F.D.R. MEMORIAL MUSEUM

“All we have to fear is fear itself,” FDR intoned. His words are, unfortunately, no longer relevant to our time. Why? Because fear is so pervasive throughout our society it has become unremitting.

“Fear” is no longer a simple, single emotion that can be identified and ferreted out of our corporeal life after which everything will suddenly be okay, as Roosevelt implied. It has become the major cause of our great national discomfort–a motivating force beneath everything we believe, say and do.

The elderly are frightened by talk of making Social Security a private investment system, knowing they are dependent on contributions to the program by “millennials” who may have only their own best interests in mind. We are deeply threatened by talk of major changes in Medicare and Medicaid and modifying advances in affordable health care.

Our current government is cultivating increased anxiety at every age and socioeconomic level. According to political scientist Jason Johnson, “Our Constitution is not written to handle someone like Trump. That is the greatest danger and greatest harm he is to our country.” If Johnson is correct, and I believe he is, this alone should cause increased anxiety for everyone.

When David Cay Johnston (“It’s Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration is Doing to America”) wrote “millions of people voted for a narcissistic, know-nothing con artist who has spent his entire life swindling others while repeatedly urging followers to commit criminal acts of violence against his critics reveals more about Americans than about Trump,” it expressed why everyone should be fearful about their future.

We simply cannot find peace and a sense of inner security when the man occupying the White House shows obvious support for racists and neo-Nazis and has a longtime relationship, despite his denials, with white nationalists. According to Johnston, “developing a sophisticated understanding of other cultures is…crucial to peace and progress.”


The racial/cultural divide in America is a major cause of fear, especially in our inner cities, and our president has a long and documented history of discriminating against people of color. At campaign rallies, he openly singled out African-Americans, ordering pole to “get them outta here” while urging his followers to “rough them up.”

Although a great deal is being said about opportunity and jobs in the current administration, not much progress is being seen. The current trend toward less spending on scientific research and undermining public education is not policy which portends a bright future for Americans.

Increased domestic and gang violence, widespread drug abuse, fear of terrorist attacks–all have infiltrated our neighborhoods so that in many places around the country, people feel they can no longer safely congregate in public places for worship, education or entertainment.

Even while we proclaim we are not intimidated, we observe increased road rage, random outbursts, short tempers and increasing numbers of weapons carried openly. All are signs of embedded fear.

Jesus said, “Be not afraid,” but it’s not that easy in today’s world. We have more to fear than “fear itself.”

[Milt Hankins is a theologian, former pastor and author. His website is Columnist With a View ( Articles for the webzine can be sent to:  amsmilt@ or sent to P.O. Box 913, Ashland, Kentucky 41101. The article above first appeared in the Huntington, WV Herald-Dispatch on January 29, 2018.]




Ok, I’m sick and tired of […..] columnists using the word “liberal” and “liberals” in a cravenly insulting manner. According to the Oxford American Dictionary, liberal means “giving generously…not strict or literal…broadening the mind in a general way…tolerant, open-minded especially in religion and politics…favoring democratic reform and individual liberty, moderately progressive.”


None of these definitions are inappropriate, disgusting or worthy of disdain! And, certainly not undesirable! If there is a “liberal agenda,” it naturally aligns itself with these principles.

As a liberal, these values are precious to me.

Freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of religion. These freedoms are guaranteed by the U. S. Constitution. I am opposed to anyone or anything which threatens these freedoms. I am deeply disturbed by people who contribute to false or “fake news” or suggest the “media is the enemy of the American people.”

Liberals believe that every American has a right to quality education at all levels. We support public education fervently. Personally, I believe the time has come for all students who maintain high standards of achievement to receive tuition-free education–at a minimum through community college levels.

Liberals believe that every American has a right to medical care. No American should be turned away or refused treatment in a hospital. Medical care should be equally applied, across the board, to everyone. Unfortunately, although several ways to afford this type of medical care have been proffered, I do not have space to go into detail. I personally support a single-payer, graduated system based on family and/or individual annual income levels.

Government must be of, by and for the people and large enough to provide for the general public what it cannot provide for itself, i.e. adequate infrastructure; police, fire and military protection; Social Security; and care for the indigent.

Liberals accept, appreciate and support all races, creeds, nationalities and sexual orientations. This liberal “belief” includes the axiom that whatever is acceptable for any homogeneous group is acceptable for all other homogeneous groups. As human beings “made of one blood,” we are in fact one huge homogeneous humanity.

Liberals welcome immigrants and believe our nation has achieved greatness because it is a melting pot of languages and cultures.

Liberals, in general, disapprove of despotism, bigotry and bullying; that is, one individual “lording over” or implying that he or she is innately better than others because of his/her social, political or financial status.

I wrote this column to suggest that part of the discontinuity that proscribes (“rejects as dangerous”) and separates political parties (liberals, independents, conservatives) is a lack of understanding of the basic values of opposite points of view. But, also, lack of understanding of the basic value of diversity.

One might get the impression from reading some opinion pieces that liberals are bad people–that they are people who have purposely set out to destroy everything that is good and right in America. Nothing could be further from the truth!

(c) 2017, L. Milton Hankins. [This article first appeared in the Huntington, WV Herald-Dispatch.]






I’d be the last person to question the literacy of a president–under normal circumstances. But, in the Trump era, nothing seems too outrageous. Frankly, evidence suggesting that the president may have literacy issues is piling up.

This is not a fly-by-night, conspiracy theory concern, i.e. as Obama’s citizenship. In the July 30, 2016 issue of The Times of Israel, Michael Jaffe bluntly titled his article “Does Donald Trump have a literacy problem?” Jaffe said, “Almost all of the words he utters are no more than two syllables. Given his authoritarian, narcissistic personality and thin skin, one can imagine a collective reluctance among his entourage to set Trump straight. … This and Trump’s difficulty with stringing sentences together might be an indication that Donald Trump’s language faculty, more specifically his literacy, may be lacking.”

In The Daily Beast, Matt Wilstein headlined his article “Samantha Bee Is Convinced Donald Trump Can’t Read.” Wilstein pointed out that Canadian political commentator Samantha Bee (host of Full Frontal) has “produced significant evidence…that Donald Trump may be, in fact, illiterate.”

Bee said in a recent segment, “[I] began by reviewing tape of a recently unsealed deposition in which Trump was repeatedly asked to read from legal documents and refused, first saying he didn’t have his glasses and then using the excuse that he’s not a lawyer.”

Bee continued, “How can you expect someone who isn’t a fancy-pants lawyer to read words? At first, I thought Trump was lying, but then it hit me…You heard it here first: People are saying Donald Trump can’t read.”


Wilstein continued: “Over the next six minutes, she [Bee] meticulously laid out the evidence, including the fact that the only book title Trump can recall when people ask him what he’s read recently is All Quiet on the Western Front and his unnerving practice of shouting things he wants to tweet at his staffers during the day. Even his signature is suspiciously missing recognizable letters.”

In the Washington Post (July 17, 2016), Marc Fisher wrote, “As he has prepared to be named the Republican nominee for president, Donald Trump has not read any biographies of presidents. He said he would like to someday. He has no time to read, he said: ‘I never have. I’m always busy doing a lot. Now I’m more busy [sic], I guess, than ever before.'”

Alex Shepherd wrote in The New Republic, “Donald Trump doesn’t read books.” He points out that following an interview with Megyn Kelly, Kelly sensed “that Trump may not have read a book since sixth grade.”


Politico’s Jack Shafer has similar concerns. He says “Donald Trump Talks Like a Third-Grader.” In an August 13, 2015 article, he pointed out, “Run through the Flesch-Kincaid grade-level test, [Trump’s] text of [debate] responses score at the 4th-grade reading level.”

Shafter concluded, “…Trump’s verbal deficit, as grating as it may be on the ears of the educated class, has not caused him much political pain.”

No one appears, according to my research, to have seen President Trump privately reading a legal brief, the President’s Daily Brief (PDB), a document, or a book. Not even a magazine! I don’t ever recall seeing him wearing glasses either. It is strange, isn’t it?


[L. Milton Hankins, the publisher and editor of Columnist with a View writes a weekly column for the Huntington, WV Herald-Dispatch.  This article first appeared in the March 13th edition of the Herald-Dispatch.  Hankins can be reached at:  Comments on articles are also welcome in the webzine.  Those who have editorial-opinion type pieces they would like considered for publication in Columnist with a View may submit them to or send hard copy to P.O. Box 913, Ashland, KY 41101.]




Like folks with inquiring minds, I sometimes find myself wondering about noteworthy people who might, in another context, be inconsequential. They might be merely seeking their 15 minutes of fame.

If you can remember them, think about these people in yesteryear’s news. Some were household names, like Larry Craig, Kim Davis, Mark Sanford, Trey Gowdy. See? Forgotten!

Who is Stephen Bannon? Do we know much about this guy who headed up and who has become a top advisor to President-elect Trump? I wondered. So, I consulted the Wall Street Journal, archives of CBS News, the Washington Post and The Daily Beast. I thought these a good sampling - that I’d be able to sketch a decent picture of this Bannon fellow.

I learned Bannon was a Navy man; that he invested in the “Seinfeld” series, that he once made a “fawning documentary” about Sarah Palin. According to a CBS News article, he is “a rich guy-turned conservative propagandist” best known for his Palin documentary.

Lately, I’m certain he is best-known for his close association with President-elect Donald Trump. I dug a little deeper. At a WSJ CEO Council meeting, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren said Bannon, “is a man who says, by his very presence, that this is a White House that will embrace bigotry.” tribalism-1201697_1280That got my attention. I detest bigotry! But, of course, everyone knows Senator Warren isn’t exactly an unbiased source on Trump or anyone connected with him.

I kept researching because I ran across the Warren quote about bigotry and also because it appears that the next president has a xenophobic (“a strong dislike or distrust of foreigners”) streak in him that can only be exacerbated by a close advisor who is a reputed bigot.

According to Will Rahn of CBS News (August 2016) (remember, it was headed up by Bannon) was a haven for the “alt-right” who proclaims “the West is under attack and conservatives, locked in the straight-jacket of respectability, won’t do anything about it.



The Muslims are coming, and so are the Mexicans. Blacks are out of control in the cities. The feminists are trying to upset gender norms, which is why you can’t get a date. Smart as you are, young white man, you can’t get rich, because of globalists, who ‘just happen’ to be Jews.”

Hmmm, it isn’t complicated to connect the dots. Steven Bannon bigotry “alt-right” xenophobia close advisor to President-elect Trump to President Donald Trump!

Woodruff and Resnick of The Daily Beast, wrote in an October 2017 piece: “Breitbart News spends a lot of time worrying about [the aforementioned] things, too. And in Bannon, they see a media-friendly, ethno-nationalist fellow traveler.”

According to the Woodruff/Resnick piece, “Richard Spencer, who heads the white supremacist think tank National Policy Institute, said he was also pleased. Under Bannon’s leadership, Breitbart has given favorable coverage to the white supremacist Alt Right movement. And Spencer loves it.”

Should we just forget about this fellow, Stephen Bannon? I think not. I think we’d better keep an eye on him - remember who and where he is.

[This article first appeared in the Huntington, WV Herald-Dispatch on Monday, December 26, 2016.]



You’ll probably think it silly of me,” I said to my wife, Anne, on the eve of our first Christmas together, “but this year I’d like to decorate our tree just like we did at home when I was a kid.”

“How’s that?” she inquired, somewhat amused. “Was it something out of the ordinary?”

“Oh, very special,” I countered.

“I thought we’d get a nice artificial tree,” she went on. “They are very realistic nowadays, and my folks have agreed to let us have some of their ornaments.”

“No. No, it has to be a real tree,” I insisted. “Artificial will never do. Perhaps someday, but not this Christmas!”

“But, honey, don’t you think it’s a terrible thing to cut down a living tree?” she hedged. “It seems such a shame.”

“We’ll get one we can set out after the holidays,” I assured her. “But this is a special Christmas, our very first, and for some reason I really want a live tree decorated just like I remember back home.”

The scene of my childhood Christmases was a small, weather-boarded country house, which passed out of our family trust a few months after my mother died–my father desperately needing the money to see us children properly cared for. I’ll never forget the old home place, nor the day we were packed up to leave it forever, each one of us leaving behind some very pleasant memories. Mine were the Christmas Eve family festivities and, especially, our Christmas tree. In the ensuing years it came to symbolize the happiest moments of my childhood, the years before tragedy intervened and we became a divided family.

In those days, in the late afternoon of a crisp, early December day, my father, my brother and sister, and I would go scouting down in the pine grove for our Christmas tree. winter-1029889_1280It was always a happy expedition with much laughter as we roamed among the long needle pines, tree after tree, considering the merits of each until we had settled upon the right one. We would check out its height and the fullness of its branches with a practiced eye. Then, and only then, when we had all agreed upon a particular tree, my father would mark it with a band of red ribbon so we could be sure to find it against come Christmas Eve.

“Are you quite sure this tree is perfect?” my father would ask each of us in turn, and each would nod affirmatively, and if there were a minor defect we would, in our mind’s eye, discount it.

“We can always turn that skimpy side to the wall where no one can see it,” my sister would say. She was the one who found it so hard to reject any tree at all.

“I’m sure the trunk can be whittled down a bit to fit the stand,” my father would assure us if there were suggestions that the trunk was too fat.

“Make sure there’s a nice straight top for the angel!” my little brother would unfailingly insist. “Can I put the angel on this year, Dad? It’s my turn!”christmas-68289_1280

“We’ll see if you’ve grown tall enough, Son,” my father would promise.

Racing back home through the crunchy, snow-covered meadow, we could anticipate that our mother would be standing just inside the doorway.

“Well, do we have a Christmas tree this year?” she would say, and the first one of us to burst through the door would receive the honor of describing the chosen tree.

“It’s the finest one we saw!” my father would add, and we all knew that once it was cut, brought in, and decorated we would proclaim it “the prettiest tree we’ve ever had!” And it was always true; the last Christmas tree was always the

So that first year of our marriage, Anne and I selected our tree with utmost care and brought it home to be decorated in the same way my family had done when I was a boy.

On Christmas Eve that same year I had a sudden, whimsical notion that we could drive the forty miles into the country to look over the old house of my earliest Christmases. Our own tree was decorated, all our gifts were lovingly wrapped and placed under its laden branches, and then we got into the car and headed for the country. As the miles began to fade behind us, I thought more and more of that last, special Christmas our family had spent together and the incredible thing that had happened, and I decided it was an appropriate time to share the story with Anne.

It was a sad Christmas that year, for, you see, my mother was buried on that Christmas Eve. As we drove alone, I told Anne all about our family Christmas customs and about the extraordinary event that had taken place on that last Christmas Eve.

A few days before Christmas every year, Mother would send Father up to the attic to bring down boxes of tree ornaments, which had been so carefully packed away the previous year. Together they would check out the strands of lights while we children rediscovered the fragile, exquisitely colorful balls and tinkling silver bells, which had become annual

“Be very careful you don’t drop any of them,” Mother would caution as we passed each treasure hand to hand until all had a renewed acquaintance with it. Each of us always selected our favorite and staked a claim for placing it on the tree when the proper time came.

Day by day as the moment approached, the intensity of our excitement would swell. It seemed we were not so much intoxicated by the promise of gifts as we were by the atmosphere of the season and the activities we shared as a family–more so at this time than any other, as I recall.

Then the day would arrive, and a hundred times we would ask Mother how soon our father would be coming home from work, and she would answer patiently, “It won’t be long now,” but for us children the minutes drifted by so, so slowly. Long toward late afternoon I, being the oldest, would go out to the woodshed and bring my father’s broadax and his work gloves to the back porch. As we did not have a tractor or a wagon, it was also my honor, being the strongest, to help my father carry the newly-cut tree home. Then, soon after everything was in order, my father came home,table-791149_1280 and while Mother prepared a sumptuous dinner for the occasion, we would walk over to the pine grove and cut our tree.

While the dinner table was cleared and the dishes put away, my father would carefully trim away the lowest limbs, cut the trunk to size, and mount the tree in its metal stand. Next, he and I would carry it into the living room where it was to be installed and decorated. The remainder of the evening in our household would be entirely given over to our trimming and celebrations. After the lights and garland were meticulously draped around the branches, each of us busied ourselves with the ornaments. While we worked, we sang the old-fashioned carols,santa-claus-1628845_1280 talked about Santa Claus, for my younger brother’s benefit, and shared memories of Christmases past.

Later, when the tree stood shimmering with icicles and glowing with every color of the rainbow, Mother would bring from the kitchen popcorn balls and hot chocolate. Then either Mother or Father would recite “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” and the other one would read to us the story of Jesus’s birthchristmas-crib-figures-1060021_1280 from the New Testament. Always too soon the festivities would be over and bedtime came around, and we would be tucked wide-eyed into our beds to lie thinking about what we might find beneath the tree come

As that last Christmas had neared and we had become mired down so by our mother’s illness, no one had given much thought to Christmas trees or celebrations. So we had driven home in mute sadness, acutely aware that never again would we be a complete family and never against would our mother be a part of our Christmases. Neither Father nor us children mentioned it, of course, but all of us felt the bitter sting of our mother’s absence, and all of us dreaded coming into the bleak and lonely coldness of a home that had always been warm and lovely at Christmastime.

I remember how slowly my father opened the front door on that Christmas Eve. Then I remember how we all stood open-mouthed, aghast. We were stunned, to say the least. We were enormously surprised at what we saw, for there in its customary place stood the most beautifully-decorated Christmas tree we ever had–truly!christmas-1236617_1920 My father had not decorated it, nor had we children, but there it was, in all its radiant splendor, glittering brightly, and we knew instantly that something marvelous and magical had brought us together once more.

The years passed and there were other Christmases in other homes and they were nice times with family and friends, but never a Christmas Eve passed that I didn’t think about Christmas in our home when  I was growing up, and never a yuletide season came that I didn’t wonder about the last Christmas tree.

When I had finished my story, I glanced across the front seat of the car to catch a tear trickling down Anne’s cheek.

“You never told me that story before,” she whispered.

“No,” I said. “It’s a story for an occasion like this.”

“Did you ever discover who had brought in the tree?” she asked.

“No, we never did,” I said. “As a matter of fact, I don’t think we ever really tried too hard to find out. It was just always just ‘the last Christmas tree,’ the tree our mother presented to us.”

“I see,” Anne said, and we drove on in silence.

(c) 1985, L. Milton Hankins. All rights reserved.
[“The Last Christmas Tree” was the cover story for The Mountain Laurel, Laurel Publications, Inc., Meadows of Dan, Virginia, December 1985.  It has appeared in several other regional publications, and was included in Ashes on the Snow (a collection of short stories, vignettes and poetry) by L. Milton Hankins, CreateSpace, 2010. The story cannot be reprinted without permission.]