Out and About (Sort of): Paying Homage by Howard Freedlander


Today, as we join friends and families at festive Memorial Day occasions filled with food and fellowship, with American flags and bunting as backdrop, I ask that we visualize someone who touched us and died in combat in a part of the world that heretofore meant nothing to us. That person may be an ancestor, known only through family lore.

Memorial Day forces us to pause every year to think about family members and friends who either did not return from war, or returned maimed either physically or mentally. While I realize that Veterans Day provides an occasion to honor the former military members living among us, I believe we can never express our gratitude enough, not only to those buried in military or private cemeteries— but also to those who served, lost buddies and still cope with wrenching memories and invisible emotional pain.

It’s proper to mourn the loss of innocence and idealism; the burial is internal, the suffering lifelong.

When our precious American flag is given during a funeral service to a spouse as gratitude for service, folded neatly according to tradition, and when taps is played as a mournful farewell, ever so precisely, I feel deeply the loss of a young man or woman. Our nation has always been fortunate to call upon its youth to step forward and face numbing fear and deadly combat.

Words spoken today at ceremonies throughout our nation are often the same: they pay homage to soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen and Coast Guard members. They remind us of people who served and died, cutting short the lives of mostly the young. Speakers implore us to feel thankful to the dead and remember they never came home to bands and parades.

A well-known poem, “In Flanders Fields,” written during World War I by a Canadian doctor and lieutenant colonel, John McCrae, in remembrance of lives lost in Flanders, Belgium, poignantly and powerfully calls upon all of us never to forget. It reads as follows:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

The dead call out to us to remember, to appreciate the damage wreaked by the violence of war, to understand that the poppies continue to symbolize life and the continued presence of those buried in former killing fields.

The message of war doesn’t fade. Bravery is hallowed. We owe gratitude to those who “Loved and were loved” and now live in cemeteries and in the hearts of friends and family.
The torch is passed.

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.

Out and About (Sort of): Bedside Manner 2.0 by Howard Freedlander


As a columnist, sitting on a pedestal weekly spewing forth brilliant opinions and insights, I realize that sometimes that this writer gets a chance to say “I told you so.” Of course, no one likes a know-it-all. I know I don’t.

So, after the publication two weeks ago of my column citing the efficacy of an empathetic bedside manner and the all too frequent lack of compassion in the medical profession, a friend politely told me that my perspective was mistaken. He said that family members and friends were doctors, and empathy was part of their toolkit. Further, his last words, again spoken in a friendly manner, empathized with my column-producing experiences.

Of course, I tried to write a balanced piece that stated I had had mostly good experiences. Others who approached me related stories of excellent treatment and soulless personal interaction.

As I wrote, some people care little whether a doctor has a pleasing demeanor—only the results matter. I wonder if that’s absolutely true. We all like to be treated with respect. Caring communication enhances treatment and recovery.

As luck would have it, two doctors at Cooper University Hospital in Camden, NJ., one the chief of medicine at Cooper University Health Care (CUHC) and the other a practitioner of emergency medicine and co-president of CUHC, co-authored a Washington Post article (“For patients, a caregiver’s compassion is essential,” May 13, 2019).

Doctors Stephen Trzeciak and Anthony Mazzarelli, wrote: “Research shows that there has been an erosion of the relationship between those who provide health care and the patients they treat, and specifically an erosion of compassion. Nearly half of Americans believe the U.S. health-care system and health-care providers are not compassionate, one survey found. Numerous studies have reported that physicians miss the majority of opportunities to respond with compassion.

“Research on the burnout epidemic in health care finds that 35 percent of physicians are so burned out that they have an inability to make a personal connection with patients. This can result in callous or uncaring behavior.”

The purpose of the two-year study was to discern whether compassion (an emotional reaction to an ailment encompassing a desire to help and leading to action) and empathy (the initial thrust to feel and understand a person’s emotions) have scientific and measurable outcomes.

The doctors found “undeniable signals” in their data-gathering that “compassionate care is associated with vast benefits for patients across a wide variety of physical conditions, such as chronic back pain, diabetes and even recovery from the common cold.”

To this increasingly involved pawn in the medical system, the findings make common sense.

A patient’s mental and emotional approach to treatment and adherence to “prescribed medicine” is tied directly to a strong dosage of compassion. A positive attitude—as opposed to anxiety and depression—enables a patient to focus on physical recovery free of psychological duress.

Just last week, my wife and I met with a doctor who seemed to have internalized the value of empathy and compassion. After we explained the impact of my medical condition (I promise I will discuss it in greater detail in a future column) on our lives, she said she could understand our emotional pain. I felt relieved.

The doctor’s human reaction took just seconds. Its value was incalculable. As Trzeciak and Mazzarelli discovered in their research, a sincere expression of compression involves very few words.

Incidentally, the study’s authors found evidence that “compassionate care can be a fulfilling experience for health-care providers that helps build resilience to burnout. In other words, compassion is good for both the giver and the receiver.”

Compassion is not just a creation of social science. Medical data has tied it to the science, not just the art of medicine. It has measurable effects.

And it costs nothing.

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.

Out and About (Sort of) Family Feeds Land Carefully by Howard Freedlander



After often hearing about the innovative Hutchison Brothers farm operation in Cordova, I finally got to meet two of the brothers and one of their sons. I experienced their down-to-earth manner in discussing widely acclaimed success and a sincere, time-proven fealty to improving the land.

Profit is number one, followed closely by environmental sustainability. Simply, the family is quick to use excess funds to adopt creative best management practices to nourish the land and upgrade water quality.

For its environmentally stewardship over the years, often leading the farm industry on the Eastern Shore, Hutchison Brothers is the 2019 recipient of Horn Point Laboratory’s (HPL) Chesapeake Champion for the Environment Award. It will be presented on Thursday, May 30, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., at the Waterfowl Chesapeake Building in Easton.

The seventh annual winner of this honor, Hutchison Brothers Farm, will be the first farmers to receive it. That’s noteworthy.

When I met recently with Bobby Hutchison, his brother Richard and nephew Kyle to write a freelance article for HPL, I found myself impressed by a sophisticated farm operation that is driven to produce better and better yields—naturally so—while equally devoted to conservation.

Nitrogen (fertilizer), as well as phosphorus, have long been considered primary culprits in degrading the health of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Environmental groups have frequently criticized farmers for their obsession with yields and supposed indifference to the impact of nitrogen on water quality. This criticism would not apply to the Hutchisons.

So what have the Hutchison Brothers done in its usage of nitrogen?

The family, for example, uses of state-of-the-art equipment to allocate fertilizer in a way that discourages excess, using only what is needed in particular fields. Some fields, already richly productive, need less nitrogen than other fields containing poorer soil.

Tom Fisher, an HPL scientist who has worked closely in the past few years with farmers to use best management practices to enhance water quality, said, “Many of the (the Hutchison Brothers’) new ideas are based on putting the right kind of fertilizer on the right place, and the right time that crops need fertilizer. This should be a win-win, reducing farmers’ fertilizer costs, decreasing losses from their farms to nearby streams and improving downstream water quality.”

I’m no farmer. That’s clear. But I understand the decision-making necessary to balance need and soil management. Profit, investment and environmental benefit—this triad requires a tricky thought process.

I’ve attended every Chesapeake Champion celebration. My wife used to work at HPL. Each one is different and impressive. Recipients–from restaurant owners committed to farm-to-table ingredients to landowners who have established wildlife refuges, to a longtime volunteer and leader in a local environmental organization, to a creator of an unusual and well-respected inventory of Maryland plants and fauna—have made a substantial commitment to preservation of our area’s rural character.

The Hutchison Brothers bring another dimension to the constellation of Chesapeake Champions. Yes, they love their 3,400 acres, Yes, they love being a successful farm operation. And, notably, they have combined pursuit of high yields with consistent land stewardship

Farming is a serious business subject to the vagaries of the weather and international market conditions. It requires skill in planting, marketing and cost control. It requires risk and flexibility. It requires humility and perseverance.

When the Hutchison Brothers receive the Chesapeake Champion award, they surely will feel proud. They also will believe that their focus on financial success and environmental stewardship is feasible.

Out and About (Sort of): Bedside Manner by Howard Freedlander


For the past eight months, I’ve had cause to visit several medical offices (will explain in another column) in Easton, Annapolis and Baltimore, spending time with numerous doctors, nurses and office staff.

I’ve become keenly attuned to “bedside manner,” both good and bad. I suspect this term is well-understood. For those of us caught in the throes of the medical system, I’m referring to the communication skills, or lack thereof of medical professionals. Also, ability to communicate includes personal warmth and empathy—or (here I go again) lack thereof.

In recent months, a local doctor, a likable, personable and capable person, said to me, “You know, they didn’t teach bedside manner in medical school.”

He added, “I think it’s important as a doctor to treat someone in the same way I would want my father or mother treated.”

Think about these comments, as I have. It’s almost inconceivable—except it isn’t—that medical schools apparently pay little or no attention to the emotional treatment of patients. I’ve always understood that physical recovery is tied directly to emotional well-being.

Regarding medical school instruction on bedside manner, I have two thoughts. First, why is it necessary to teach what common sense demands? I’m bewildered. If folks dealing with a medical problem, alleviated by just plain, down-home human communication and feeling, can improve their outlook and prognosis for recovery, then it is reasonable to expect a mixture of science and sensitivity to confront a medical ailment and achieve a successful outcome.

Second, if medical school administrators have access to credible studies linking clinical treatment and sincere empathy, then why would there be any hesitation to include “bedside manner” as a compulsory subject? Does it seem too wishy-washy, too unscientific?

Now, before readers think I’m whining about poor medical treatment and communication, I am not. I’ve been mostly fortunate. The medical industry must satisfy Herculean pleas for help in a short time frame. Each of us considers our pain or discomfort to be greater than anyone else’s. We want immediate, full-throated attention.

While I admire a professional clinical approach, I also value people skills, to include sincere listening and even a sense of humor. I’m aware that many people are content with superior clinical skills; a doctor’s personality is irrelevant.

Having successful surgery or procedure outweigh the need for a personable surgeon. All that matters is dealing with, or overcoming a medical crisis. This reasoning makes complete sense. A physician’s charm is just an extra, superfluous ingredient.

But I’m not convinced. Trust requires a dollop of humanity. Even a sprinkle of extroversion. To the point made by a local physician, I suggest that treatment should be geared to imagining that a patient is your father or mother.

My preference, however unrealistic at times, is skill coupled with an approachable, if not pleasing demeanor. Questions need to be asked. Human nature calls for answers. Straightforward, patient responses enhance recovery and promote a positive attitude. Anxiety diminishes.

I think I’ve kicked this horse enough. It’s time to conclude this column.

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.

Out and About (Sort of): Preserve Daily Presence by Howard Freedlander


Were I an NPR commentator, I would be quick to step up during periodic fundraising drives to plead for donations. No corporate pressure would be necessary. I would believe in the message; I would endorse the need to keep this extraordinary radio outlet in the air and serving its listeners.

I feel the same about The Talbot Spy. In eight years, it has provided an electronic medium to reflect the good and bad about our county. It has provided a voice for a variety of community leaders through excellent interviews. It has unleashed columnists armed with vastly different viewpoints and writing styles.

When I retired nearly eight years ago, a friend introduced me to Dave Wheelan, the intrepid editor-publisher of the embryonic The Talbot Spy. I liked him immediately. He invited me to become the editor. After just leaving the work world and knowing a bit about being a print newspaper editor, I said no.

Dave and I kept meeting for periodic lunches. He paid sometimes, but not always. Then, perhaps in 2014, he asked if I would be an “advisor.” Having always loved journalism, I agreed—on one condition. I wanted to write a weekly column about local matters. Dave accepted my request.

When I began writing “Out and About (Sort of), I wondered who, if anyone, would read my weekly commentaries. I had little, if any idea about the power and scope of this electronic publication. I had been regularly reading one about Annapolis politics. I liked it; I knew the editor-publisher, a longtime Maryland journalist.

A funny thing happened on the way to becoming a regular pedestal-sitter. I learned that friends, acquaintances and others actually read what I wrote and felt free to share their comments with me, either as letters and frequent emails, or at social occasions. I must admit I did feel a tinge of pride. More to the point, I began to realize that this guy from Chestertown and Talbot County newcomer named Dave Wheelan had created a media product that resonated with increasingly more people.

This was the real thing. I wished for it to remain part of the journalistic landscape in our county. The demise of journalistic outlets throughout the country causes me concern.

After eight years, the Spy seems permanent. It has a place. It has an identity. It is sustainable.

To go back to my reason for writing this particular column, I encourage readers to donate to the future of this daily publication. I urge you to help ensure that the Spy continues to provide a platform for a county filled with worthy activities, enlightening people, serious social and political issues and a readership that is unafraid to express its opinions and insights.

My fundraising message is my own. No prodding from the Spymaster was necessary. I believe that the Spy has established itself as an integral part of our community. It complements The Star Democrat; it doesn’t replace it.

I am not writing to retain my part-time job. I am not writing to be invited to enjoy Dutch-treat lunches with Dave Wheelan. As an official non-profit entity that capitalizes on the pervasive Internet, it has expenses covered mostly but not entirely by advertising and partnerships.

Please donate. You and our county will continue to benefit from a daily dose of news, culture, video interviews, opinions, letters and history.

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.

Out and About (Sort of): Loss and Resurrection by Howard Freedlander


In a seven-day period ending the past Sunday, two people whom I liked and respected died and, then, another person came back from domestic strife and serious injury to reclaim the spotlight as one of the world’s currently superior golfers.

Funny how life brings sorrow and redemption in a never-ending cycle.

Though perhaps unknown to many who pay little or no attention to state politics, Delegate Mike Busch, longtime speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates, died on Sunday, April 7 of pneumonia after struggling the past few years with serious health problems. He was a good and decent person. He ennobled public service.

Once an excellent football player in college and high school, he played the game of politics to win as the Democratic leader in the House. Based on comments by Republican legislators, he also played fairly. He always knew there was another day; alliances often shift in political combat.

A friend in the legislature wrote in response to my expression of sadness, “Without question, he was one of a kind, masterful and the finest of the finest. Personally, he has been a friend for many, many years, and it pained me to see him diminish during the Session, but I also understand he was in it for the long haul.”

I recall when I was serving as a deputy treasurer for the State of Maryland, he appeared in my office while hoping to see Treasurer Nancy Kopp. He sat down and started talking about sports, one of his favorite subjects. My sport was lacrosse; his was football. We played at schools in Philadelphia, he at Temple and I at the University of Pennsylvania. Our chat was easy and effortless.

I suspect that I experienced Mike Busch’s style; friendly and down-to-earth. He was immensely likable and very effective. Delegates referred to him as “coach” for his ability to bring consensus to a sometimes disruptive Democratic caucus.

Another quality person and longtime friend, Dr. Bob Blatchley, an Easton psychologist, died last week of Parkinson’s disease. With his wife, Virginia, he developed a practice devoted to families. I hazard to say that Bob and Virginia provided professional counseling support to many who remain appreciative.

As it turned out, Bob was raised not very far from me in northwest Baltimore. We attended rival high schools. We developed a friendship in Easton and belonged to the same club. I sadly watched as he dealt with a debilitating disease.

And just this past Sunday, I joined millions of viewers to watch as Tiger Woods battled from behind to win his fifth Masters at the renowned Augusta National Golf Club. He hadn’t won a major tournament in six years and the Masters in 11.

A fan with no expertise, I love to watch golf. I remain wondrous of how professional golfers can control their emotions as putts roll out of holes (cups), and powerfully hit shots land in water and sand traps (bunkers). I’m screaming from my easy chair. Yet they overcome their disappointment as another shot or challenging hole awaits.

The crowd at the luxurious golf club clearly were pulling for what had once been a common occurrence: another dramatic victory by a gifted, tough-minded athlete whose nickname is an immediate identifier worldwide. Tiger overcame a publicized split with his former wife and serious knee, neck and back problems.

Sports provide lessons for life. What I saw at this Masters was a man committed to regain his once magical touch as one of golf’s greatest. His legend of fans stuck with him over the years, hoping that Tiger would overcome difficult professional and personal setbacks. He did just that.

Death is inevitable, leaving in its wake grief over an emotional loss and gratitude for having shared time with the deceased. Resurrection of a career and reputation, through grit and determination, too begs admiration.

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.

Out and About (Sort of): Session Ends; Results Don’t by Howard Freedlander


Maryland’s 2019 General Assembly session ended last night at midnight. It was an eventful one, including the overrides of four vetoes by Gov. Larry Hogan.

Throw in the mix the ethics upheaval at the University of Maryland Medical System’s (UMMS) board of directors, and a racist remark by a Harford County delegate, and it’s easy to characterize the 90-day legislature as one pulsating with political action and lapse in human judgment.

Three of the veto overrides have particular importance to the Eastern Shore.  At the constant risk of being redundant, I state again the need for Shore residents to pay attention to the work of their state senators and delegates. The impact becomes quickly noticeable.

As I wrote in January in anticipation of the session, lifting the minimum wage to $15/hour, in phases, by 2025 (2026 for companies with fewer than 15 employees) was a major, much debated issue. Proponents won the day.  They argued that a higher minimum wage—now $10.10 an hour—was necessary to provide a livable salary to those on the edge of poverty. Opponents predicted potential job cuts by small businesses and possible movement of businesses to adjoining states with a lower minimum wage.

I had argued for caution and open-minded stance by proponents toward arguments made by business interests. I suspect I was whistling in the wind.

The second veto override concerned a decision made a few years ago by Gov. Hogan to move back the beginning of the school to after Labor Day to enhance Ocean City tourism dollars. Local school systems vigorously objected, compelled to adjust the school year to ensure the mandate for 180 school days. The majority of legislators agreed with local boards and returned the power of controlling the school year to Maryland’s 23 counties and the City of Baltimore.

I agree that local school boards should retain the authority to determine when schools should open and close.

The third override happened yesterday when the State Senate joined the House of Delegates in supporting legislation establishing five oyster sanctuaries, including two in Talbot County, Harris Creek and Tred Avon River, and one in Dorchester County, the Little Choptank River. Gov. Hogan listened to local watermen who rightfully want to protect their livelihoods but wrongfully oppose science-based methods to protect the oyster harvest. The oyster population has dropped precipitously during recent decades.

I believe that the sanctuaries must be protected. Not only do oysters satisfy the palate, but they also, nearly as importantly, serve as filters in deterring pollution of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.

Nine members of the UMMS board were found in mid-March to have received hospital contracts, some sole source, that wreaked of unethical self-dealing.  Consequently, the legislature quickly approved a bill to require all board members to resign in phases and then re-apply and to mandate an audit of the UMMS contract process. Shore Medical Center is part of the UMMS system.

I applaud the legislature for moving quickly to address an unconscionable abuse of fiscal responsibility by several board members.

Finally, Del. Mary Ann Lisanti used an infamously shameful derogatory term to describe an African-American community in Maryland. Consequently, she lost most of her legislative assignments.

Some may be pleased whenever a legislative session ends. I for one believe that the Maryland General Assembly is an effective political body able to take action that doesn’t stall in partisan gridlock, as is the case in our disabled, dysfunctional Congress.

Citizen-legislators who return to their private and professional lives after 90 days of bill-making are effective representatives of the public body.

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.


Out and About (Sort of): No Longer Surprised by Howard Freedlander


New Zealand shooting
Academic scam
Jack Evans in DC

Mass murder, academic bribery and self-dealing by a District of Columbia city councilman– where does it stop? Who, or what is responsible?

We seem to have become inured to senseless human tragedy and severe ethical lapses. Cynicism has taken root.

We no longer seem surprised. That’s worrisome.

Episcopal Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, in a rambling, theatrical sermon a few weeks ago at the 150th anniversary of the Diocese of Easton, preached that love of your neighbor and yourself would make God’s world free of bigotry, hatred and violence. His message is universal. It speaks to our “better angels.”

Sadly, it is unrealistic.

He was preaching to the choir. His 40-minute oration offered hope in a world filled with heinous intolerance. He offered humor and pathos. He revved up the troops to go out into the world as witnesses of goodness and grace.

The New Zealand shooter was driven by hatred against Muslims. He cared nothing about others who were different than he. He expressed his inner loathing through a deadly weapon.

At the other end of the spectrum is the troubling academic scam in which wealthy parents spent exorbitant amounts of money to gain entry for their children into elite universities. For them, everything had a price. Ethics be damned. Since they were devoted to their children and the power of money, the admissions process was fair game. Go for it.

“Love your neighbor” is meaningless to the NZ murderer and the ruthless parents of some college applicants. Bishop Curry’s words are worthless to those transfixed on mischief and mayhem. In the case of the parents offering bribes, fairness is the victim. In the case of the hate-filled shooter, love of, and respect for your fellow man are empty concepts.

So, it’s easy to rail about moral decay. In recent weeks, longtime friends have bemoaned our cultural degradation. They are concerned, as I am.

Rick Singer, accused in academic scam.

What do we do to reverse the moral rot?

I did some research. I’m not sure I came up with any profound answers or insights.

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, speaking last May at the Rice University graduation, focused on the school’s honor code and called for honesty and accountability.  In striving to be honest, one would be honorable and refuse to accept political dishonesty and partisan spin. Simply, Bloomberg sought a higher standard of behavior than exists in the polluted public arena.

Bloomberg said, “When elected officials speak as though they are above the truth, they will act as though they are above the law. And when we tolerate dishonesty, we will get criminality. Sometimes, it’s in the form of corruption. Sometimes, it’s abuse of power. And sometimes, it’s both. If left unchecked, these abuses can erode the institutions that preserve and protect our rights and freedoms and open the door to tyranny and fascism.”

Pointing to the danger of partisanship and tribalism, Bloomberg said, “The more people segregate themselves by party, the harder it becomes to understand the other side and the more extreme each party grows. Studies show that people become more extreme in their views when they are grouped together with like-minded people.”

I’ve written before about the self-imposed restraints we place ourselves when we fail to listen to people with opposite views. We often demonize those who think differently than we. We remain cloistered. Our minds become closed.

We might shutter our hearts and push friends and family away.

Speaking in November 2005 on NPR about his newly published book, “Our Endangered Values: America’s Moral Crisis,” former President Jimmy Carter, a devout Baptist, condemned religious fundamentalists who believe they are right and chide those who don’t agree. He also pointed to the disillusionment with, and distrust of Washington politics. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Carter said,” In religious circles, fundamentalists are always powerful men who consider themselves superior to all others, superior to women with the subservience or subjugation of women. They consider themselves—a fundamentalist does—to be inherently directly related to God. Therefore, their beliefs are God’s beliefs, and anyone who disagrees with them at all have to be wrong or even inferior.”

The theme espoused by Carter underscores our society’s chronic lack of listening and dearth of compassion for those who think and act differently. Violence can result. So can corruption: our “better angels” have no audience in our souls.

Some speak about the widening gap in social and economic differences between the uber-wealthy, the shrinking middle class and the low-income people in our country. The opportunities for folks to gather in churches, civic groups and community activities seem to have diminished; people with similar political or cultural affinities associate only with themselves.

A sense of community diminishes.

When I think about the hate-filled shooter in New Zealand and his killing of 50 Muslim worshipers, the disgusting academic bribery and the unethical, self-enriching conduct of Washington, DC Councilman Jack Evans— I am appalled.

How do we become surprised again at outrageous behavior?

If I were to wage verbal war against cynicism, I would be tilting at windmills, overshadowed by naïveté. But just suppose that normal behavior meant being honest, expecting honorable conduct from our religious, political and corporate leaders and determining that college admission is not for sale, I wonder if moral decay, at the very least, might not spread and infect our culture.

This subject is fraught. What I consider rotten, someone else may view as normal. What I bemoan, others may commend and characterize as the human condition.

I am stumped. Unsurprisingly so.

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.  

Out and About (Sort of): Ferryland? By Howard Freedlander


Already on the Spy record for favoring a third Chesapeake Bay Bridge span configured for rapid transit—despite the astronomical cost—I was fascinated recently by a Baltimore Sun column written by Dan Rodricks. He proposed consideration of ferries.

Some might recall when ferries provided the only means of transportation for passengers and vehicles between the Eastern and Western shores. Before completion of the first 4.3-mile span in 1952. The second opened in 1973.

Now, Rodricks, who typically focuses only on the City of Baltimore and its woes and charms, went further afloat in this instance. He likely understood that the use of ferries to cross the Chesapeake Bay might prompt some chortling. Nonetheless, his premise deserves sunlight and discussion.

Frankly, I thought that ferries had limited utility. That is, this type of transit caters to a small, though constant group of passengers, such as Oxford to Bellevue in Talbot County, Lewis, DE to Cape May, NJ, Ocracoke to Cape Hatteras in North Carolina, Seattle to Bainbridge Island in Washington State and Long Island, NY to New London, CT.

But we (this writer and readers) must be open-minded. The crossing of the Chesapeake Bay requires creativity. A third span, perhaps inevitable, is not carved in stone. At least $10 billion, if not more, would be necessary; that’s enormous at a time when major public works projects are scarce without an infusion of private investment, or federal money.

Okay, allow me to cite Rodricks’ words of advocacy. Be circumspect in appraising his argument:

“The governor should take a serious look at ferries. And not noisy, diesel-powered carbon-emitting ferries, but quiet, clean, battery-powered ferries. We could have a whole fleet of them deployed up and down the bay over the next decade, taking people, cars, trucks and dogs between any of many feasible points—from Baltimore to Rock Hall, from Sparrows Point to Tolchester, from Edgewater to Romancoke from Edgewood to Betterton, from Chesapeake Beach to Cambridge.”

Rodricks wrote, “Before the bridges, ferries took Marylanders across the bay. They could again. As we move away from fossil fuel and develop new sources of electricity, a 21st century ferry system would leave a light mark on the environment, provide more (and pleasant) route options for travelers, and relieve some of the congestion on the Route 50 bridges.”

Rodricks pointed to the world’s first battery-powered, zero emissions ferry launched in Norway in early 2015. It can transport up to 120 cars and 300 passengers on a 262-foot long vessel. It travels the 3.5-mile route across Norway’s longest and deepest fjord, between the villages of Lavik and Opperdel, up to 38 times a day.

This ferry takes 20 minutes to cross and then spends 10 minutes at the dock unloading, loading and recharging its batteries.

Since August, a 600-passenger excursion ship, powered by a lithium-ion battery, with a diesel backup engine, has been operating in San Francisco Bay. It is owned by the Red and White Fleet.

Putting cost and logistics aside, I believe that use of environmentally clean and efficient ferries warrants open-eyed consideration by Gov. Larry Hogan and the Maryland Transportation Authority. Maybe ferries would negate the need for a third span. They would reduce harmful carbon emissions. Passengers would enjoy the Bay views.

Norway may provide an innovative approach for relieving awful congestion on our two Bay Bridge spans. Discussion of a third span could become moot.

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.

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