Libraries are an integral part of the community

My 10-year-old stepson lives in Ashland with his mom during the school year and with his dad and me in a small town near Houston, Texas, for the summer.

Today, as we were leaving our local library with a pile of books to keep us busy during the rainy weekend, he told me all of the Jackson County libraries had been shut down. I thought he hadn't heard right. So I researched it, and sure enough he was right. I am flabbergasted, shocked and depressed.

As I'm sure people have previously noted, libraries provide a great service to communities. Today the kids loved learning how to look up books through the electronic card catalogue and find them in the stacks. They eagerly signed up for a summer reading program that rewards them with tiny little prizes for reading a certain amount during their school break, and learning about the children's story time and young adult activities they can participate in.

When we lived in northern California with hardly two dimes to rub together and a long, rainy winter to get through, the kids and I practically lived at the library. I can remember spending countless hours during my childhood in the library reading and doing homework. It was a place I went to during my troubled teen years. A place of safe solitude where books became an increasing comfort to me. I feel strongly that these experiences were what eventually influenced me to major in English in college. I can't imagine how different my life would've been without my town library.

I cannot afford to buy many books for the kids or for me. I feel terrible for seniors and homebound people, and low-income people, as well, for whom libraries are often the only source of quality literature and social involvement.

This situation also makes ironic the fact that the world-renowned Oregon Shakespeare Festival, a celebration of one of the greatest writers of all time, is held every year in Ashland. Too bad people can no longer access his written plays in Jackson County unless they have the money to buy them from bookstores.

I hope you taxpayers and government officials find a way to work together and reopen these gems. This is a very sad day indeed.

Jennifer Jones

Rosenberg, Texas

From 'republic'

to 'empire'

In celebrating the glorious Fourth of July, we must remember flags, and yet more flags, and the bigger the better. One minor detail: In reciting the Pledge of Allegiance we must substitute the word "empire" for the familiar "republic," now deceased and whirling in its grave.

This transformation occurred under the cover of words like "democracy," "freedom," "national security" and "free markets." Our economic masters wanted it that way and our political leaders happily obliged their paymasters. For over a century now, the imperial sickness and its accompanying militarism has been creeping into the Democratic-Republican bodies like some metastasizing cancer, finally affecting every vital organ of that body.

So in fiscal 2008 we shall spend — trillion dollars on "defense." We have about a thousand military bases all over the world; our military is the most destructive force known to history; we capture and kidnap whomever we wish, torture prisoners and retail and send them to foreign torture dungeons wholesale; our foreign policy reserves to the American Empire the sole right unilaterally to do whatever we think necessary, including of course the right to invade and destroy any nation or group we define as an enemy; our stated policy denies to any other country or group of countries the right to build up their power to a level that might be a threat to us. International treaties? We don't need them. The U.N. is impotent against us and in fact our present policy is to either destroy it or turn it into our own lapdog.

At home, the Empire is supreme. Congress is kept in line by huge bribes and by threats of dire punishment. The "opposition" party is feckless. Courts have been stacked with hacks and ideological yes-men. Corporate media narcotics have smothered the public voice. And the president-emperor may dispense with any law he dislikes with the stroke of a signing statement: "Car tel est mon bon plaisir," as Louis XIV put it so neatly: "All is well."

Except that, as Chalmers Johnson notes in "The Sorrows of Empire," the common destiny of all empires is a militarized society, repression of liberties at home, permanent war and, finally, bankruptcy. Sounds right. On this July 4, Jefferson and Lincoln and FDR would weep.

Gerald Cavanaugh