sociopath” was, though I had heard the term. Until a couple of years ago, I do not believe I had ever before crossed paths with one. Since then, I have come across two here in Orleans County.

Though rare, it turns out sociopaths are more common than one might think. They often exhibit bullying behavior and attempt to intimidate/coerce others. When they are caught, they are consummate con artists. Think choirboy. Self-righteous lying, practiced innocence, and feigned “who me?” indignation are part of their modus operandi.

Sociopaths can “play” decent, intelligent people (I have seen it up close). Until recently, it was a nearly incomprehensible to me that such disingenuous (Actually, they may not be able to help themselves), ostensibly normal, people even existed. Even when caught red-handed, their first instinct is to lie in order to escape accountability.

How sociopaths operate is unacceptable regardless of the positions they hold. What sociopaths are all about could soon become a problem for all of us.

Sincerely yours,
Gary Kent
Albion, NY

NY27 Election – Which Candidate Supports Your Interests

To the Editor:

Many of us complain about “the do nothing politicians”, “the over-paid Congressmen”, Well, we have right here in the 27th Congressional District such a politician. Chris Collins was the first to endorse that embarrassment Donald Trump. Over the past several years I have personally written to Mr. Collins on a range of issues such as Social Security, habitat protection, prescription costs, minimum wage, closing tax loopholes for millionaires, gun safety, and clean energy. Each and every time Mr. Collins came out in favor of privatizing Social Security, allowing big oil to drill in sensitive wildlife habitat, placing faith in big drug companies to keep costs down through competition (how is that working for you?), and against a fair living wage for full time workers. He favors tax breaks for the rich, no incentives for clean energy and supports unlimited access to any type of gun by anyone at any time. Chris Collins is a man who wants us to vote against our self interests. No thank you Mr. Collins. We are not buying your rhetoric any longer. Your voting record and conduct show you could care less about the workers and tax payers of this country.

Chris Collins favors the closing of clinics that benefit low income women. These clinics provide mammograms, pregnancy and HIV testing as well as birth control. And make no mistake; being Pro-Choice does not mean Pro-Abortion. It means such decisions should be left between a woman and her doctor. Thanks to our Constitution, no one has the right to push their religious beliefs on to others. Let me restate it: A woman’s right to chose is a protected Constitutional Freedom.

Diana Kastenbaum, business owner from Batavia is mounting an effective campaign against Chris Collins and his conservative cronies in Washington. She understands the struggles of senior citizens, working families, small businesses, single parents and the middle class. Diana knows that clean, renewable energy creates jobs, lessens our dependence on dirty fuel, addresses climate change and protects our planet. Diana knows closing tax loop holes like the ones that enabled the likes of Donald Trump to pay no taxes for decades will help our disabled veterans, low income working families, family farmers, keep our military strong, promote good roads, safe food, safe travel and health care. Diana is Pro-Choice. Do your homework, compare these candidates. Remember, not all Republican or conservative candidates deserve election. Some are actually down-right deplorable.

On November 8, we have there opportunity to kick Chris Collins to the curb. Join me in doing precisely that.

Al Capurso
Gaines, NY

Who Am I?

Dear Editor:

Who am I?

For nearly a year, I am proud to say, I have been Donald Trump’s leading advocate in the United States House of Representatives. Though I am supposed to be representing the best interests of the people in the 27th Congressional district, my focus for the past year has been seeing to it that Donald Trump becomes President of the United States of America! I have done my best to make the case that “The Donald” is the type of leader our country desperately needs. He is what the nation requires to undo the damage done by the “failed policies” of the past eight years. In my view, Donald Trump is the political outsider and “change agent” we need to “Make America Great Again”.

When I became the very first member of Congress to endorse Mr. Trump, I candidly said that endorsing him made “good political sense in my district”. That may give you an idea of how I view the people I represent. Since early this year, I have appeared on CNN alone at least a half-dozen times promoting Mr. Trump in glowing terms. Nothing he has said and nothing in his history has persuaded me that he is unfit to be leader of the free world. Am I ready to add him to Mt. Rushmore? Not yet, but he is my type of guy. And, as Ivanka notes, “He will be amazing for women, just incredible”.

For my part, I have been part of Washington dysfunction for several terms now. When it comes to obstructionism, I take a back seat to no one. Social Security is in trouble? Why is that my problem? The national debt skyrocketing? Congress may control the nation’s purse strings, but isn’t the debt something we can blame on Obama? The nation’s infrastructure is in dire straits? What does that have to do with a member of Congress? Climate change? As my hero, Donald Trump, says, most of that is something the Chinese dreamed up to embarrass us. It isn’t even real.

Yes, I have collected a hefty paycheck from taxpayers for several years. What more do you want from me? I have done my best to repeal Obamacare. I have been a disingenuous birther. In my mind, I think my constituents appreciate the fact that I have spent most of 2016 campaigning for Mr. Trump. That alone makes me worthy of re-election. My opponent, Diana Kastenbaum, wants to solve problems but sees Mr. Trump differently.

Who cares about Mitt Romney, John McCain and Jeb Bush? They are all failed candidates. The hundreds of staunch, prominent, republicans who fail to recognize Mr. Trump’s greatness can take a flyin’ leap off Trump Tower. Nothing I have seen changes my mind about Mr. Trump’s fitness to be President.

Some might say my unqualified support for Trump should disqualify me and suggest a vote for Diana Kastenbaum. Who am I?

Sincerely yours,
Gary Kent
Albion, NY

Everything Old is New Again

Dear Editor:

Sean Hannity, Rudy Giuliani, Scottie Nell Hughes, and company can continue to delude themselves with moral equivalency nonsense. How anything Hillary Clinton—not husband Bill—has said, or done, is comparable to The Donald’s serial polygamy, sex outside of marriage and flagrant disrespect for females, including reporters and women in general, is a mystery to me.

It was clearly wrong for Hillary to trash any of Bill’s actual victims. There is certainly no excuse for attacking actual victims. But the one thing we all might appreciate a pass on is a lack of objectivity where our spouse is concerned. Nonetheless, if anyone is naïve enough to think even moderately successful males are not seen as targets by some females, he/she is living in a dream world. Don’t think that was something Hillary Clinton was unaware of.

More than the above, candidate Trump has always been what the Access Hollywood deal is more clearly revealing him to be now.

Here is a key point, even if one uses Bill’s conduct to discredit Hillary and establish supposed moral equivalency. Donald Trump lacks both the experience and the knowledge to qualify for the job of President of the United States.

Trump supporters can keep their signs up and continue to make excuses for his daily goofiness. On election day, the secret ballot will give them cover even if they publicly disavow him by, if nothing else, taking their signs down. Those supporters can play dumb and say they have no idea how he did so well, when the inevitable questions are asked. They can tell their own grandchildren they voted only for down ballot candidates.

The contrast between Hillary Clinton, whom William Weld calls “perhaps the most qualified person” ever to run for President, and Donald Trump, could not be clearer in terms of qualifications.

Sincerely yours,
Gary Kent
Albion, NY

Intuition Trumps Experience Every Time

Dear Editor:

Experiencing the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon debate as a 16 year old convinced me that Nixon was the clear winner in terms of content and command of the issues.

On our senior class trip in 1962, I got permission to go off on my own to visit embassies in Washington. The most memorable was that of Iran. It would have been difficult for any 17 year old to forget Nanu Shapurian, the attractive, mini-skirted (believe it or not) Iranian “woman” I met with. As I recall, she was 18 at the time.

Iran was arguably our top Muslim ally at the time. Shah Reza Pahlevi was in his prime, leading the westernization of his country, while tolerating a modicum of domestic opposition. The Shah’s secret police, Savak, kept the lid on conservative Muslim clerics. At one point, Savak agents sealed a movie theater where opposition leaders were meeting and burned them alive. It was the type of thing Ayatollah Khomeini wouldn’t forget.

The United States counted on the Shah to police the Persian Gulf. When Spruance class destroyers were ready for service, as I recall, the Iranian Navy got them before our own navy did.

My interest in foreign affairs has continued to this day. It was my good fortune to be able to teach Afro-Asian Culture Studies and Global Issues/International Relations for 34 years. It was during this time that Saddam Hussein’s Kurdish dentist, Dr. Ahmed Uthman, spoke to some of my 3-1-3 classes about places such as Halabja.

What difference does such a background make? It appears that, in today’s environment, the incomprehensible notion that knowledge/experience is irrelevant prevails in the minds of many. That bizarre idea makes as much sense as having the guy who processes your deer operate on your heart.

That is not all right. It is not your, or my, individual survival that may be at stake. Disregarding experience jeopardizes the best interests of the Nation itself. Deep inside, the reader knows it.

For someone who has followed events in the Middle East quite closely for over four decades, it is clear to me that a President Hillary Clinton is better equipped to deal with foreign affairs in general than any other candidate who ran in the primaries from either party.

Innumerable foreign policy experts from both parties concur. Newspapers which haven’t endorsed a Democrat in over a hundred years have called her more qualified. Libertarian V-P candidate William Weld called her “perhaps the best qualified ever”.

For many, just as in 1896, experience, science, and knowledge are being set aside in favor of common sense, intuition, and down home instinct in 2016. After all, regardless of where we are, some would have you believe, the people with experience, not the too frequently disinterested citizens of our democracy, are to blame for our personal and national predicaments.

Sincerely yours,
Gary Kent
Albion, NY