Note: Due to its length, this letter appears in two parts; the first half was published in last week's edition of the Herald.

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When I was a boy, my father taught me that the most profane and forbidden word in the English language was the "N" word; to this day, I cannot utter it in any context.

He told me to judge people by their actions and not their color, ethnicity, religion or other superficialities. My mother urged me to consider the disadvantages or misfortunes that might beset people I did not like, and reminded me to count my blessings that I was not so afflicted. The Golden Rule is my moral compass: everyone merits respect and compassion until they prove otherwise. I share these values with millions of other Americans.

My father fought in the infantry in World War II and was awarded the bronze star for heroism during an intense firefight in Luxembourg. He survived the Battle of the Bulge and the war physically intact, but emotionally scarred. My mother was the daughter of a physician who joined the French Ambulance Service in World War I, and returned to practice medicine in the Midwest. My forbears contributed mightily to secure the liberty and prosperity most of us take for granted, and many choose to desecrate.

So, when Pastor Wright rages from the pulpit: "it's not God bless America, it's God Damn America....God Damn America!".... he is spitting in my face, the faces of my wife and baby, our ancestors, our friends and neighbors. He spits on my parents' graves and the graves of countless millions of Americans who worked hard, sacrificed enormously and contributed immensely to a country that supplied him the pulpit and the freedom to abuse it so outrageously.

Steve Cummings

Spring Valley