A reader called our last column the most “unintelligent, uneducated, rambling, self-serving piece of absolute garbage” she’d ever encountered. She was topped by a letter to the editor labeling us (for quoting the Bible) in the company of “Satan and his willing followers.” It seems that if we can agree on only one thing in today’s America, it’s that we can’t agree on anything.

Till Friday evening’s presidential tweet announcing otherwise, President Trump all week had threatened to impose 5 percent tariffs on all goods from Mexico come Monday had Mexico not promised to take action to slow the number of immigrants at our border. Despite Republican objections, he vowed to continue to escalate these levies to 25 percent; Mexico in turn had threatened to retaliate; and the Senate had announced it would stop Trump with enough votes to override a veto.

Today marks the 75th anniversary of D-Day. My husband Roland and I were there Memorial Day weekend. As we drove about, the story of D-Day Plus took shape. Many of the grim engagements in the early hours and days after D-Day involved hand-to-hand combat. It wasn’t long before we became overwhelmed by the enormous cost of liberation. Crossroads are marked with memorial stones. American flags fly alongside French at public buildings and in town squares where monuments to the fallen are on solemn display.

Taipei, Taiwan — Bob Fu is an American hero. Having narrowly escaped the atrocities of Tiananmen Square 30 years ago, Bob served time in a Chinese prison, fled to Hong Kong, then was warmly welcomed 20 years ago as a refugee to the United States. Now based in Midland, Texas, his non-profit organization, ChinaAid, is a powerful voice for freedom for all human beings everywhere.

While the president rages tweets about Special Counsel Robert Mueller daring to say out loud what Mueller already wrote, a longer-term war rages for the soul of our country. The front lines are in places like Louisiana, Missouri and Alabama. States are succeeding at what Cher could only sing about: “If I could turn back time, if I could find a way.”

Communities across Texas are contributing to economic growth. Although the state’s largest metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) are where the lion’s share of economic activity occurs, most of the smaller population centers are also performing well. For example, the Midland, Amarillo, Lubbock and Odessa MSAs have been ranking among the lowest unemployment rates in the state. My latest forecast calls for notable growth in each of these important regional centers of business activity.

On a recent visit to move my young adult children home from college, my daughter Katie and I sat down to talk about state bans on abortion. She shared with me that she and her college friends are trying to understand the reasons behind such bans. As she conveyed some of their conversations to me, I learned a great deal from her. Of interest in our conversation was the rationale provided for the Alabama ban. The rationale as laid out by lawmakers in the new law is one that seeks to align itself with the history of civil rights.

In our time of deep division in this sweet land of liberty, an unexpected issue in Congress came to public light last week. Back in late February, House subcommittee chair, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), administered the obligatory oath to three witnesses but omitted the traditional concluding words: “So help me God.” The Chair’s omission did not go unnoticed, triggering a short but lively debate over this ancient custom in the administration of oaths in the English-speaking world. All this more recently entered the broader media world with The New York Times effectively breaking the story earlier this month.

At Coach Clyde Hart’s retirement dinner last month celebrating his 56-year tenure, it was obvious as I listened to track and field teammates talk about their Baylor University experience under Coach that he is a living testament to the university’s foundational pillars. These pillars of transformational undergraduate education; Christian environment; research and scholarship; and arts and athletics were recently reaffirmed as the university launched its $1 billion Illuminate campaign.

Every single day, nearly $1.7 billion in products cross the U.S.-Mexico border. Trade volume has grown substantially, more than doubling over the past 20 years and up 55 percent between 2010 and 2018. In early 2019, in the midst of the ongoing trade war with China, Mexico emerged as the largest trading partner of the United States. Millions of trucks cross the border each year. Delays at the border cause logistical problems. The current slowing on the U.S.-Mexico border is reducing efficiency and could cost the U.S. economy billions in output and hundreds of thousands of jobs if it persists.

Sammy McLarty, in his latest Trib column, labels me a minister, czar and celebrity. By applying the term minister, McLarty highlights his misunderstanding of the scientific process. Since I have no government position and derive power only from speaking scientific truth, I cannot qualify as a czar. And as I have never appeared in People or the National Enquirer, it’s doubtful I am a true celebrity. Humor aside, climate change is an extremely serious topic, so I will respond to McLarty’s criticisms as space allows.

I am a firm believer in “right to life.” However, I contend that this profound phrase covers much more than the abortion issue that has become its moniker. Personally, I believe that God, not the U.S. Constitution or a Supreme Court ruling, is the final authority on the matter. I believe that a heartbeat is enough to validate personhood and protection for those fetuses conceived in a mother’s womb. Clearly, everyone in America does not agree and so the debates continue.

April 15 (Tax Day) fell during the Christian Holy Week this year for Americans. And so this week Christians were “rendering unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” and “rendering unto God the things that are God’s,” giving Uncle Sam his due and giving God God’s due. Accountants from behind office desks and from behind church pulpits are advising American Christians on their civic and religious obligations.

When Amazon pulled out of a huge project planned for the Long Island City neighborhood in New York in the face of local opposition, spectators from other cities (and many in New York) were aghast. Amazon’s “HQ2” was supposed to generate 25,000 well-paying jobs.

I had lunch last week with a former college professor and his wife — dear friends who take an interest in my life and retirement-era writing well beyond coursework from last century. His “attaboys” on my current-century columns are especially treasured since he was once dubbed the best college journalism professor in the nation by a news-writing society. Based on his frank criticism of assignments submitted during olden days of learning spent in Burleson Quadrangle ivy-covered towers at Baylor University, I take his current positive feedback these days as genuine.

Scholars of postmodernism tell me there is now no such thing as common sense. Perhaps they are right. I don’t see a lot of it. And I don’t expect “my common sense” to be shared by all. I’m elderly now and some of my common sense is probably outdated. Nevertheless, I believe there are some things that all mature, thinking individuals should know intuitively — even in this confused and confusing culture that is America today.

A high school English teacher used quizzes to determine whether we truly read the book assigned that week or only consumed the CliffsNotes summary. It was Cliff’s failure to mention the pince-nez glasses of a character in Dickens’ “Hard Times” that pegged one of us as having surrendered to the temptation to shortcut our education. An oath was taken to never again assume hundreds of pages of important detail could be boiled down to a synopsis. That held till now.

Like the rest of you, Wacoans love Joanna and Chip Gaines’ HGTV show, magazine, housewares, books and (most of all?) biscuits and gravy. No one objected when they turned giant silos from eyesores into religious icons. Only a few protested when they recently bought “The Castle” — namesake home of Waco’s most esteemed neighborhood, Castle Heights. But murmurs are starting now that they’ve purchased the 151-year-old Fort House, formerly managed by the Historic Waco Foundation.

Every week mail stacks up at my desk from prisoners seeking help in addressing their sentences or petitioning for clemency. Their stories are not told (except by the students in my clinic at St. Thomas Law School for those few we can represent). Instead, when we read about sentencing it’s usually related to the rich and famous. One of those cases is in the news now, as former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was sentenced twice in the course of one week. On March 7, Judge T.S. Ellis III of the Eastern District of Virginia sentenced him to 47 months imprisonment; then on March 13 Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the D.C. District Court added an additional 43 months for separate (but related) charges filed there. There is a lot to learn from the Manafort case, both about him and about the people who write to me from humbler positions.

Ron Wright, now a freshman congressman for Texas’ 6th District, some 25 years ago joked in a Fort Worth Star-Telegram piece how he perceived white males to be “the only species without some form of federal protection.” We could point out that white males are entitled to the same protection from discrimination on the basis of ethnicity or gender as anyone else, or how old white males (under law, over age 40) are entitled to a third layer of protection. But instead we today celebrate Wright’s prophetic vision for a Movement of the Disgruntled.

While news of other Texas symphonies’ financial struggles makes the rounds occasionally, the Waco Symphony Association continues building on more than a half-century of bringing not only beautiful classical music to the greater Waco community but also the best in culture. The challenge now: continuing such success in an uncertain future.

Today is when many Christian churches celebrate Transfiguration Sunday. The transfiguration narrative illustrates Jesus on a mountaintop with Peter, James and John in order to pray. In the midst of prayer, the disciples have a vision of Jesus with Moses and Elijah in conversation. The glory of the trio and perhaps the oxygen levels on the mountain compel Peter to find a way to make the experience last. He contemplates building booths or shelters so they can remain high up, above it all.

The Waco Tribune-Herald in recent weeks has reported on the Go Renewable Waco campaign, a citizen-led effort that ultimately resulted in passage of recommendations by the City of Waco Sustainable Resource Practices Advisory Board (Sustainability Board) designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat anthropogenic climate change. Although the Trib reports were excellent, they raise multiple important questions.

A dozen Methodists from Bentonville, Arkansas, disembarked al fresco at the Cartagena, Colombia airport one sunny Saturday afternoon last month. Leaving the narrow confines of a stretched Delta 737 inbound from Atlanta, I was the first in the group to descend the open staircase and to feel the airiness and warmth of historic New World seashores.

The truth in all this: If these advertisers charged the viewer a dime to listen to their spiel, they might realize nobody wants to pay for their shtick. And even more true…nobody wants to get it free either. The only thing good about the whole situation is that we have much more time than ever to get a snack or check out the “loo.” Which rather defeats the purpose of the commercial.

In 2018, provisions of the 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act went into effect. The act simplified some aspects of the federal tax code and restructured tax rates with the purported goal of enhancing economic growth. In particular, the act reduced the U.S. corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent. For U.S. companies, which have historically faced some of the highest levies of any developed nation, the reduction strengthened competitiveness in global markets. The hope was the act would also encourage additional capital investment.

Till Friday evening’s presidential tweet announcing otherwise, President Trump all week had threatened to impose 5 percent tariffs on all goods from Mexico come Monday had Mexico not promised to take action to slow the number of immigrants at our border. Despite Republican objections, he vowed to continue to escalate these levies to 25 percent; Mexico in turn had threatened to retaliate; and the Senate had announced it would stop Trump with enough votes to override a veto.

One hundred years ago, Congress approved the 19th Amendment, which prohibited the denial or limitation of voting rights “on account of sex.” The agonizing, 14-month struggle by suffragists to get three-quarters of the states to ratify the amendment, especially its dramatic culmination in the Tennessee statehouse, has garnered much attention. Yet it may come as a surprise that Texas, a state that has become notorious nationwide for passing some of the most restrictive voting legislation, ratified the amendment in just 14 days.

Flashback

What were we talking about one year ago? Take a look back.

June is high season for weddings and Supreme Court opinions. The former are invariably memorable for a lifetime, whereas the latter may quickly be consigned to perpetual obscurity. This term’s blockbuster decision about wedding celebrations — vindicating the claim of Jack Phillips, the Colorado-based wedding cake artist — is now being dismissed in various quarters as a jurisprudential nothing-burger. All the Colorado Civil Rights Commission needed to do, it is said, was be nicer and more civil in rendering its “thou must serve all customers” mandate. By in effect vehemently condemning Phillips’ faith journey, the court concluded, the state agency had transgressed the bounds of tolerant discourse in a pluralistic society.

A letter from a grandmother of 10 to an advice column caught my eye recently. The grandmother lamented that none of her grandchildren bothered to acknowledge her on Mother’s Day. Now, given the fact that requiring grandchildren to contact their grandmothers on their special day might diminish the value of such contact, one would hope grandchildren might still be more sensitive and, of their own free will, be in touch. Must a child’s love and attention be centered only on his or her parents?