July 30, 2018

By Arthur H. Gunther III

     A “human” story, of which there have been too little in this age of orchestrated hate, prejudice, judgment and punishment. …

     I have not shed a tear in my hometown of Spring Valley, N.Y., in many decades, but Tuesday last the drought ended for a brief but soul-touching moment.

     Volunteers were doing their remarkable thing, as they and their forebears have done since 1985 in a free breakfast program, no questions asked. We work out of the old gym/meal-gathering room of the 1865 United Church building, a place where I attended Boy Scouts in the 1950s, at an age when it was easier to cry, though there was no reason to.

     Lots of memories in that room, including  the emotions that rise and play out as you see humanity in all its wonderful hues, idiosyncrasies, fears, joy, hope and frustration. Sometimes it chokes you up; other times you are so very proud of your fellow human.

     Last Tuesday, having finished my part as a cook — the pancakes, sausages, soup, oatmeal, desserts seaboarded to the serving area and almost gone — I moseyed from my flattop grill sanctuary to where the ladies ladle out the soup and offer the other foods. 

     Standing behind Jane and Margaret on the pancakes/sausage, with Sally on the soup, Moucille on the oatmeal, Phyllis handing out donated and purchased clothing and toiletries from her “store,” and Christine, Ann, Olive and Maryann on standby, I looked at the serving line to see this young man, as tall as can be, as thin as all get out, plate in hand, ready for food. For whatever reason, he locked his eyes on mine and said “I’m sorry, father.” He had  tears on his face. I wanted to end the emotion right then and there because there was no need for this young fellow to apologize to me. I extended my hand, shook his tightly as he repeated, “I’m sorry father.” 

    I think I left him with reassurance that all was OK, and that if he wanted “forgiveness,” the handshake did it. Quickly, I slid back into my sanctuary, with a tear or two myself, something that rarely happens.

     I was certain that the fellow felt better. And once the emotion subsided, I was grateful that I was there to do something, which came not from me but from whatever decency almost all of us can summon when we are given the chance to do so.

     Driving home, NPR on the radio, the report was about  more claims of “fake news,” how illegal immigrants are supposedly taking jobs from Americans, how government blocks big business, why “America needs to be great again.” Lots of negativity.

     I turned off the radio and thought back to a tall, skinny, lost young man who sought forgiveness from his “father.” That was real news. 


     The writer is a retired newspaperman. Contact:


July 23, 2018

By Arthur H. Gunther III

     In the 1939 political comedy/drama, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” the naive but principled Jefferson Smith (James Stewart) is supposed to be a do-no-harm bumpkin replacement for a deceased U.S. senator from an unnamed western state who will not interfere with wheeling and dealing. Instead, he proves to be the American eagle who soars above impacted greed and graft to remind us of higher ideals.

     This classic by director Frank Capra gets the point across by involving the freshness and promise of youth (boy rangers), human kindness (the encouraging Harry Carey, Senate president) and the re-born (all-business political operative Jean Arthur). 

     War is just beginning in Europe, and its growing shadow is heading toward America, the Great Depression is still on, and democracy’s values are questioned as to practicality. 

     The film’s hero, in climax, endures a 24-hour Senate filibuster over a land grab to reaffirm the American ideals of freedom while disclosing the true motives of the greed scheme, yet none of the senators are convinced. 

     Is this the end of the American Founders’ hopes? Is the nation no longer a beacon for the world, lost in favoritism for the rich and powerful? 

     When all seems hopeless, the chief Senate wheeler-dealer, Joseph Paine (Claude Rains) realizes his guilt and affirms to all Smith’s true, unselfish nature. The bumpkin is, in his seeming naiveté, the inherent goodness of man, the hope of it anyway. 

     That was 79 years ago, in a fictional U.S. Senate. There was, as now, wrongdoing and special interest benefitting individuals and groups rather than the ordinary citizen. There were rigged votes. There were lemming-like politicians willing to be told untruths and to uphold same to stay in the club. Most of all, there were those few like Jefferson Smith, those fertile seeds in an arid wasteland of diverted moisture and nutrition, who articulated in 24 hours of growing hoarseness the values of decency to which we in America aspire even as we stumble so very greatly. It was 1939. It was fiction. 

     Or is it 2018, this time not a movie?

    The writer is a retired newspaperman. Contact:



July 16, 2018

By Arthur H. Gunther III

I talk too much, can be overly gregarious, especially when there is a seemingly captive audience. That’s rude, isn’t it? Yet most of us do not listen, at least not fully, so while doing so is defensive and protective, it can be a put-off as well.

Human nature has us repeating our idiosyncracies over and over, and that at least is a marker for the friends we do keep and for the relatives and co-workers who have little choice. It’s like driving a particular car — you know what the quirks are, what buttons to push, what to ignore.

What about silence, though? If with a stranger, it can be awkward, uncomfortable. If with a talker, relief. If with someone who might often talk and talk but with whom you also share comfortable, mutual, give-and-take conversation, silence can at times produce goose bumps, understanding that needs no words. Reassuring, perhaps even a purring moment, surely reinforcement that a mutual existence continues. 

Truly, human beings do not have to jabber on to be understood. In fact, silence can tell you more, reveal more and become a hand-holder that is reachable even when those involved are not present.

Besides, the quiet that silence lives in is a true security blanket.

The writer is a retired newspaperman. Contact:


July 9, 2018

By Arthur H. Gunther III

A recent painting, “Abstract on a Red Wall,” came about because what I had on the canvas was not working — there was nothing there that told a story or suggested one. The colors could not stand on their own. The form, the line, had no structure that beckoned. It wasn’t frustrating because it was just media and paint and a missing ingredient — inspiration. It wasn’t the end of the world.

I had other things to do: take a walk, watch a favorite British do-it-yourself show (amazing how the English build with older techniques and tools), maybe eat a donut or just chill.

     The eventual rescue, and rescues usually do come, was in letting go. The painting did not have to get done, not that day or week or month. I wasn’t earning a living at it; it wasn’t going to be recognized as exceptional. It wasn’t going to complete my soul. I would not have dreams about the painting.

     Letting go did the trick. Whatever mundane tasks I went off to complete, whatever time spent doing not much of anything, chilled me enough to return to that particular canvas.

     In its execution, I soon found I was painting a wall, with the hint of a hallway to the left. The work itself became largely red, much like the hue you see in a Piet Mondrian (though hardly approaching that artistry). 

     The upper righthand corner of the piece soon included part of a second painting, a painting within a painting, an abstract of various colors and angles in its own frame.

     There — the work was done. There was “color field,” predominant red but other colors, too, that stood on their own. Yet there was a story as well, suggested by the hallway, the angles in the painting, the overall look.

     It was, in its very own small way, art imitating life. The hallway was my walk-out from the original painting that was not working. The angles were the this and that which I did away from the work. And the red, so much of it, was renewed zest.

     A small thing overall, just a time in the life, affecting no one but affirming existence. We have all been there.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. Contact:


July 2, 2018

By Arthur H. Gunther III

     Of all that was so sorrowfully missing from the presidency on the line-of-duty deaths of five newspapermen and women in Maryland last week, the saddest was a moment of silence. Had the non-president, even before he again flew off to his Bedminster, N.J., golf course for another taxpayer-funded weekend, bowed his head and led us all in respect for the fallen, perhaps that would have been a nod toward humanity. At last.

But, no, Trump offered so little and soon will return to his fake “fake news” claim meant to smear the messengers of fact and truth, however imperfect we are.

I took his ice-cold feelings personally, for I am a retired newspaperman who also blessedly worked in an at-times cursed and cursing local newsroom, as did the five men and women killed in the offices of The Capital Gazette  in Annapolis Thursday by a gunman on a grudge mission.

Too many hate the messenger, and if you are crazed as well, and if you can easily buy weapons despite that, all journalists are in the gunsight, emboldened by a “president” who called media coverage of the North Korean peace talks “treasonous.” Joseph Goebbels, step forward.

 All we citizens should take Trump’s despicable behavior personally. Where was his empathy for the fallen, as much in the line of duty, and now in the line of fire, as our military? Tweeting that he offered prayers for the victims and then leaving it at that is not enough. This was a mourning weekend in Annapolis, in America, and he played golf.

     Bury your dead, loved ones of Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters. Those of civility mourn with you.

     Perhaps the epitaph on all these tombstones should read, in the words of Pat Ferguson, Gazette reporter: “… buy a local newspaper.” Truth begins in covering local village and school meetings, all government doings. Cover the statehouse and the Congress. And, especially today, cover a presidency that is leaning fascist, playing representative government as fools, pushing an agenda fueled by racism, fear, hatred. Oligarchy, stand up.

     Today, those of decency bow in mourning for the five journalists. On Nov. 6, we show up at the polls to forward what the Capital Gazette Five we’re accomplishing. Do not let democracy die in darkness. Do not let their deaths be in vain.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman.