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Letters to the Editor: October 1, 2011

A second-class citizen in your own town?

Like most people, we were frustrated last Friday when we found out about the gas leak that affected 3,600 residents in the Morris, Hancock and Benson areas. On the day of the incident, my family and I were going out for dinner when we were confronted with a sign on the door that said that the place was closed due to a gas leak. We didn't realize that it was a major problem affecting a lot of people until we came back home to cook.

The next morning, I left home to get some bakery items for breakfast. The store did not have what we wanted, and they were running out of most baked goods due to the gas outage. There were some people talking about their frustration and how their family members visiting from other towns couldn't have a hot shower. On my way out of the store, I found myself smiling. It felt like I was home.

I am from Palestine, and I moved to the U.S. last year with my family. I was very overwhelmed with the lifestyle and conditions that a lot of people live in here. I was in awe over the huge variety of products and food items and the ability to access resources and services instantly no matter the time of day. Like most internationals and new residents, I was exposed to a new culture and completely different reality which challenged the personal, cultural, political and traditional experiences I grew up with in Palestine.

What came to my memory first was living under a military curfew in the summer of 2005 when the Israeli military imposed a closure on my village for nine days. Everyone remained home while military vehicles were patrolling the roads. The power generator was down and we were running out of food and water really fast. The town that I come from is almost the same size as Morris - approximately 4,500 people. I have gone through the experience of not having clean water, electricity or even food frequently throughout my life, but it was not due to technical issues or accidents, it was due to military occupation.

From my own experience living in the US, the general understanding of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is either that there are two people not getting along and not wanting to talk to each other or the governments of each side are not agreeing on some political issues. What most of people are not aware of are the unjust and discriminatory policies against Palestinians. Almost every aspect of life is controlled and monitored by the Israeli military, starting from getting a birth certificate for a newborn baby to applying for a permit to build a house. Growing up there, everything seemed very far, complicated and stressful.

Palestinians living in Gaza have almost no access to clean drinkable water. The UN reported that 95 percent of the pumped water in the Gaza Strip is polluted. Since the start of the siege on Gaza in 2007, Israel has forbidden the entry of equipment and materials to rehabilitate the water system. Other necessary items like food, fuel and even books are not allowed to enter Gaza. These policies caused a massive collapse in the Palestinian infrastructure and the rate of unemployment has since reached among the highest in the world. Unfortunately, the conditions that Palestinians live in are not addressed in the political discussion. The mainstream media gives almost no insight into the Israeli policies that so greatly affect every Palestinian's daily life.

I am really glad that the leak is fixed and we all can heat our homes, cook our dinners and take nice hot showers, but I wondered that day how the residents of Morris would feel if they had no gas, no electricity and no food at home for just one day? How would you feel if you were a second-class citizen in your own small town?

Ashraf Ashkar

Morris, MN

Some thoughts from a local taxpayer

We all get caught-up in everyday's "making a living." Some are much more committed than others. Peoples' inability to get involved with what's going on in Washington D.C. concerns me. I think the average person has become somewhat apathetic in feeling helpless to change the "good old boy" way of doing business in Washington.

We all have lost some faith in the government's ability to solve an unending list of problems. Everything from unemployment and illegal immigration to state and national debts.

People need to be allowed to regain faith in our leaders, including Congress. The debate and confrontation are now based on what's good for me, not the nation. What are some things that can be done to rekindle faith in our way of life? Support term limits, act against dishonest aid programs, condemn greed and, most of all, redo the present tax system to make it simple, transparent and fair to everyone.

These are some thoughts from a very disgruntled taxpayer expecting to pay even more.

John Stephens

Donnelly, MN

Thank you, Board of Commissioners

We would like to thank the Stevens County Commissioners who were a supportive voice for our Stevens County Child Care Association at last week's meeting.

Thank you for believing that we as child care professionals have a voice and that our voice matters. As of today, September 30, we have yet to hear from our licensor and/or Joanie Murphy (Stevens County Human Service Director).

We put our hearts into our jobs and these children we care for, and we don't feel the support from our license agency. So for us to read that you as commissioners put us first, we truly appreciate this. Thank you.

Becky Vogel, Stacie Manska, Vicki Dalager, Vickie Anderson, Laurie Melberg, Jackie Dripps, Jeanne Koehntop, Terry Maloney and Meredith Lhotka