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In the December issue of techNotes, I ended up with a exhortation to recall the past, and a hope for the future. Here it is.

"Well, that's it folks.

I know it's technically incorrect, but the entire world doesn't care about the technicality, so I won't either:

We're entering the last year of the most amazing century in history. In 1901, we had horses and carriages; mud streets; kerosene; 10 day mail; ignorance and racism.

Now we move at 70 MPH, or thousands; we've been to the moon; electricity provides warmth, live video, and instantaneous communication.

Only ignorance and racism to go. We'll get there, eventually.

And may this last year of the 1900's be your best yet.

Happy Holidays. "

A few folks wrote back with holiday greetings, and one avowedly racist individual wrote as well.

Informing me that I was a "brainwashed liberal" and that "enlightened people" are racists, he noted that he had not paid a subscription fee to listen to my "diatribe on racism."

Sir, you have no way at all of knowing my political leanings; calling me "brainwashed" is, of course, an insult to my intelligence and my life experience, which, I'd wager based on age alone, is far more wide than yours (although, of course, I have no way of knowing.)

You also need to look up the word "diatribe."

And, yes, you have the right as a subscriber to write to me. But not to insult me. Having done so, you have given me the right to respond.

Normally, I ignore "holier-than-thou" types, but this guy, frankly, pissed me off.

So, let me clarify:

My biggest regret for our (meaning the world's) failings lies in our failure to educate our young.

That, sir, is what "ignorance" is: to be ignorant of something is simply to not have yet experienced it, or failed to experience it in full. It is not an insult, but only a condition. I am, for example, ignorant of the laws of chemistry; ignorant of what it feels like to be in space.

So, it was my intent to have two wishes: one for the end of ignorance (through better education) and one for the end of racism.

However, you have done me a service by pointing out that ignorance and racism do, in fact, go hand in hand.

Ask a 5 year old child about peas and corn. He'll immediate say that one or the other is "better." Ask an adult which is "better" and he'll just look at you like you were nuts (bad pun intended.) "Better" doesn't apply. They are different.

You are certainly free to prefer one over the other; but you are not free to beat me to a pulp because I happen to prefer peas.

Equally you have no idea at all how silly you sound when you pronounce corn as "better" than peas. You sound like a five year old child.

The danger of course is that you are not.

What you are is full of hate, and spreading it around. That is dangerous to me; and is no different than any other misplaced hatred, such as the racism of Saddam Hussein.

You are lowering the quality of your own life, and lowering the quality of life of all those around you. You live your life with a seething rage within you, and thus you miss out on most that life has to offer. And by filling others with the same, you are lowering their ability to have full lives as well.

And, to refer to yourself as 'enlightened' is an insult to all those religious souls, present, past and future, who truly seek enlightenment. I can assure you that those who have been through the process have difficulty telling a person from a plant; that it takes a supreme act of will to differentiate things; and not that differences become magnified.

Look, oh supreme being who apparently thinks he's God on earth:

OF COURSE the races are different! OF COURSE cultures are different! What? You think you discovered that yourself?

That is what makes life interesting. What you racists don't seem to get is that it's the RIGHTS of all people that are equal: not the people.

GAWD, is that so hard to grasp? Is THAT what makes me a "brain-washed liberal?"

Perhaps you don't care for the Constitution of the United States. You obviously don't believe in it. Fine. Go someplace racism is a way of life.

May I suggest you stroll down the main street of Baghdad, Iraq? They don't have that pesky "...all men are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable RIGHTS..." clause to deal with. They seem to have all the racism you might want. It just happens to be against Americans. (It will be interesting, of course, to see how many blocks you can stay alive...)

And what will be really interesting is to see if your attitude changes in 20 years, when there are more Hispanics in this country than white folks. When your race, whatever it is, (although I'm ashamed to admit that I imagine it to be white) is the minority. How will you feel about the rights of all human beings if it's yours that get trampled on?

And finally, you are losing out on the true miracle of life: that all humans share some wonderful traits in common. We all know humor; sadness; fear; anger; lust; joy; pleasure and pain. We all know what it is like to be hurt by a trusted friend; to wonder at a sunset; to gaze at the stars; to be insulted by a jerk.

It is our cultures that most separate us, not our essential humanity, which instead ties us all together.

Do you want to feel superior? Is that your need? Fine. Then rise above the kind of crap that leads to terrorist bombings. (No, sir, you are NOT different from them.)

It's your choice: you can be just one more of the bleating sheep being lead around by your nose. You can just wallow around in your own hate, beating your chest, and blaming all your personal troubles on the peas, when you "just know" that corn is better.

...Or you could rise above the Hitlers, Pol Pots, and Saddam Husseins of this world.

But that's only if there's enough to you as a human to realize that it is the individual person who is worth knowing, and that the color of their skin only gives a slight clue as to how they may have been influenced by their culture, and nothing more.

There are wonderful people of every fingernail length; every hair color; and every skin color. There are jerks and idiots of every color. There are crooks and saints of every color.

There are racists of every color.

If you honestly think you're better because your skin color is different from someone else's, jeeze buddy - get real: get a life!

Have some peas.

(Now, that's a diatribe!)