As a newspaper columnist, I certainly get some interesting mail. Some of it is close to brilliant. Some of it qualifies as hate mail. Some of it opens my eyes in unexpected ways.
The mail I'll tell you about today falls into the latter category. It came from Edward Seibold, a prisoner at the Staton Correctional Facility in Elmore, Ala.
"I'm a convicted murderer," Seibold wrote, "former death row inmate, been 'in' under the sleep deprivation regimen about 37 1/2 years, since 1967."
Seibold, who reads my work occasionally as it's syndicated in Alabama papers, wrote me a three-page typed essay to explain why he wants "the Democratic Party to position itself to the right of the 'neo-cons' and pro-business interest on the Christian issues. . . I suspect that you yourself -- and you're good! -- do not fully grasp the immensity of this administration's corruption and ineptitude."
Well, look, not every person in prison is an unthinking dolt. Not by a long shot. Some have fascinating minds and have things to say that can challenge us.
So here are a few paragraphs of Seibold's ideas:
". . .the (2004) election turned into a plebiscite on traditional moral values. When politicians beholden to moneyed interests can ride to victory by flogging moral values, we all lose. The moneyed interests gain a pipeline to the United States Treasury, and we are badly governed. . .
"It was such a frustrating choice: Christian moral values or responsible government, one or the other, but not both. We chose moral values. The electorate wants to see a rebirth of Christian values in this country. When voter concern about moral values overrides voter knowledge about sound government, it stands to reason that we first must resolve the moral issues before we can begin the work to build a public consensus to establish good government, efficient government that wisely stewards the public wealth. . .
"It is critical to the Democratic Party's very survival that it embrace the Christian position on moral issues. Bush won Alabama 2-1, Utah 3-1. In Oklahoma and Nebraska, Kerry didn't win a single county! Attending prayer breakfasts won't be enough. Attending church in Plains with Jimmy and Rosalyn won't be enough. Attending black churches once every four years won't be enough. The Democrats need to fish or cut bait."
Well, as I say, Seibold has not been sitting around in prison with his mind in neutral. We may disagree with him, but the debate about the place of moral values in politics clearly reaches into the nation's prisons, too.
If you want to write to Seibold, send me a note and I'll give you his address.
See my "About" page to find out how to read online what I've written for The Kansas City Star.