Seasonable sermon

A classic banana split has three scoops of ice cream, each of a different flavor, with a different topping on each of the three. The result is three different desserts.

Like this column, although it can’t compete with a good banana split.



A right-wing fringe effort, apparently well organized, was spiked last week by FBI and state investigators in Michigan who charge that militia-type plotters planned to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and possibly try her privately for treason. 

The plot’s organizers roundly object to Whitmer’s mandated steps to protect Michiganders from the spread of COVID-19. A toxic blend of anti-government suspicion, hatred of gun regulation, and Armageddon philosophy apparently concocted the alleged effort.

The episode raises concerns of right-wing refusals to accept the results of the 2020 elections if Joe Biden wins the presidency, especially if Democrats also win control of the U.S. Senate. 

Donald Trump has encouraged such reaction, sometimes openly, by stating that if he loses, it will be because the election was rigged.

Fears of similar left-wing reaction if Biden and the Democrats lose are nearly non-existent, certainly much more muted. Democrats loudly complain about what they see as GOP actions in the states to restrict eligible people from voting, but there’s certainly been very little concern about leftists resorting to violence if Republicans continue to hold power.

I would not be surprised to see more plots uncovered like the one in Michigan, either before or after Nov. 3. There’s an uncomfortable number of grown men who like to play Army around the country, apparently itching for an opportunity to expand their games into the real world if they decide there’s a “legitimate” reason to do so. 

That’s not to say that a few leftists with similar ideas don’t exist. Remember the guy who fired on the congressional Republican ball team that was practicing in a park in Alexandria, Virginia, in June 2017? The one who shot Steve Scalise, the third-ranking Republican in the U.S. House, in the hip? The shooter was a left-wing activist.

But that shooter apparently acted on his own. There’s a vast difference between a lone wolf and groups of under-the-radar “militias” who train for violence and reinforce each other’s conspiracy beliefs.

If violence should break out somewhere before the plans are discovered, though, I feel confident that most Republicans, and the military if necessary, would put a stop to it quickly. 

The Second Amendment protects the right to keep and bear arms, but couples it with the stated idea of a well-regulated militia. Implicit in that concept is that it’s the government that does the regulating, not some group unwilling to accept election results.

That’s America’s tradition of democracy.



The topic of poll watchers has made the national news recently. There are some concerns that poll watchers in some locations will try to bully or dissuade would-be voters from casting votes.

Iowa law governing poll watchers is clear. A poll watcher is someone who has official permission to be at a polling place on Election Day, or in the room where absentee ballots are counted. 

Poll watchers cannot be candidates for offices on the ballot, incumbent officeholders or precinct election officials. They are appointed by the political parties, and must provide written permission to show they have been legitimately appointed. They can’t just be folks who show up on Election Day to harass or intimidate voters.

Each political party may have up to three appointed poll watchers at a polling place. They may look at voter rosters, report problems in the precinct to the county auditor, and challenge a voter’s qualifications.

They may not handle the ballots or voting equipment, inspect voters’ documents, argue with voters or election officials, talk to voters while in line, solicit votes, offer advice or literature to voters, or wear campaign clothing or buttons.

Challenges of a voter’s legitimacy must be made in writing (separate forms for each challenge), signed by the poll watcher and stating the specific reason for the challenge. 

I’m not aware of any serious challenges made by poll watchers in Greene County in past years, and I hope any intimidation of voters on Nov. 3 is quickly silenced.


My brother Tom died last Saturday of a rare and aggressive form of prostate cancer. He was 73.

My other brothers and my sister now join the ranks of millions of Americans who know the pain of losing a much-loved sibling. We share that pain with Tom’s immediate survivors, our large extended family, and his many, many friends.

Tom was our social chairman. He did most of the organizing of family music and games at Christmastime gatherings. His irrepressible optimism and fine-tuned sense of humor will be much missed among our clan, and within his broad church acquaintance, the Graceland University community, Iowa history devotees, and the Lamoni, Iowa, area.

About once a month the Morain brothers have gathered at brother Steve’s home in Waukee for a round of bridge. We generally played seven hands, then changed partners to repeat the sequence, then did so a third time, so that each of us rolled up an individual score. We learned the game from our parents when we were youngsters.

We didn’t keep a running total over the months, but I’m pretty confident Tom compiled the most enviable numbers, and probably derived the greatest satisfaction when he won. 

He was a gentle, loving soul who found his calling in doing for others.

I miss him tremendously already.

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