Wow! I got my head ripped off about my Misery Index column of March 9. The piece was intended to be about human misery in general, the fact that as long as we are alive, we will experience misery in varying degrees. And, too, we should be wary of playing the misery comparison game.

Well, anyway, my brief paragraph about our nation’s current political-economic status, I think I used the word “mess,” stirred up several angry responses from readers.

In an elegantly written five page letter, a lady in Wisconsin took me to task, labeling me a benighted member of the “Southern mind-set.” As a 14-year visitor to Destin, she lamented the ignorance of Southerners when it comes to political and economic facts. Usually, she just dislikes Ron Hart, but as she said of my misery index article, it “caught my eye.”

Ostensibly she assumed I’m a Republican, Conservative, Jesus-loving fan of cheese grits, which I am. However, the assumption that ALL Southerners watch only Fox News, I don’t, or that we are ALL devotees of Rush Limbaugh, I’m not, is totally unwarranted. Her letter pointed out that my “Southern problem” kept me from realizing the current administration in Washington was busily at work with excellent results in rebounding the economy.  She points out “unemployment is down, housing starts are up, the auto industry is thriving, as is the stock market. That’s not ‘rhetoric,’ that is FACT.”

Since she had taken the time and effort to write me a real, handwritten letter in beautiful penmanship, something rare these days, I wrote her back. Knowing that no examples, specifics, or defense was going to make any difference with an opposing viewpoint, I simply thanked her being a reader and extended my respect, if not agreement, for her opinions.

I wasn’t so gracious with another reader who was offended by my use of the word “socialism.” He pointed out my hypocrisy in receiving Medicare and Social Security benefits.

My personal demon of sarcasm kicked in, and I responded. I told him those “wonderful advantages” meant I had paid taxes for 36 years into a system that paid me $54 a month for two years, then dropped the payment, and now charges me $112 monthly for my Medicare insurance. Furthermore, my husband and I pay taxes on our social security income. Two of my medicines have been denied because, according to the Medicare letter I received, they are too expensive. My recent pap was not covered.

I’m fortunate I can afford supplementary coverage. When my husband dies, should I survive him, I will get no portion of his Social Security since I get teacher retirement (which isn’t much, but will buy food, maybe gas if I don’t drive much, and pay for household expenses).

Now, yes, these are my individual considerations as far as Medicare and Social Security are concerned. Other Americans may have better benefits because of their personal circumstances.

Philosophically, I’d be fine without government benefits. I’ve always taken care of myself and taken responsibility for my life choices. I’d have taken care of my old age as my ancestors did before the Social Security Act of 1935 or the Medicare Act of 1965. If I starved to death or ended up in the proverbial “poor house,” so be it. But, since I’ve faithfully paid for those benefits, I’m not a nice enough person to be content with seeing others who are illegal, willingly unemployed, and/or criminal reap the advantages I paid for. I’m just hateful that way.

If it will help returning American veterans from these stupid wars in the Mideast, I say take every dime the government grudgingly gives me and give it to them. Same goes for the elderly, critically ill children, the hungry, and others in genuine need who, through no fault of their own, would not survive without help. That’s the kind of socialism I could support.

But, again I’m not a nice enough person to be OK with sending money, guns, tanks and bombers to foreign countries, whether they hate us or not.

To my readers who responded so strongly to my column, I say “Thank you.” We are blessed to live in a nation where people can disagree loudly and openly. And, as much as I fuss about America’s shortcomings, we are still free of the “thought police.”

May it ever be so.

Mary Ready of Destin is a twice-retired English teacher and long-time area resident. Her columns are published on Saturdays.