The Dream by Jamie Kirkpatrick

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I dreamed I went to Florida. One freezing, dark minute, I was on my way to BWI in a sudden snow squall, the next I was on a beach on the Gulf of Mexico wondering if SPF 15 would be a good place to start. There was a palm tree or two, a beach with blue-green water and downy soft sand, and a delicious concoction in my hand. I said to my wife, “Please don’t wake me up.”

Dreams come and go, but this one went on a week. There was hardly ever a cloud in the sky. The weather—good from the get-go—improved every day. We saw old friends and made new ones. We ate from the sea. We rode bikes. One evening, we went to a concert to hear the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (on its first US tour in 35 years) and violin prodigy Nicola Benedetti—google her; you can thank me later. There was a round of golf on a course redesigned by Jack Nicklaus, a minimal but obligatory amount of shopping, a nap or two (usually with the sound track of the sea in the background), and—most blessed of all—the gift of time together sans cell phones, FaceBook, lost keys, post-nasal drip, or any of the other petty dramas of daily living back in the “real world.”

Now remember: this was a dream.

In this dream, I lost twenty-five pounds. I broke par. I swam with a dolphin. There were two adjoining seats at every bar, each delicious meal was free, and I never felt a bit crunchy the morning after. My wife did not get a nasty cold. Nicky Benedetti winked at me.

Some people don’t dream in color, but I do. This one was tinted with soft pastel tones—pink, coral, aqua, and turquoise—with some dazzling notes of emerald and sapphire thrown in for good measure. There was bright bougainvillea everywhere, orchids dripped from the palm trees, and the air was scented with frangipani or was it just a touch of garlic? We found perfect sea shells along the shoreline. We rescued a baby turtle who distinctly said “I love you!” in Italian. The almond croissants at the local coffee shop were sugar-free and to-die-for. The front page photo in the newspaper showed President (Michelle) Obama signing a bill, passed unanimously by both houses of Congress, that would provide comprehensive health care to all Americans under a single-payer system. The American Express bill got lost in the mail.

At one point, I woke up and told my wife about what was happening. She laughed and said, “Honey: turtles might be able to speak Italian, but a single payer system? You must be dreaming!” I went back to sleep.

But maybe that old wizard Prospero was right all along: we really are such stuff as dreams are made on and our little lives are rounded with a sleep. If so, then maybe—just maybe—what passes for waking is only ephemera and one day turtles will speak Italian and all our other dreams will come true.

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, and the Philadelphia Inquirer. “A Place to Stand,” a book of his photographs, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015. He is currently working on a collection of stories called “Musing Right Along.”

Out and About (Sort of): Call to Action is Urgent by Howard Freedlander

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The Under Armour slogan, “Protect This House,” aptly characterizes the current campaign to fight the Trump Administration’s proposed cut of $73 million for continued cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay.

The Chesapeake Bay is the beating heart of Maryland. It requires constant attention. Keeping it alive despite relentless pollution warrants critical, if not acute care.

The bay, the largest estuary in the United States, provides measurable commercial and invaluable recreation opportunities for millions of residents in the Maryland-Pennsylvania-Virginia-Delaware region. Its upkeep is impossible without federal dollars.

It daily undergoes a stress test. In recent years, due largely to an expansive—and, yes, controversial cleanup based upon an oft-distasteful “pollution diet”—the bay has experienced a steady reduction in nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment that rob it of oxygen and destroy recreation and industry.

Ignoring slightly the emotional and cultural impact of a body of water that runs through the veins of those of us fortunate enough to live so closely to this generous force of nature, we residents of the Eastern Shore absolutely must fight hard to ensure that the Trump Administration’s intention to strike the $73 million from the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) budget is a silly figment of a bean-counter’s mean-spirited imagination.

An argument that the state of Maryland, along with five other states and the District of Columbia in the 64,000-square-mile watershed, should shoulder the cost of improving and preserving the Bay’s fragile health ignores the federal government’s important role in forcing cooperation among independent-minded states lacking the financial means to fix a complex ecosystem.

EPA’s compulsory pollution diet, prescribed in 2010–and including the requirement of updated stormwater systems–upset local municipalities. It seemed unfair. It required local expenditures. It set deadlines. EPA understood that the Chesapeake Bay’s health could not survive on questionable and half-hearted life support. Immediate action was the cure.

While it’s true that a President’s budget document is merely a blueprint typically shunted aside by Congress, it nonetheless provides unmistakable insight into the thinking and priorities of an administration. Therefore, it cannot be ignored.
It calls for action.

I feel confident that Maryland’s congressional delegate will coalesce to oppose destruction of the embattled Chesapeake Bay. I feel confident that the argument for preservation and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay resonates in the halls of Congress, resulting in bi-partisan support of, and commitment to a future marked by abundant harvest of Blue crabs and the increasing health of long-endangered oysters. I trust my optimism is justified.

As stated in a March 22, 2017 editorial in The Washington Post, “It (Bay revival) will take a concerted political effort and public pressure to recover the funds eliminated in the administration’s proposed budget. It is critical that they succeed.”
The future of our Eastern Shore and the Chesapeake Bay are inextricably connected. As they must be.

If we care about the bay, then we must speak up. We must “Protect This House”(substitute “Bay”), to echo the assertive Under Armour slogan.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Trump: Is He Teachable? By Al Sikes

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Theories abound. Patients react. Markets signal. And so it goes as the debilitated Congress captured by a swirl of self-regarding interests attempts to re-engineer 20% of the economy, yet again. I am thankful for spring renewal and the promises of baseballs’ spring training.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been around for seven years. Its strengths and weaknesses have been exposed. Fix it.

President Trump has been around for sixty days or so and contrary to belief had a rather good week. Public embarrassment can teach a seventy-year-old who is said to be unteachable. If his experience in trying to co-lead, with Speaker Paul Ryan, the repeal, and replacement of the ACA didn’t teach him anything, he will not last four years.

The simplest message—build a majority, don’t count on one. The far right of the Republican Party and Trump share a Party but little else. And if Trump is going to shape bi-partisan coalitions, he will need a leader outside his current entourage.

Democrats seem gleeful; they should not be. Most importantly, having a weak President is debilitating internationally and they need to keep in mind that he is in his eighth week of two hundred and eight. Plus, their Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer, seems intent on undermining the minority’s rights by trying to block the confirmation of Judge Neil Gorsuch, by using the filibuster. If his colleagues follow his lead, then the Senate majority will repeal the rule that gives the minority what limited power they have.

The President I worked with, George H W Bush, allocated most of his time to national security and foreign policy. The President’s authority to deal overseas is much greater than his domestic reach. Senator John McCain, no Trump fan, nevertheless gives him high marks on assembling a strong team for work abroad. Trump needs to order his White House bureaucrats to speed the nomination of the next tier of leadership at the State and Defense Departments in particular.

If Trump’s leadership as Commander-in-Chief is successful, he will be in a stronger position with the Congress. If Trump continues to live up to his opponent’s characterizations, he will be weak both at home and abroad.

Recently a friend explained that his vote for Trump was a vote for Mike Pence. If Pence ends up taking over before Trump’s term expires, our Nation is in for an especially destructive swath of history. I hope the lessons of the last week prove beneficial.

Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al recently published Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books. 

Welcome to the 21st Century Mid-Shore ​Health Care with Dr. Marc Zubrow

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Approximately a year ago or so, there was a good bit of anxiety on the Mid-Shore about the plans of the region’s two major hospitals in Chestertown and Easton. In Chestertown, there was a growing fear that UM Regional Shore Health would eventually eliminate the existing hospital and replace it with an urgent/emergency care center. While in Easton there were increased concerns that Shore Health would abandon its plans for a new hospital.

Those community apprehensions turned out to be fortunately unfounded thanks to a combination of the politicians interceding to create a state study group on rural hospitals and a more stable economic climate which allowed for the advancement of a new hospital near the Easton Airport.

But one of the major takeaways of these two episodes was how profoundly attached communities are with their local hospitals. For a variety of reasons, including interest in patient comfort, proximity, and in some cases, mere nostalgia, residents were determined to fight to keep their local facilities alive and functioning.

The other takeaway, perhaps not as well noticed by many, was the increasing awareness that through advanced technology and efficiency, there is an emerging radically new way to provide health care in the 21st-century and is the growth of telemedicine.

The Spy, which has had an ongoing curiosity about the use of technology and how it may impact rural health delivery, was lucky enough to secure an interview with Marc Zubrow, Vice President, Telemedicine and Medical Director, eCare in charge of telemedicine for the entire University of Maryland Medical System. And in our interview, Dr. Zubrow makes a compelling case why this use of remote medical consultation will be dramatically improving patient care and outcomes regardless of location.

This video is approximately six minutes in length. For more information about UMMS and telemedicine please go here

An Open Letter to the Freedom Caucus by David Montgomery

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To my friends in the Freedom Caucus who would not agree to a replacement for Obamacare: I share your values and most of your policy preferences, but your legislative tactics are irresponsible and stupid. This is not Israel, where a tiny and extreme party can obtain major policy concessions as a condition for joining a coalition. Your unwillingness to reach a compromise simply guarantees the outcome that you like least.

I cannot understand your motivation. Obamacare is not just a step toward socialized medicine to be opposed in principle; it is a growing catastrophe of rising premiums and reduced choice. I agree that my first preference would be to turn the clock back and prevent Obamacare from being created in the first place. But you can’t be foolish enough to think that you could achieve the same result by bludgeoning your Republican colleagues into total repeal after it has been in effect for 7 years.

Until now, the Democrats that designed and voted for Obamacare owned it, making Obamacare one of the issues that put you in office. But you have very nicely relieved Democrats of the onus of fixing Obamacare and saddled the Republican Party with blame for all its problems. Faced with a Democratic majority that will not agree to any Republican proposals, compromise among Republicans is indispensable. We cannot let Obamacare explode and expect out-of-power Democrats to take the blame. Getting moving toward replacing Obamacare is a political necessity. Otherwise, all you will accomplish in the remaining two years is proving that Republicans can only oppose, and that we are not fit to be put in charge of the country.

What set of moral absolutes could lead you to oppose changes in Obamacare that were clearly moving in the right direction? Even those of us who believe, for example, that the intentional killing of an unborn child is always gravely immoral will vote for legislation that restricts abortion even if it does not do away with Roe vs Wade completely. I share the principles that lead you to oppose Obamacare root and branch, but I cannot see how anyone with the responsibility of elected office could refuse a good compromise in favor of the status quo. This is the same self-serving ego gratification that progressives get from voting for useless gun control laws – it may make you feel good but it makes matters objectively worse. At this point, I would not vote for a single one of you, and would do my best to support primary challengers who understand that a Republican representative should aim to achieve the best outcome possible in a flawed system.

I am glad that Speaker Ryan is not the tyrant that Nancy Pelosi was. But it is frustrating that you take such advantage of Speaker Ryan’s wish to maintain democracy and respect for all members’ opinions within the Republican delegation. Until now, I have thought that Steve Bannon would provide a useful reminder of conservative principles to a President who is more a negotiator than committed conservative. But I would want his head on a platter if he had anything to do with a plot to replace Speaker Ryan with a leader of the Freedom Caucus.

How would you expect a more conservative (and less experienced and nowhere near as bright) leader to achieve more of your agenda? You drove Speaker Boehner out with complaints that he was not taking a hard enough line in opposing the Obama Administration on budgets and debt. Now there seems to be a wish to drive out Speaker Ryan. Is your idea that an uncompromising conservative could whip the Republican delegation into line behind your ideas, in the same way that the uncompromising leftist Nancy Pelosi did?

That is surely wishful thinking. Leaving aside the question of who would want to be elected as a Republican if they were going to be forced to vote for a bill they never read, you don’t have Nancy’s tools. She did not succeed in browbeating her colleagues by sheer nastiness. She controlled the pursestrings of campaign finance, and her purse was filled by George Soros and his friends. No matter what the liberal media claim, we Republicans have no such sugar daddies. You in the Freedom Caucus were elected by a popular groundswell and spent far less on your campaigns than your Democrat opponents. The Republican National Committee and the House and Senate Campaign Committees are run in a pretty democratic way, compared to the authoritarian thought police who dole out money to Democrat candidates. So you will fail to impose your ideas on a Republican delegation that is both more centrist and more realistic than you.

It is nearing midnight on the political clock, and you need to get the message now. You will double-down on disaster if you decide to follow your perverse victory on Obamacare with the same stance on tax reform. Speaker Ryan and Chairman Brady have crafted a tax reform package that will reduce the burden of taxation on American businesses and families, fix the perverse tax policies that drive companies and investment overseas, and stimulate much faster economic growth. Whose side will you be on? Is it really that important to remind the world that you stand for lower taxes and reduced spending and are not happy that tax reform is revenue neutral? Will you help the Democrats stop tax reform or will you vote for a great tax package even though it does not achieve the full Conservative agenda of reducing taxes and cutting spending?

We have a historic opportunity to put the United States back on the right track, with majorities in the House and Senate and a President able to sit down and negotiate. Are you enjoying the gloating of the progressives that the Trump Administration is a failure before even 100 days elapse?

Stop acting like snowflakes who need time off from exams to weep when they do not get what they want in politics. Man up, and take your responsibilities not just to the Republican Party but to the people of the United States seriously. If you remain intransigent, all you will do is return power to those who want to restrict our religious freedom, tax us into submission, and let other countries rule the world. Call President Trump and ask him to sit down with you, Speaker Ryan and Secretary Price to work out a new deal on replacing Obamacare. It is almost too late.

David Montgomery was formerly Senior Vice President of NERA Economic Consulting. He also served as assistant director of the US Congressional Budget Office and deputy assistant secretary for policy in the US Department of Energy. He taught economics at the California Institute of Technology and Stanford University and was a senior fellow at Resources for the Future.

Lost and Found by George Merrill

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I can’t find my cell phone. I misplace keys. I’ve often thought that glasses, wallets, pens, pencils, books, bills, shopping lists and magazines grow legs and wander off. Or are poltergeists and ghoulies responsible? No, this propensity is not spook-driven or even age-related. Losing things is normal. It’s just that in that regard, I’m particularly normal. I’m always losing things. I recently found bittersweet comfort in Kathryn Schulz’s searching essay called Losing Streak appearing recently in the New Yorker. She suffers from this maddening aberration or . . . is it an aberration?

One visit to the west coast was especially unsettling for Ms. Schulz. She left her car keys on a table following a visit to a coffee house. Leaving home the next day she’d left her house key in the front door. Leaving a café, she realizes on her way home that her long sleeve shirt was still on the back of a chair where she’d placed it. Returning to reclaim it she learns she also left her wallet at the same table. She parked her truck. When she went to get it she couldn’t find it for an hour or so. She assures us that this is a family trait and she’s inherited it. Writer Schulz’s sister is a cognitive scientist at M.I.T. Schulz describes her as “the most scatterbrained person I ever met.”

I cannot recall the passwords for computer sites that I have scrupulously fashioned from personal data that I am sure will make them easy for me to remember. I find Ms. Schulz sympathetic on this point. She likens computer passwords to the socks in a washing machine; when we go to retrieve them, they’re never there.

Being scatterbrained is often cited as the cause for misplacing things, like not paying adequate attention to what we’re about. I rate high on that score. Through my school years I was a notorious daydreamer and a lot of what people call the ‘real world’ slipped by me unnoticed. It’s terribly annoying to lose and misplace things, and I am twice bedeviled because what I’ve just lost is often right there in front of me. Ms. Schulz says there exists a rule that claims what you’ve lost is typically within an eighteen inch radius around you when you first become aware of the loss. For me, the rule has proved spot on.

Psychoanalysts have a field day with patients who misplace or lose things. They immediately want to examine such selective amnesia as they believe it may be informed by darker motives, some as simple as you don’t like what you’ve lost or have a conflicted feeling about it. My experience with that is different; those people whom I dislike or incidents in which I’d been involved that still make me cringe remain only too available to my recollection. I’d count it a blessing if I could just lose them.

I once had my mother’s old typewriter from secretarial school. Over successive moves it was lost. I was sentimentally attached to it and grieved the loss. But in this kind of loss there remained the possibility that, if not within an eighteen-inch radius, someday I might find it somewhere. The hope of reclaiming it never wholly went away and I lived in a vague hope of its return. I think antique shops and early attic stores appeal to this tendency.

But there are losses and there are losses.

Judith Viorst, in her book, Necessary Losses, writes: “For the road to human development is paved with renunciation. Throughout our life we grow by giving up.” It’s a hard saying, but one I know is true; that we lose is not an aberration, at all. It’s because we have things to lose. We were born to die, and whatever we have gained in the interim we will eventually have to surrender. It’s one of life’s realities we resist the most, usually by denial.

I recall vividly after my father’s death. I refused to accept it. He’d returned from the War in Europe in 1945 and suddenly died shortly thereafter. I remember feeling desolate and I began weaving a tale to myself. He was actually working for Army Intelligence, I told myself. In order to engage in a special mission he was ordered to feign his death to carry it out in secret. When he’d successfully accomplished the mission, he’d appear and things would return to what they had been before. I clung to that hope for a long time. I gave it up when I couldn’t fit into his old army jacket anymore.

As a hospice chaplain years ago the following was perhaps the most heartrending story of the many I heard from mourners suffering the loss of a spouse. It would go something like this: “I’d get home, open the door, walk into the kitchen and think of all the things I couldn’t wait to tell him. Then I’d remember he was not there any more.”
Photographs may be all that is left of lost loved on. They are often kept visible to see and also so that they can’t be lost. We don’t find what’s lost in a photograph, but we can take comfort in the stories they recall.

It is given to us as human beings to suffer losses. Is there any redeeming thought in all that? I think Ms. Schulz put it as well as anyone can. Our losses remain “a kind of external conscience, urging us to make better use of our finite days.” How then are we to live? The past is gone, the future uncertain. All we have for certain is now and our task is to live each and every now as consciously and fully as possible.

Columnist George Merrill is an Episcopal Church priest and pastoral psychotherapist. A writer and photographer, he’s authored two books on spirituality: Reflections: Psychological and Spiritual Images of the Heart and The Bay of the Mother of God: A Yankee Discovers the Chesapeake Bay. He is a native New Yorker, previously directing counseling services in Hartford, Connecticut, and in Baltimore. George’s essays, some award winning, have appeared in regional magazines and are broadcast twice monthly on Delmarva Public Radio.

Mid-Shore Arts: Kevin Garber and His Birds

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Kevin Garber’s road to the Eastern Shore, like many artists, was not a direct one. A native of Pennsylvania, Kevin headed west rather than stay on the East Coast to pursue his career in the fine arts, and eventually became a professor of printmaking and drawing at Washington University in St. Louis. And in that capacity, he was part of the famed Island Press, perhaps the most highly respected printmaking workshop in the country.

During that time, Garber was at the forefront of some of the innovative printing techniques that pushed printmaking into the high ranks of contemporary visual arts in the 1980s and 1990s. Working alongside such renowned American artists as Nick Cave, Tom Friedman, Willie Cole, and Ann Hamilton, Kevin devoted most of his energy to the workshop and his students and put on hold his lifelong passion for drawing and painting birds.

But after decades in St. Louis, Kevin, and his wife, Kathy Bosin, made the difficult decision to return to the Mid-Atlantic to be closer to aging parents in 2008. And with that move, Kevin finally returned to his first love of capturing birds on canvas.

The results of that return can now be seen at the Trippe-Hilderbrandt Gallery in Easton this month. From large scale watercolor monoprints to tiny renderings of birds from around the world, Garber practices his drawing skills and mark-making with these simple shapes to indicate a more complex view of the natural world.

The Spy spent a few minutes with Kevin at the Bullitt House last week to talk about his birds and his return to painting.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. There will be an opening reception on Friday April 7 from 5-8 during Easton’s First Friday Gallery Walk. The Trippe-Hilderbrandt is located at 23 N Harrison Street. For more information, please go here 

Miserable Realities and Consequences by Al Sikes

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At the beginning, I am biased. I live on the Chesapeake Bay. The extent of my bias does not stop there; I am on the board of the Midshore Riverkeepers Conservancy.

Our nation’s finances remind me of where I live. The Bay, like our nation’s finances, has been used and abused. Hundreds of thousands of acres of forest land were converted to cities, suburbs, and a wide range of commercial, agricultural and residential uses. Generations of persons fortunate enough to live along a watershed that extends from Cooperstown, NY to Norfolk, VA paid too little attention to what washed into the Bay. We are now making progress on the recovery of its water quality and dependent flora and fauna.

Not content with earlier budget priorities, the Trump Administration recommends that the cleanup fund for the Bay be reduced from $73 million a year in 2016, to zero. President Trump, at the same time, put off reform in what are called entitlement programs. It is these entitlement programs, up and down the various layers of local, state and federal budgets that pillory our nation’s economic strength just as aggressive development attacked the Bay’s watershed.

Benefits to be paid in the future have with few exceptions been underestimated and underfunded. Social Security and Medicare are just the most evident national examples. This underfunded liability distorts budgets and often pinches needed programs and reforms. And as the cost of servicing the debt increases, the pain of profligacy will get worse.

Tomorrow is not unconnected from today. If we mess things up, we have to pay. When we fail to fully fund our promises, the liability becomes a dead weight on the backs of our progeny and trust in the full faith and credit of the United States.

**********
Speaking of trust, in an especially deft phrase, Tom Friedman, columnist for the New York Times, noted that “government moves at the speed of trust.”

The trust that is being squandered by the President’s erratic use of insults, slights, fights and worse will be a dead weight in the years to come. International allies will first be wrong-footed and then will attempt to avoid meaningful collaboration.

His political competitor’s will, to their eventual damage, simply be anti-Trump as if that is all the public needs to know.

Most media will specialize in criticism while the few that are more comfortable with the President will risk their reputations. Both versions will further discredit an important institution–the media that needs repaired.

It is hard to know how this ends or whether there is any possibility that Trump will cease to manufacture and distribute weapons to those who relish the chance to use them.
Since I believe both Parties are disintegrating, I am looking for new political leadership that will offer a way out of this mess. Hopefully leadership will emerge that is honest about the nation’s finances. Most importantly we need to speak truth to power about our fiscal mess and not just the part that interests us.

Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al recently published Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books. 

Out and About (Sort of): Tubman Museum Captures Relentless Determination by Howard Freedlander

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For 45 minutes I felt transfixed by a museum exhibit focused entirely on a simple, driven black woman who refused to accept the scourge of slavery as an impenetrable part of American life in the mid-19th century. Through guile and gumption, in the 1850s, she helped 70 people flee the Eastern Shore for freedom in the north.

By now, many of us have learned how “Tubman ensconced herself in the anti-slavery networks in Philadelphia, New York City and Boston, where she found respect and the financial support she needed to pursue her private war against slavery on the Eastern Shore,” according to Dr. Kate Clifford Larsen, author of Bound for the Promised Land, a biography about Harriet Tubman.

In her shrewd use of Underground Railroad; this extraordinary woman used disguises; depended on reliable people who hid her; walked, rode horses and used wagons; sailed on boats and rode on trains; used certain songs to mark danger or safety; used letters written for her by others to send to trusted allies as well as personal communication; bribed people; followed rivers coursing their way north; used the stars and other natural means to lead her north and had faith in her instincts and God to support her crusade.

For me, the museum bore similarities to the much larger and more complex United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. I’ll explain.

For several minutes, I sat on a bench at the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center in Church Creek in Dorchester County. Seated with me was a bronze statue of Harriet Tubman, as I listened to people like the Civil Rights-era icon and United States Congressman, John Lewis, U.S. Senator Ben Cardin and others commend Tubman. It was funny, but I kept looking at the statue, engrossed in the moment, moved by the inanimate object on the bench.

Strange emotions can overcome you, unexpectedly.

As I sat on the bench, I remembered visiting the Holocaust Memorial Museum, sitting in an unadorned room and listening to the “voices of Auschwitz.” I was equally moved by the power of the moment. I didn’t expect to be so utterly engaged.

The Holocaust Museum chronicles horrendous mental and physical slavery, unprecedented depravity and enormous, senseless death. American slaves died too, often at the hands of their merciless masters, or from malnutrition. Deaths of slaves didn’t matter, except to their families.

The voices that emanated from a small video at the Tubman Visitor Center—and the beautifully designed and somber exhibits– portrayed steel-like courage—and described a person who refused to be shackled by an inhumane system prevalent in our young country. Harriet Tubman set an example with no intention to do so.

Still fixated on the nexus between the slavery that stained our freedom-loving nation and Hitler’s systematic campaign to eradicate Jews, I believe that plantations too were work camps that forcibly and cruelly employed and repressed untold numbers of African-Americans. Life on plantations stilled spirits and deterred dreams.

While plantations may not have had prison-like barbed wire fences, the barriers for escape were invisible and insidious. Those who escaped faced death and persecution. They were considered mere chattel.

Harriet Tubman had incalculable willpower. Once her days as an invaluable conductor for the Underground Railroad ended, she served as a nurse, scout, cook and spy for the Union forces during the Civil War. She even participated with 150 black Union soldiers of the 2nd South Carolina Regiment in the Combahee River operation to destroy several estates owned by leading secessionists and free roughly 750 people. One of the more powerful exhibits captures this dangerous mission.

Living eventually in Auburn, NY, Tubman became involved in suffrage and civil rights activism.

Often an impatient visitor to museums, I found the Tubman visitors center soul-searchingly absorbing. I highly recommend it.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.