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Divided loyalties--don't be quick to judge

Detroit Lakes Newspapers columnist Lynn Hummel recently published his fourth book, "The Last Word," a collection of some of his favorite columns from the past 40 years.

Eartha and I had been driving for many miles and we decided to stop, take a break and have coffee and a piece of pie. We found ourselves in a coffee shop in Valley City. We asked about pie and our waitress gave us a list of about a half dozen. I asked how the banana cream looked. She looked around, then leaned down and whispered "The bananas are black."

Wow. Good to know. I ordered coconut cream and Eartha opted for apple. In some establishments that waitress may have lost her job for sharing inside information. In a progressive one, she might have been promoted to assistant manager. We thanked her and added to her tip.

If you are loyal to your employer, but were taught to always tell the truth, how do you answer a leading question about banana cream pie?

Life is full of situations that pull us in different directions. Every day there are "leaks" of inside information from the White House. But they aren't necessarily breaches of trust of loyalty. They are often self-serving in deliberately promoting one policy or another. Or they may just be telling secrets that shouldn't be told, like the recent book Fire And Fury Inside The Trump White House, by Michael Wolff — all inside information.

In almost every case, there is a conflict of divided loyalties, like loyalty to the president and loyalty to America or loyalty to the truth. That's a debate that will go on forever.

Just think of the agony that David Kaczynski went through. David is the younger brother of Theodore Kaczynski who eventually became known as the Unibomber in 1995. Theodore was a mathematics genius who abandoned a promising academic career as a college professor in 1969 to adopt a primitive lifestyle living in a remote mountain cabin in Montana without indoor plumbing.

He was bitter about the effects of the industrial revolution and modern science and began a campaign of making homemade bombs and mailing them to universities and airlines.

His bombs killed three people and caused hideous injuries to 23 more. The FBI never could trace him. Kaczynski wrote a 35,000 word manifesto full of condemnation and venom. Eventually, his younger brother David recognized some of Theodore's expressions and worried about him killing more people and being sentenced to death.

Although David still loved his brother, he and Theodore had not spoken for 20 years. Finally, after struggling with his decision, David informed the FBI that he thought Theodore was the Unibomber they were looking for.

As a result, Theodore was arrested. David, full of guilt, was tortured with the question of whether he could have been a more understanding person and a better brother. Theodore was proven to be schizophrenic, pleaded guilty and avoided the death sentence. He is serving a life sentence in a high security prison in Colorado. Brotherly love, loyalty, responsibility and guilt brought David to his painful decision.

History is full of examples of split loyalty — traitors, spies against their own country, patriotic Americans — some cowards, some courageous informers — people who leak, squeak, squeal and whisper. Don't be too hasty to judge them.

Order Lynn Hummel's new book, The Last Word (171 articles, 310 pages) by sending $15 plus $3 postage ($10 plus postage for additional books) to Pony Express Books, 1948 Long Bridge Road, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501, or order at: