Father Dennis

to let others know a bit of insight into the mind of a Midwestern Catholic priest.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The one where I talked about Gran Torino.- 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ

Peace be with you.

In 2008, Clint Eastwood produced a movie called Gran Torino, in which he played Walt Kowalski, a man struggling to deal with certain changes in his life. The biggest change is that his wife has just passed away, leaving him alone for the first time in 50 years. Coupled with that, his neighborhood has changed from a blue collar, middle-class largely white part of town to an area where the majority of people are Hmong, a group of people are from Southeast Asia. Walt feels out of place and reacts to it with a great deal of anger. He’s racist, sexist, and the kind of jerk that people find hard to be around for any length of time. To put it simply, he’s hard to love.

In the first reading from the Book of Exodus, Moses highlights three groups of people that Walt would have found hard to love. First, there’s aliens, or as we would call them “undocumented immigrants.” They speak don’t speak English and they have traditions and cultures that seem strange and sometimes offensive to us. One example of this has to do with rosaries. I get asked if it’s okay to wear a rosary around your neck and I have to honestly say that it depends on where you’re from. People from Europe generally believe it’s disrespectful to wear a rosary like a piece of jewelry and say it should be in your hand instead. People from Mexico and other Latin American countries say that the rosary should be kept close to the heart and believe it’s perfectly acceptable to wear around your neck. It’s just different traditions, neither of which is wrong.

Next, Moses talks about widows and orphans, or “single parent families” as we may call them today. Walt would say that they get trapped in a cycle of dependence by the federal government and that they job the system as a result. This week, a friend of mine wrote on Facebook that he followed a woman through the check out line at Target. He saw that she was buying diapers and formula using the government issued debit card for the poor. He felt bad for her and almost offered to buy her groceries when her phone went off and it looked suspiciously like an iphone 6, the most recent version. And, when he got out to the parking lot, he saw her loading her groceries into the back of what looked like a new SUV.

Lastly, Moses talks about the poor in general. Walt would say that the poor are a bunch of lazy ne’er-do-wells who take advantage of people’s charity and that they should get a job.

Now, let’s be honest. We’ve probably all had thoughts similar to Walt’s before. Sometimes it’s not easy to love people. Yet, in our gospel today, Jesus tells us to do just that. He summarizes the entire Old Testament into the two most important commandments: Love God and love neighbor. Though it seems to be two separate statements, it seems clear in the context of the question and in Jesus’ response that the two are intimately connected. Obviously, the key word is love. As Christians, we are supposed to allow the love of God to form and shape who we are. Yet, sometimes it’s hard to love others and sometimes it just seems impossible to love them. After all, what do we get out of loving someone if they aren’t going to love us back?

This is where I turn to the second reading where St. Paul talks about how impressed he is that the Thessalonians are imitators of him who is himself an imitator of Christ. They saw St. Paul living the Christian life and that, likewise, inspired them to live a Christian life. In fact, they were so inspired that people from “Macedonia and in Achaia…(and)…every place (their) faith in God has gone forth” is now imitating them. That’s how love works. That’s what Walt figured out by the end of Gran Torino. He could be a person of hate chasing everyone off his front lawn or he could be a person who stands up for the alien and the poor and the widow in love. The more love that we exhibit through the actions of our lives, the more people will want to live it in theirs. Yet, hate works the same way: the more we hate the more people will hate others. The question we, therefore, have to ask ourselves is in what ways can we spread the love of God to this world so that others will see it and spread the love of God to others?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

You have made them equal to yourself, but do they want to be equal to each other?

My Dear brothers and sisters in Christ

Peace be with you. This past Wednesday, I got to teach the 6th grade class for Faith Formation at St. Patrick’s in Britt. I say I “got to” but, in truth, it was really “had to” because there is currently no catechist for that grade. It makes me really sad that our two biggest parishes, Garner and Britt, still have one class without a permanent catechist. Buffalo Center, Lake Mills, and Forest City have all the catechists they need and Britt and Garner just can’t seem to get people to volunteer. So, I got to teach 6th grade after working all day in the office and celebrating two masses, one in the morning and one in the evening. I kept asking myself why one of these kids’ parents wasn’t willing to step forward and teach their kids as they promised to do so in baptism. I also kept thinking that I was going to do a terrible job. I often struggle to be able to relate to middle school kids. I used to joke that it would be best if kids would be locked in dog kennels from sixth grade through junior year of high school. Still, I tried to keep a smile on my face in the hopes that being positive would lead to positive results. And, to be honest, it did. The kids were great, full of excitement and questions. The class time flew by and we even had to leave a few questions unanswered. On my way out the door, I posted to Facebook, “I was just reminded that 6th graders have a ton of energy.” To which Christine Carrier, our Director of Faith Formation, replied “Just a friendly reminder of how much gratitude our catechists deserve.” Just like me, these people work all day long and still come to class prepared to teach. They’re the ones I should be thinking about, thanking, and praying for. I needed to be reminded that, just like me, they’re busy people who have given of their time to teach someone else’s kids. Thank you for all you do.

In the gospel, I imagine most of us have some sympathy for the workers that have been there all day. They got to the market early, were the best workers there, and have worked from the cool 50-60 degree morning through the 90 degree heat of the day. Yet, at the end of the day, they receive the same amount of money as people who were initially passed over by this landowner and several others and, so are probably not the strongest or brightest and they only came to work for an hour. It seems clear to me that this can’t be a workable business model. Imagine what will happen the next day if you treat your workers like this: everyone will show up between 4:30 and 4:45 expecting that the landowner will hire them for an hour and give them a full day’s pay. Still, what bothers me about the workers who worked all day is what they complain about. Even though it says they think they should get more money than the ones who came later, they say, “You have made them equal to us.” They’re concerned that, by everyone getting the same pay for not the same amount of work, that you have made unequal people equal to them.

Perhaps for an insight into what Jesus is talking about, we should look to the second reading. In it, St. Paul has just started writing a letter to the Christians in the town of Phillippi while he is imprisoned for being a Christian. In the prison environment, he finds himself reflecting on two possible outcomes of being imprisoned; one which is good for the people he is writing to and one which is good for himself. He could be beaten and set free, which would mean he could continue evangelizing and teaching the Philippians. Or, he could be falsely charged, convicted, and given a death sentence. Now, I feel like it’s important to point out that, when St. Paul says he feels death is gain, he’s not struggling with depression and suicide. I hope, if that is something you’re thinking about doing, you’re talking to a family member or a friend or giving me a call. That’s serious and important but It’s not what St. Paul is talking about. He is saying that death would be gain because, by condemning him falsely and killing him, he would share in the same persecution and death as Jesus did. In some ways, he would be equal to Christ by sharing in a death like Christ’s.

Part of our culture as Americans is believing that we need to be separate, different, unique, and better than those around us. We separate ourselves out by family, by parish, by school, by town, by college sports team, and by a million other identifiers. But, part of being a Christian is recognizing how we are alike, how we are connected as one body, and how we are all one in Christ. Sometimes, while talking with people in the cluster, I’ll ask that we do things differently so that we are united and I’ll get a response like “We don’t do that here” or “I know that’s the way they do it over there but that’s not the way we do it here.” It sometimes feels like people put pride in being different than the parish or town or school down the road. It’s like they’re turning to me and saying, “You have made them equal to us.” Can we put aside selfish desires and the egotistical need to constantly be different in order to be equal in the grace and love of Christ?

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The glory of this world is not the glory of Christ

My Dear brothers and sister in Christ

Peace be with you. If you are on Facebook or Twitter or any other kind of social network, you’ve undoubtedly heard about the ALS Ice Bucket challenge. In case you aren’t on the computer as much as I am or you’ve been living in a cave, the idea is that one of your friends challenges you to dump a bucket of ice water over your head in support of research to ALS or, as it’s commonly called, Lou Gehrig’s Disease. If you don’t want to dump the water, you can donate to the ALS Society in support of the research. Most people do both, donate and dump the water, and then record the dumping so that you can challenge other friends. It sounds like a good way to raise money for an important cause. About a week ago, I started noticing some of “those people” on facebook starting to critique it. By “those people” I mean the crazy Christian types who seem to think that every issue needs to be put under the microscope and turned into an us versus them scenario. You probably all know the type, the ones who put out a list of businesses on facebook that use “Holidays” instead of “Christmas” and tell people not to shop there. Or the people who put out voter guides almost exclusively based on the candidate’s position on abortion. THOSE people. They critiqued the ALS society for using fetal stem cell lines in looking for a cure. At first, I didn’t take too much stock in it. I mean, it’s just a silly fundraiser for a company trying to solve a frustrating mysterious illness…a fundraiser that has raised, according to one report, 94 millon dollars. Still, I didn’t want to say anything because I knew that, if I put a critique on my facebook page, it would get a firestorm of criticism like “The Pope says judge not. Why are you being so judgy Father?” Or, “My grandfather died of ALS. They should use whatever tool is at their disposal to solve this.” So, I said nothing. After all, lately I’ve had enough meetings, emails, and telephone calls from people who hate me. Why add to it on social media.

But then two things happened on Friday that challenged me. The first was that Archbishop Jackels spoke out publicly against the challenge because of the use of fetal stem cell research. Fetal stem cell research is basically creating human life for the purpose of farming it for what we want and, in the process, killing it. Archbishop Jackels encouraged the priests, deacons, and all people to speak out against it. The second was a video that not only pointed out the use of fetal stem cell research but also pointed out that only about 70% of what you donate goes directly to research into curing ALS. The other 30% goes to pay the Board of directors who each earn between one hundred and four hundred thousand dollars.

As Christians, this can often seem like a very challenging world. Oftentimes, we stand on the opposite side of issues with the majority of people. Whether it’s gay marriage or immigrant children crossing the border for a better life or the use of fetal stem cell research, we often clash with friends and family who would rather follow a political party or whatever Oprah Winfrey says than the ways of Christ and his Church.

Our readings today offer us hope in this scenario. The first reading from the Prophet Jeremiah tells of a time when the Prophet felt kind of like I did for the first part of the week. Thus far in the book, God has asked him to speak out five times in warning to the Israelites about the upcoming Babylonian Exile. Either they reform their lives or they will lose the land God has given them. Each time he has done what God wants and each time people mock him and ignore him. So, he tries to ignore all the lawlessness and sinfulness around him and just be silent. But, then he can’t take it any longer and he has to speak out and warn them again. He feels like he was duped into a position of calling people to do what God wants and repent from what they have been doing when, instead, people are doing the exact opposite of God’s will and continuing to sin.

In the Gospel, Jesus begins to tell the Apostles that he must suffer and die but, unlike the prophets before him who befell the same fate, he will rise. For Peter, it is unthinkable that Jesus will die. Jesus is supposed to be the kind of leader that will unite Israel and make it a great nation again under his leadership. So Jesus has to rebuke Peter strongly and encourage him to get behind him or else he is acting in the same selfish way the devil acts.

Sometimes, as Christians we have to be “those people,” We have to speak out in ways that we know won’t be popular. We have to defend those who have no voice or whose voice is muted by the powerful. The purpose, however, isn’t just to be a contrarian or make people upset. Our sole focus needs to be doing what we know is right and the way we know we are doing what is right is if we are doing so, not for personal prestige or power or preservation of the status quo but because we want to follow God’s ways in the Church. What things in our life are challenging us today to get behind Jesus and follow him?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Funeral Homily - Donna Rayhons

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ
      Peace be with you. Let me begin my homily today by turning to Donna’s family to let you know of the prayers of the six parishes of the Archangel’s Catholic Cluster. We have been praying for you and will continue to pray for you as you mourn your loss. Let me also thank the priests who are here today. Fr. Peter Nguyen who is the pastor of St. Joseph’s in Wesley, St. Benedict in St. Benedict, and St. Joseph Church in St. Joe. Fr. Henry Huber was the pastor here immediately previous to me and is now the pastor of Immaculate Conception in Gilbertville and St. Joseph in Raymond. And Monsignor Bleich was Donna’s classmate in school and is a retired priest for the Archdiocese of Dubuque. We’re glad you could all be here for this opportunity to pray together and say goodbye to our friend.
     As I was praying over the readings and the obituary this morning, I thought of someone very close to my heart, my grandma. Like Donna, she suffered for years with some form of dementia and I watched as she went from being matriarch to being someone who needed to be cared for. As I prayed, I thought of a song that I first heard in the 1980s called “Veronica” by the singer Elvis Costello. It describes the kind of frustration that we who have had relatives with dementia have when we visit them.

Is it all in that pretty little head of yours?

What goes on in that place in the dark?

Well I used to know a girl and I would have sworn that her name was Veronica

Well she used to have a carefree mind of her own and a delicate look in her eye

These days I'm afraid she's not even sure if her name is Veronica

     This is precisely what we are grappling with today. Donna had a carefree mind of her own and a delicate look in her eye, all the way the end of her life. She was deeply in love with her Lord in the scriptures and in the Eucharist. She cared for people through her gifts of honey and baked goods. And, yet, we who cared about her, watched as that became more and more difficult for her to do as her mind and her body started shutting down.
     Yet, Donna provided us with four focuses to help us in the process. Three of these focuses are the readings. The first reading from the book of Wisdom describes the aftermath of a battle and the words of consolation offered to those who have lost loved ones. The writer assures us that, even if the person seems to be lost and absent from our lives, they are in fact being tenderly held by God and are at peace. The second reading, likewise, assures us that we who have faith in the resurrection of Christ will share with him the glory that he alone can give. Both of these readings give us hope that Donna is, in fact, in a better place, a more peaceful place. Yet, Donna also wanted us to be challenged today. The Beatitudes in the Gospel of St. Matthew remind us that humility and meekness are traits that are rewarded in the kingdom of God. It’s not a search for power and control that are rewarded but a humble heart. I believe Donna left those beatitudes as challenges for us to seek in order to build up the kingdom of God around us.
     The last focus that Donna wanted us to have isn't one that she made or created. But it is one that she treasured deeply in her life; the Eucharist. Donna was a faithful church goer during her life and she received her Lord often in the Eucharist. The Eucharist, for Catholics, is the body of Christ that forms us into the body of Christ, the church. It is our heavenly medicine that guides us to eternal life. In the heart of the Eucharistic prayer, we hear Jesus say that we are to do this in remembrance of him. This remembrance isn’t a simple retelling of the story but a bringing together of the members, a remembering, of his body the church, both those alive and those who have gone before us. We pray today that Donna is a part of that heavenly feast where Father, Son, and Spirit gather all the elect together into a place without suffering and pain and a place where she is sure that her name is Donna because God has called her by name.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Love and Mercy - Trinity Sunday

My Dear brothers and sisters in Christ

The grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, and the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you. The last time I celebrated Mass here, I talked about my experiences on retreat at Conception Abbey in Missouri. As you may remember, it was a beautiful experience of praying with and working with Archbishop Hanus, who is retired there, as well as the other monks living there. In fact, it was such a good retreat experience, that I continue to reflect upon some of the things I read and prayed while there. The monks have a very regimented, predictable routine of prayer and work and part of what I love is being folded into their this lifestyle. It starts promptly at 6:00 am with 35-40 minutes of quiet, peaceful praying of the psalms and listening to sacred scripture and the fathers of the church. Then, we get some time to go off and pray silently by ourselves before we gather again at 7:15 for morning prayer, which lasts about 20-25 minutes. On Tuesday at morning prayer, I was starting to feel like I was getting back in the rhythm of prayer. At one point, we stand, fold up our chairs, and then step forward, rest our books on the top of the chair ahead of us, and chant a part of the gospel. They had a slightly different wording of the gospel than the one I have memorized so, on top of holding a prayer binder, I had to hold an extra piece of paper balanced on the binder. Now, picture this, me holding a binder balanced on the back of a chair and balanced on top of that is a piece of paper at 7:30 in the morning. I closed my eyes in order to soak in the beauty of the prayer and really hear what I was praying and then I started to feel the piece of paper falling forward. So, I adjusted my hands on the binder to try and secure the paper but, instead, I lost control of the binder and it fell forward onto the ground making an extremely loud, echoing crash. And then, in true cartoon fashion, I looked down in frozen horror unable to prevent the plummeting wooden chair, which had been nudged by my falling book just enough so that cruel gravity could act upon it. “SLAM, BAM, CRASH, BOOM!” The entire monastic community quickly looked up at me and I realized I had brought the entire prayer to a virtual stand-still. It felt hours but was, in reality, seconds for the monks to recover and finish the prayer. As I exited the chapel, I fully expected either the Abbot or Archbishop Hanus to take me aside and ask me to leave and never return, both actions I felt they would have been completely justified in taking.

Today is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. As we transition from the Easter Season to Ordinary Time, we focus first upon this central mystery of our faith. We believe in one God who has manifested himself as three divine persons. They are distinct but not separate nor confused. They are of the same substance and all three are eternal. The most common image that is used to try to understand the trinity is love. We heard this most explicitly today in the Gospel from St. John, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” The church has consistently taught that we were created out of love. The Father loves the Son and the Holy Spirit is the love between Father and Son. But, real love cannot be contained or limited. So, the love of God overflowed Father and Son with such intensity and grandeur that it created humanity. While on my retreat, I had an opportunity to read a book by Cardinal Walter Kasper called “Mercy” in which Cardinal Kasper says the love of God needs to be intimately connected with divine mercy. Why create humanity? Why make something that you know will hurt you, blame you, hate you, deny you exist, and, ultimately, sacrifice you so they don’t have to suffer the punishment they deserve? Only because God is much more merciful than our created minds can grasp and because this mercy is at the very essence of God’s being, in other words it is his love.

After the incident at morning prayer, as we left the chapel, neither Abbott Gregory nor Archbishop Hanus said anything to me. That afternoon, I had an opportunity to work with some of the monks weeding a flower garden. I fully expected one of them to say something, but none of them did. In fact, it seemed like they went out of their way to be gracious to me, as though they knew I was embarrassed about what had happened. At first, I thought I had dodged a bullet but then it became clear that, actually, they do that with each other all the time. They forgive each other because they want the other monks to forgive them when they make a mistake. They live out the meaning of the phrase from the Our Father, “…forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” I started to think about all the times that I have been angry and frustrated by someone else’s mistakes long after those mistakes were made. I thought about the times when I have gossiped about other people’s mistakes instead of helping them learn. And, I thought about how hurt I’ve been when I’ve become aware of people, especially parishioners, complaining about something I’ve said or done when they haven’t talked to me personally or when we simply disagree about something. Love and mercy are two sides of the same substance at the heart of Trinitarian love. Being loving and merciful, therefore, is also how we are called to live our lives, especially to those hardest to love. What is one grudge that God is calling you to let go today?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Finding the prophetic love of God

My Dear brothers and sisters in Christ

Peace be with you. On July 28th of last year, Pope Francis was on his way back from World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro when he was asked a question about a controversial Italian priest who was being accused of having inappropriate relationships with men. The Pope answered the questioned very thoroughly but there was one part of his answer that has absolutely captivated the media. The Pope said

“If someone is gay and is searching for the Lord and has good will, then who am I to judge him?

I imagine most of you have heard about this quote…or at least part of this quote. The problem is that five words out of this answer became the entirety of what the Pope said, namely, “who am I to judge.” The media made it sound like the Pope was changing church teaching in this off-hand comment. They treated him like he was a president deciding that he was no longer going to enforce laws that are on the books. In truth, as you just heard, Pope Francis was simply attempting to articulate the old teaching using new words. He was trying to be a prophet.

Our readings today invite us to listen to two great Prophets. First, we hear the Prophet Isaiah say that from his Mother’s womb the Lord challenged him to reach out to the ends of the earth. The message of God isn’t intended to be hoarded by a few people, a privileged minority. God wants his message to reach out to all parts of this world, to everyone. This is echoed in the Gospel when John the Baptist says that Jesus is the very embodiment of this message, the one who will take away the sin of the entire world.

The challenge, of course, in today’s world is that, for many, the message isn’t all that new and doesn’t seem to affect their daily lives. Many have written it off and no longer follow the teachings of the church in lieu of their own teachings. And, oftentimes, when the media sets the context for the debate, it does so by asking questions intended to make the church’s teachings untenable. For instance, this week we will remember the horrific Supreme Court decision of Roe V. Wade. Hundreds of thousands of Americans will protest this decision in Washington DC and will be either completely ignored by the media or will get equal time with the hand full of pro abortion protestors present. And, if any media outlets do dare to go deeper, they will focus on the topics of rape and incest and will use phrases like “a woman’s right to choose” and “women’s reproductive health” instead of “infanticide” or “murder of innocent children.” Pro lifers will be painted as a group of old, sexist men determined to make women second-class citizens instead of focusing on the actual participants in the March who are overwhelmingly women.

The problem is that we see abortion through a political prism with Democrats and Republicans putting their own political spin on it. However, abortion is a justice issue. It is an issue at the core of human dignity. It calls for prophets to stand up and remind people that life has dignity, that a fetus doesn’t get dignity because of the desire of parents but has it because of its nature as human life. We need prophets to listen to the voice of God and preach respect of human life to the ends of the earth. That’s our job as Christians: to remind people that the important thing in life is the respect for the dignity of the human person from natural conception until natural death.

The message that we hear from the prophets and, in the end, are invited to profess, is that God loves us and that God loves us so much that he wants to enter into a profound relationship with us. We are not his pets. Earth is not his ant farm. We are his sons and daughters in dignity. He not only knit us together in his image and likeness in the womb, but he set us up to have a special place in this world. God loves us so much that he wants to be in a relationship with us throughout the entirety of our lives. He walks with us and invites us to get to know him and love him, not as a fickle god that punishes us when we don’t do what he wants. But as a God that freely offers himself to us in this Eucharist, in the sacraments, and in our personal prayers. There are so many people who don’t know of the love God has for them. This week, make it a point to let other people know how much God loves us.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

A Hunger Games post

I've now seen the Hunger Games: Catching Fire a couple of times and have also seen the first movie a couple of times in the year (or so) since it was released. It has managed to tap into my imagination and made me think deeply about what they are trying to get across. Please let me give a little back story as I understand it and then offer a comment about what I see happening in the state of Iowa.

The Hunger games begins 74 years after a violent war in North America resulting in the nation of Panem divided into the capital and 12 surrounding districts. The capital is clearly the winner of the war as its residents have opulent lives of leisure and pleasure. The districts, on the other hand, each provide an important service to the capital, whether that be protection or some kind of material such as coal or wood. The residents of the districts are impoverished and must submit their name to a lottery each time they have to ask for food or medicine from the capital. Each year, two people (one girl and one boy) are chosen by that same lottery to enter into a game in which they try to be the last person surviving. The point of the game on the surface is to punish the 12 districts for their rebellion against the powerful capital. It also serves as entertainment for the people of the capital as they throw parties and parades surrounding the games. The victors of each game get to return to their districts and live in a special area where their needs would be met for the rest of their lives. However, it has become obvious that everyone who survives is also deeply psychologically wounded by their experience in the games.

Obviously, there is a lot more to these games than just this summary but please allow me to be brief for the sake of making my point. The books and the movie point out that one of the ways the capitol maintains its control is by getting the people in the different districts to see each other as enemies. Sure, the capitol seems like it's the ultimate enemy but none of the residents of the capitol are in the arena when the killing starts. Instead, you fight people who could grow up to be miners or police officers or soldiers or lumberjacks. The key is to see the other districts as just that: other. They are the people who get to have their children back while yours are dead. They are the ones who get the food while you have to beg, cheat, and steal yours. Power needs divisions to maintain control and, as we see in the hunger games, it cannot handle unity because it threatens their dominance.

So, how does this have anything to do with the State of Iowa? Let me begin by saying (thank goodness!) it's not because Des Moines forces us to provide 2 "tributes" to die in a sporting arena. However, we are divided. Perhaps most effectively, we are divided by towns and school districts. Especially in rural areas, where the population is declining, there are fierce town/school rivalries that are taught to children at a young age, oftentimes involving actions that took place fifty or a hundred years ago, between "our school" and that "other" school. We wait all year long for the football, basketball, or baseball game between our schools and the whole town turns up even if you don't have a kid in school. Yet, who is the real enemy in all of this? Is Garner, Hayfield, Ventura really the enemy of West Hancock and vice versa? Is Lake Mills really the enemy of Forest City and vice versa? I don't think so. I drive down the main streets of these small towns all the time and see empty buildings where there once was a clothing store or a bank. I hear people bragging about driving to Mason City and getting a deal on clothes or shoes or groceries and then hear about local shoe stores, clothing stores, and grocery stores struggling to stay open. We are our own worst enemies. Rather than encouraging young people to move into rural areas and dedicating their life to farming, too many farmers pay top price for the farm next door so that they can have the biggest farm in the county...not that son-of-a-gun from that other town. Rather than purchasing things locally or in the small town next door, we'll thirty, forty, or fifty miles to the closest big city. Why should the town next door get your money, right? We don't need Des Moines, Washingtown DC, or any other capitol to kill our towns. We'll do it ourselves. When will we learn that the human race will only flourish when none of us is seen as somehow less important or less dignified than anyone else?