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Our society has lost sense of moral decency

I recently attended a "holiday" dance recital put on by a Hamburg studio at a Catholic college in Cheektowaga. My grandkids, ages 4 and 6, were performing. As could be expected, there were folks of all ages in the audience. The show featured a number of secular holiday-themed numbers mixed in with other material. As was the case last year, this studio felt the need to push the envelope. Revealing costumes and suggestive poses dotted the presentation.

Then, at the end, things got overtly graphic. A group of young boys were on stage to perform their rendition of Michael Jackson's "Dangerous," complete with very suggestive moves including Jackson's infamous "crotch grab." That maneuver was repeated several times during the dance, just to make sure we got the point. Yet an audience that should have been embarrassed, surrounded as it was with kids and grandkids, erupted in the loudest applause of the show. Worse was the lesson it taught both performers and audience -- anything goes!

Our culture, it seems, has lost more than its sense of moral decency. It has lost its sense of shame. We've taken a holiday season, rooted in the birth of Christ, and secularized it to the point where we must celebrate even the sexualization of our children. Ironically, this recital was presented as a family-oriented activity at a Catholic institution of higher learning. I'm afraid we've lost our way. Despite what the world has told us: All ideas are not equal!

Robert B. Palaszewski

West Seneca

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Tobe's appointment is good news for taxpayers

I would like to commend County Executive-elect Mark Poloncarz on his appointment of Rich Tobe as deputy county executive. I had the privilege to work with him for the majority of the Gorski administration. Tobe was the county's point person with respect to several significant projects including, but not limited to, the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres lease negotiations and the World University Games.

Tobe is dedicated, smart, a consensus-builder and has the ability to bring disparate sides together to develop a mutually amicable solution. Tobe's institutional knowledge of county government, municipal law, finance and economic development will greatly benefit the taxpayers of Erie County.

Richard J. Schechter

Orchard Park

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Message of hope, peace can help repair damage

While growing up in the mid '70s, I attended a small Catholic school in Cheektowaga. There was a girl on my basketball team who was a target for many cruel jokes and remarks throughout our seven years there. I especially remember an incident that occurred while getting dressed for one of our games. The bullying had really escalated beyond anything I had previously witnessed. Voices were raised and tears were shed. However, the impact of how my teammate responded has stuck with me all these years. She said simply, "It doesn't matter what any of you think of me. My parents tell me I am beautiful and they love me and I know God loves me!"

While there may have been a snicker or two afterward, for the most part that ended the bullying that day. I am not going to say that she was never picked on again. Nor am I going to say that she was not pained by the remarks. However, I will say that when I became a parent, I was extremely aware of the influence my words and actions had on my children, both positive and negative.

As my relationship with the Lord grows, I am yet more aware of the weight of my words, spoken and unspoken. While I never participated in the cruel remarks, I was glaringly aware of my silence. As I read the sad stories of bullying that have been in the paper lately, it just breaks my heart. All of it -- the kids who are bullied, the kids who do it and the kids who watch without a word. The only hope we have is Jesus. He is the message of hope, peace and love that repairs the damage that we do to others and ourselves. Don't miss the opportunity to accept the gift. Merry Christmas!

Kathy Cieslak

Akron

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People with Down's lead productive lives

In 1966, my son Bob was born with Down syndrome and we were given little hope that he would ever become a productive member of our family. We ignored medical advice to institutionalize him; instead, we welcomed him home to his four siblings and parents.

In 1990, Bob moved into a community residence in Derby, operated by Claddagh Commission. There he enjoys his own productive life with his housemates. Currently, he is vice president of a self-advocacy group. At monthly meetings, members with developmental disabilities express their opinions about issues of concern and interest in their own lives. The group organizes fund-raising events and donates the money raised to causes that members deem worthy.

Last night Bob called to ask if I would prepare his notes for his individualized service plan semiannual meeting, to be held at Heritage Centers. Since his graduation from Kenmore East High School in 1988, he is employed there at Allentown Industries, a supportive work center. Three years ago, he was one of several employees to receive a 20-year certificate for employment.

Joan D. Harms

Cheektowaga

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Reviewer was off base regarding 'Boyd's Blues'

I was pleased to see that Mary Kunz Goldman had reviewed the album I produced, "Boyd's Blues." I also appreciate her honesty with the music, as it is far from a perfect record in many ways, including a couple of needed fade-outs and a decisive (perhaps refreshing) lack of triple-forte playing.

What shocked me about her review, however, was that she wasn't able to imagine the possible limitations of an 85-year-old man, and intuit that the few criticisms she lodged are actually the great triumph of this album -- precisely because there are so few.

Particularly painful phrases that pop out of her prose to produce a painful poem were "sketchy and scattered," "shards of a man," "wishing for more muscle" and "worrying that his long, spidery fingers will slip off the keys." Sadly, I struggle to stitch such a stanza from her script that says something supportive.

Boyd Lee Dunlop is well beyond average human life expectancy, needs daily injections and lives in a nursing home, and she'd like more muscle? That's simply not the record I, Sabu Adeyola, Virgil Day and Jimi Calabrese made, because we were all sensitive enough to let Boyd be Boyd. For me, honesty always trumps muscle. I couldn't be any more proud of this record's unique musical honesty, or any more disappointed by this reviewer's inability to hear it.

Allen Farmelo

Brooklyn