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America's political polarization is at one of its highest levels. This is shown by the fact that to some, programs such as Social Security and Medicare are often referred to merely as entitlements. This labeling process is confusing because the word entitlement can imply that someone gets something with only minimal effort. Obviously, Medicare and Social Security aren't totally free. These programs are supported by taxes that many of us pay. In reality, both programs, especially Social Security, are earned entitlements.

Although it goes without saying that Medicare and Social Security are in need of reform, it's clear that for many, these programs have worked. For example, Medicare has allowed many elderly to have surgeries and care that private insurance alone might deny. Likewise, Social Security provides many elderly their main means of support.

Ironically, most who claim to be against these programs are usually eager participants in both. Rarely will anyone attempt to forego these benefits simply because they claim to be ideologically opposed to entitlements. After all, with both Social Security and Medicare, most of us are simply seeking a return on our investment. — Perry Casilio, Talent

I must take issue with the recent letter from Michael A. Long titled "Third Reich road map".

In his diatribe he manages to paint all Texans as ignorant racists. His assertion that Texas is the home of the KKK and Aryan Brotherhood is false. The KKK, three incarnations actually, began in Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama respectively. No mention of Texas. As for the Aryan Brotherhood, the AB is a prison gang with members in prisons all across America, including Oregon.

Mr. Long also seems to believe that Texans do not like our president because of his skin color. Wrong again. The only qualifications I and my fellow Texans are interested in is, can the president, whoever he or she may be, do the job.

As a native Texan now living in the beautiful state of Oregon, I take great offense to Mr. Long's outrageous assertions. In the future, perhaps he would do well to follow his own advice and "find out the truth" before he attacks my home. — Gary Pence, Medford

If Jared Lougher had deliberately driven his car into a crowd of people, killed six of them and injured 14 more, would liberals be screaming for more car control laws and more restrictions on driver licenses?

Liberals, moderates and conservatives should all agree that the act committed by Lougher was wrong and inexcusable. The knee-jerk blame game and name-calling has gotten out of control mainly because of the mainstream media. Bad news sells. Reasonable and intelligent people should put the blame and responsibility for this senseless act of violence where it belongs, on the person who used the firearm and not on the firearm he used. — Robert McKean, Phoenix

In contemplating Sen. Jason Atkinson's guest opinion recently on civil discourse and the Tucson massacre of innocents including Congresswoman Gabriel Gifford, may I civilly but sharply disagree?

With all due respect for his high office and intent, this monstrous, horrific act really is quite irrelevant to any controversial discourse in this nation. Most Americans and politicians are civil. This was the demented behavior of an insane madman.

What is civil discourse? Is it when Patrick Henry compared King George's fate to the likes of beheaded Charles I and King John's coercion in obtaining his signature on the Magna Carta? Is it when Andrew Jackson in 1833 threatened his vice president, John C. Calhoun, with accepting perpetual union instead of Southern secession and civil war?

Is it when Harry Truman fired the great General MacArthur, calling him an SOB?

Was it when our hero Ronald Reagan challenged a sitting president with heated rhetoric while talking about 11th commandments? Or was it when John Adams castigated his older peers at Independence Hall before corralling all their signatures on the Declaration?

This is normal American discourse.

The day we ever, God forbid, lose that fire, will be the day America civilly loses her liberty. — Joel Marks, Medford

Jan. 16, a date that will live in absurdity — I was truly upset by three items in that day's paper: 1. A letter from Jan Waitt, chairwoman of the Jackson County Democrats; 2. A letter from Hanni Rose; and 3. A ludicrous article by the "totally unbiased" Gene Lyons.

Why in the world would Ms. Waitt feel it important to tell us that the "local Democrats" are saddened and express their condolences? To prove, once again, that we non-Democrats are unfeeling louts? Then Mr. Rose feels that the actual shooter was not responsible but Sarah Palin and "her ilk" are responsible. Then the unprejudiced Mr. Lyons tells us Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich are really the culprits.

I, for one, am appalled by those who would try to politicize this horrendous incident. What has happened to us? Are we so eager to denigrate opposing political philosophies that we have to use a tragedy to do so? I think we are all saddened (including Sarah Palin, et al.) and should direct our loathing toward the perpetrator. We seem to be so anxious to place blame that we tend to forget the ones who actually pull the trigger. — Murray LaHue, Phoenix

Regarding the article in the Tribune concerning the business practices of Rogue River Mortgage and Lynn Costantino, my wife and I have been doing business with Lynn for four or five years. He has listened to our financial needs, treating us with respect and honesty. Because he is beyond reproach, has integrity and is honest, we will continue to do business with Lynn Costantino for many more years. — Bob and Mary Lima, Eagle Point