Your July 24 editorial ("An unwavering focus") rightly calls for urgent, critical examination and definitive change to mental health care systems in Virginia. Thank you and keep it up. It's a tall order that demands both immediate and longer term solutions, not merely system reform, which never seems to arrive.

I write you as a recent, inexperienced, inept but willing caregiver of a loved one.

After months of study, inquiry and experiences with the "systems" in three different states, I have come to know emotional fatigue, befuddlement, frustration and economic distress, with little or prolonged resolution. Yet, none of this compares to the suffering of the person who, through no fault of his or her own, suffers from the symptoms of a brain disorder.

Regarding the longer, four-year term, let me offer a suggestion: Instead of selling 400 acres of Eastern State Hospital property for development, doesn't it make more sense to serve the people in need first?

Why not design and develop a community there that integrates care and treatment; life coaching support; residences; onsite employment; and learning in a safe, relatively stress-free environment? Create, build and adjust a living model that centers around sustainability and not the vagaries of federal, state and local budgets. Yes, the private and nonprofit sectors' involvement will be essential.

The commonwealth could demonstrate that it has learned from the history of mental health policy and invented something that begins to humanely address a great and ongoing mystery.

W. Corey Trench

Williamsburg

The July 27 article about the legal and ethical problems of our past governor and his family is particularly important to legislators who will not modernize the ethics law which allows them to accept gifts many of us consider excessive.

It should also be noted that the largest gift giver to our elected legislators is Dominion Resources which everyone knows has "business" before those legislators. Dominion has at least two vested interests: the rates for which citizens pay for electricity and the potential subsidies for renewable energy. These subsidies would seem to be potentially large — particularly for off-shore wind turbines.

If we look to history, a reflection by Edward Bates in considering whether he should accept a position in Abraham Lincoln's Cabinet is relevant.

Mr. Bates stated, "My pecuniary circumstances (barely competent) and my settled domestic habits make it very undesirable for me to be in high office with low pay — it subjects a man great temptation to live above his income, and thus become dishonest; and if he [is to] have the courage to live economically, it subjects his family to ridicule."

This quote is from Doris Kearns Goodwin's book "Team of Rivals." Mr. Bates observation seems especially applicable to the situation the McDonnells found themselves in while living in the Virginia Governor's Mansion.

Mr. Bates recognized the country was "in trouble and danger" and "felt it his duty to sacrifice his personal inclinations" and accept President Lincoln's offer. That urgency does not apply today in Virginia.

Larry Chenkin

Newport News

Re: The July 20 column by Cal Thomas, "Are black voters turning against Obama?"

In describing some African-American citizens of Chicago's response to what they feel is President Obama's ignoring of the city's problems, while at the same time suggesting immigration solutions, Mr. Thomas asks, "Since the critics … were black, are they racists, or can only white critics be racists?"

Racism is not a scientific term; it is a "belief" or a "doctrine" open to interpretation, but it should not be used imprecisely just because it implies different things to different people. Some believe any consideration of racial differences can be labeled as racist while others consider the use of power and privilege to deny or to denigrate or to restrict to be essential components of racism.

What should not be lost in the examination of racism in America is that no one should degrade the importance of this discussion by suggesting, for example, that the blacks who criticized President Obama are practicing racism. The mere fact that the president is African-American does not automatically make criticism of him racist.

Efforts to make race a continual point of contention, disagreement and separateness, a rallying cry for purposes contrary to the public good — and use it to push a political philosophy — are despicable. And they are contrary to the ideals of America. The debate about whether this is to be a pluralistic, inclusive, multiethnic and heterogeneous society has been settled. Most Americans rightly abhor racism and politicians and their acolytes should respect that preference. We are all in this grand experiment together.

Robert J. Anderson

Hampton