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persona-non-grata-novel-stephen-j-stirling-978-1-4621-1450-4Welcome to the official website of author Stephen J. Stirling and the book Shedding Light on the Dark Side: Defeating the Forces of Evil, A Guide for Youth and Young Adults, and the novel Persona non Grata, coming July 2014.

Persona non Grata
Paladin is way out of his depth! Sent to Crimea to bring a former student home, Paladin is soon embroiled in international conspiracy. Close calls and adventure are the norm in this thrilling tale! Find out more…


The following photographs capture the essence of my fondest memories with three of the important women in my life – Jennifer, Lindsey, and Brooke.

  I call this picture, “Two Big Sisters and a Baby.” This was a huge event – the new kid on                  the block had just arrived home from the hospital.  (Can you identify each by name?)

I call this picture, “Two Big Sisters and a Baby.” This was a huge event – the new kid on the block had just arrived home from the hospital. (Can you identify each by name?)

  We loved to go camping – in spite of the expressions in this picture.                                                   This is my little stair-step picture, oldest to youngest.

We loved to go camping – in spite of the expressions in this picture. This is my little stair-step picture, oldest to youngest.

  One of my favorite photographs ever.  We took a picture like t                                                              this each Christmas.  And the girls got prettier every year.

One of my favorite photographs ever. We took a picture like t this each Christmas. And the girls got prettier every year.

   Leap ahead a few years.  By this time we had added Vladimir to the mix.  But                                    the Santa hats are still there.  (This is another one of our holiday traditions –                                    the annual stealing of the Ray’s Christmas tree.)

Leap ahead a few years.  By this time we had added Vladimir to the mix.  But the Santa hats are still there.  (This is another one of our holiday traditions – the annual stealing of the Ray’s Christmas tree.)

Another perfect addition to our family, Marina (left) poses with Lindsey and Brooke.  Jennifer and Vladimir weren’t on hand for this picture.  (We considered “photo shopping” them in.  But it wouldn’t have been the same.)

Another perfect addition to our family, Marina (left) poses with Lindsey and Brooke. Jennifer and Vladimir weren’t on hand for this picture. (We considered “photo shopping” them in. But it wouldn’t have been the same.)


All in all, it’s quite a family.  Thanks for taking this stroll down memory lane with the Stirlings.



It has been said that all of us are only two or three people away from anybody in the world.  (It’s mind boggling how small our human universe has become.) And frankly, it would be a pleasure to have the endorsing nod of Rush or Oprah.  But it only takes me a moment’s consideration to realize that it is the honor of a lifetime to enjoy the approval and friendship of good people – like you.

Thank you, my friends for reading and enjoying my books. I may or may not ever hear from Glenn Beck or Larry King.  But I have heard from you – and that is reward enough.  I’m glad you’ve taken some pleasure from reading Persona Non Grata.

SJS and Matt

Avid fan of good literature, Matt Wright, sneaks a selfie with the author at recent book signing.


A Global “Thank You”, and a Local Invitation

It’s nice to have friends — and I have more than 1700 of them. Who would have thought, when I began collecting about a year and a half ago, that I would have met so many nice people in such a short time. So, I now have friends from France to the Philippines, from Japan to Germany, from Turkey to Tehran. I have friends in Italy, Russia, England, India, and China. My list of friends is a veritable United Nations of Facebook contacts. I have friends in a few places I cannot begin to pronounce, and at least a couple in locations so remote I don’t think they’ve been discovered yet.

So, when I say how much I appreciate the good wishes of my international assembly of internet acquaintances with regard to my book and my book signing — I truly mean it. The comment, “I would love to come on Saturday — but I’m in Zambezee”, still means a lot to me. But now I need a few of my less distant friends to respond with equal generosity. I’m talking about friends who live distant ports of call like Phoenix, or Gilbert, or Mesa.

Therefore, I announce for one last time — or almost the last time — that I will be at the Mesa Temple Deseret Book (144 S MESA DR) on Saturday, August 23, from 12 to 2 pm. I’ll be in place there, signing books, eating donuts, and giving away free stuff. I invite anyone to join me there. I’ll be waiting with a hearty embrace and a warm smile — all in the name of international friendship and shameless merchandising. See you at the store.Persona Non Grata

Get Excited! Another Book Signing Soon!

My book, “Persona Non Grata” seems to be moving well and is getting rave reviews from everyone.  Well, almost everyone.  Ana Maria Lazagnita of Palermo, Italy , purchased the novel, thinking it was a Tuscan Cookbook. (That was a disappointment.)  But practically everybody else has reported “a page turning narrative that carries you to a breathtaking climax” and stuff like that.  Just look at these animated reading consumers.Family PNG

Reacting to such a groundswell of enthusiasm – like sharks participating in a feeding frenzy —   teeming thousands have insisted that I do another book signing. Yes, and they are quite violent in their demands. To satisfy the blood lust of my readers, I will be doing another appearance at the Mesa Temple Deseret Book, at144 S Mesa Drive, this coming Saturday, (August 23), from 12 to 2 pm.

All the usual suspects will be in attendance, I will be serving brownies, donuts and giving away free Ultimate Catalogues, and there will be plenty of copies of Persona Non Grata and Shedding Light on the Dark Side (signed by me), which your children will regard as treasured (and valuable) keepsakes in days to come.

See you Saturday.

Twenty Years — Facing the Future, Every Day

Last Wednesday I began my 21st year of teaching seminary.  Now tell me honestly if I don’t look like the image of a seasoned religious educator.


Whether I do or not, I have realized for the 21st year that I enjoy teaching teenagers.  They are bright, enthusiastic, and eager to learn.  And they are the hope of the future in a sometimes seemingly hopeless world.  Look into their faces as I do every day, and you will understand why tomorrow is a concept I look forward to.  In spite of the dark clouds which often hover over our heads, the youth of today can still point to a brilliant light on the horizon with anticipation — and it heralds a great day ahead.  We live in a day of glorious expectations and grand opportunities.  And the coming generation stands poised and prepared to seize this day and to face the coming dawn – in storm or sunshine — with faith, confidence, and courage.  As we walk with them we realize that bad times will continue to challenge us.  But because of them we may know that our best times are still ahead.

Into the Unknown

Excerpt from Persona Non Grata, Chapter 3

 (Sitting aboard an Aeroflot 767 en route to Eastern Europe, Paladin Smith contemplates his unofficial mission to find and bring home a former student from Crimea – one of the most politically unstable and dangerous places on earth.)

After stretching his legs, Paladin returned to his seat, but part of him was still restless. He needed to ease and unburden his mind a little. Frankly, he’d been busy, but he couldn’t afford to let himself get this distracted—and he knew what he’d been neglecting. He opened the overhead compartment and took out the carrying case that held his scriptures before nestling back into his seat. Unzipping the case, he removed and opened the Book of Mormon. But out of the inside cover fell an envelope he’d placed there for safekeeping.

He smiled. Another momentary distraction—as well it should have been. No document in his possession, including his passport or visa, had been harder to come by or seemed more valuable.

“What do you mean a letter of introduction?” Chase had asked him.

“Nothing in that packet gives me any justification for being six thousand miles from home in hostile territory,” argued Paladin, “except for ten thousand dollars and the shadow of your smile.”

“Isn’t that enough?” protested the congressman. “What do you need a letter for?”

“Because if everything doesn’t go smoothly, which is highly likely, I want something to fall back on.” He paused. “Congressman, surely a little three-line letter can’t be that big of a problem.” Paladin had the distinct impression that, in Chase’s entire legal and political career, he had never made any concession less willingly.

The letter, delivered by Keaton the next day, was terse and official, typed on House of Representatives stationery. It read:

To whom it may concern,                                                                                                                This letter is to present Mr. Paladin Smith to United States Ambassador Ian Keller at the American  Embassy in Rostov, Crimea. Mr. Smith will explain his business with you upon his arrival.      (signed)                                                                                                                                               Philip Chase                                                                                                                                House of Representatives                                                                                                          United States of America

Paladin smiled again and carefully replaced the letter in the envelope and returned it to the inside cover of his scriptures.

He took one more glance up at the huge GPS screen at the front of the cabin to see that the plane had left the empty expanse of Greenland and was now flying over the equally empty expanse of the Norwegian Sea. They had been in the air for almost ten hours now.

Paladin opened to 1 Nephi and began to read. He read and forgot about the flight, the map on the wall, the thousands of feet of space below him, and the strange mission ahead. His mind and spirit drifted to another time, to the journey of a family, to the quest of a young man, and to the whispered commands of God that changed the world.

He read intently, lost in the adventure, the words, and the simple faith in Jesus Christ that moved and still moves in the lives of ordinary men and women—allowing them to do the impossible. Pages turned and chapter after chapter passed before his eyes until gradually, almost imperceptibly, his eyes gently closed, and he fell into a peaceful sleep.

When Paladin slowly opened his eyes a few hours later, the 767 had passed through the latitudes over Scandinavia and well into the air space of Eastern Russia, heading south. He became instantly awake and looked at the map on the cabin wall. Mockba—Moscow was north and west of them. How long had he slept? He strained a look at his watch. 8:15 a.m., LA time. Who knows what time it was on the ground? Air speed—475 mph. Outside temperature—forty-five degrees below. Altitude—15,000 feet. The airplane was gradually descending, making a slow approach to his ultimate destination, Rostov, the capital city of Crimea, a few hundred miles ahead.

The minutes crept by as Paladin again contemplated the experience that awaited him. Soon the GPS jet was almost on top of the city point on the map. The passengers were asked to return to their seats. Paladin’s ears were stopped up. He held his nose and popped them. Yes, the plane was descending rapidly now. Rostov was below them. He could see it through the window up ahead and across the aisle. The Book of Mormon still lay open on his lap. He took the covers to close it, but the book slipped from his hands and fell open again to 1 Nephi 4. Paladin found himself staring at verse six—a scripture he’d underlined long ago. The three lines suddenly spoke volumes to him:

And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do.

Quietly, Paladin shut the book and held it on his lap with his eyes closed. Minutes went by as he uttered a silent prayer. Then he felt the jolt of the landing gear grabbing the runway as the plane touched down and rolled to a long stop.

Good Lord, he thought, his eyes still clenched tight in heartfelt plea, whatever am I doing here?


A Quest for Paladin Smith

from Persona Non Grata — Chapter One

(An unpleasant visitor from the past, Congressman Philip Chase, surprises Paladin in his classroom with news about a former student, Victoria Grant.  Guiding Paladin through a folder of classified material, the congressman explains Victoria’s peril as a diplomatic aid in war-threatened Crimea.)

Turning over the photo, Paladin found himself staring at the portrait of a king in full regalia, perfectly posed for a public relations shot. As he studied the face of the king, he saw the same kind of self-importance he recognized in Chase. But Chase at least knew how to conceal it. This man made no pretensions at false humility and obviously saw no need to. Paladin looked up at Chase.

“Pyotr Vasiliyevich, prince of Crimea. Styles himself ‘Peter the Great.’ ” The congressman laughed to himself. “In committee we refer to him as ‘Peter the Mediocre.’”

“Hmm,” noted Paladin, more amused by the man than the joke. “He’s got a crown, a scepter, and everything.” Still there was an intensity about the prince that was not to be taken lightly. This was a tyrant in waiting. He was no joking matter at all. Paladin wondered if the congressman recognized it.

“Well, his position is merely titular in a constitutional monarchy,” clarified Chase. “He really has no political power.”

Paladin shook his head. “Maybe not. But he wants it.”

“Very observant, Smith. Now take a look at the next photo.”

The next photograph was a picture of the prince, in formal wear, at some kind of a royal function, eating dinner. Beside him on his right, looking radiant, sat Victoria Grant. “Your niece always had a knack for making friends,” observed Paladin.

“The prince is actually quite taken with her.”

“And why shouldn’t he be? She looks like a princess.” Paladin dropped the photo. “So, what more can you ask for—success, romance, dreams come true. It’s all like a modern fairy tale.”

“You know as well as I do, Paladin, that Victoria is in over her head here.”

“Who’s to say that?” argued Paladin, fighting his natural instincts. “The truth is it’s none of my business any more than it is yours. She’s an adult now, Chase. Anyway, I still don’t see what any of this has to do with me.”

“Listen, Smith,” Chase confided. “Crimea is a dangerous place right now. The civil unrest is all over the news. But our sources are picking up other chatter—political conflict, government instability, military dissatisfaction. It’s a very unstable part of the world. I’ve been trying to persuade Victoria to return home. But she won’t listen to reason.”

“She always had a mind of her own. Besides, why should she come home? Obviously life is good.”

The congressman slammed his hand down on the desk. “I’m telling you life is about to come tumbling down like a house of cards in Crimea. But the only one she’ll listen to is Ambassador Ian Keller. She practically worships him. He’s smooth—almost hypnotic. Frankly, the man is lecherous—pure filth. But he covers his tracks. Victoria can’t see it.

“As for Prince Peter—his ambition is frightening, unpredictable. But Victoria doesn’t recognize that danger either. All she can see is the charm and power of royalty. I’m afraid of what a young woman in love might do.”

Paladin considered for a moment and then turned the photograph over again to study the face of the girl. He smiled. “You know the trouble with you, Chase? You never had any confidence in Victoria. But I do. She’s not stupid. I really don’t think this is the kind of ‘Prince Charming’ she’d fall for. And even if she did have a crush on him, I wouldn’t worry.” He looked at the congressman. “She’ll get over it by the senior prom.”

Chase was suddenly livid, shouting. “Are you listening to me, Smith? I want Victoria out of Crimea.”

“So order her home!” Paladin shouted back. “Revoke her passport! Send the Marines!”

“I’ve got no authority or legal justification to do any of those things.”

“So go get her yourself.”

“She has no respect for me,” Chase managed to choke out.

“Well, neither do I,” answered Paladin. He stood from his seat. As far as he was concerned, this ridiculous interview was over.

“But I think she respects you.” Chase was quiet now, almost pleading. “I think she would come back if you asked her to.”

Paladin paused, confused. “So—what? You want me to write her a letter?”

The congressman stood to face him. He swallowed. “I want you to go to Crimea and bring her home.”

Paladin froze and looked at him askew. “Are you out of your mind?”


Excerpts from PERSONA NON GRATA — From Chapter One, Paladin Smith

The classroom was buzzing in a circus of conversations as Mr. Smith entered, closing the door behind him. He slowly approached the front of the room and leaned on the lectern in the corner. An apple—his lunch—was perched on top, along with his class roll pinched onto a clipboard. With a bland smile on his face, he waited there for a long minute, fiddling with the apple and observing his students — most of whom seemed unaware of him.

Three boys entered the room, clearly late, and sat by some friends. Another conversation began. Smith gradually straightened to his full height of five feet eight inches—not exactly, as he was well aware, a stature of commanding attention. The students continued to largely ignore him.

He cleared his throat at mid-volume. “I, uh—I’m not interrupting anyone, am I?” The student noise diminished slightly, but most of the classroom hum went on. This was, after all, the first day of school. He knew they were all pretty excited to see each other.

“Good to see you, Mr. Smith,” said a student on the front row.”

“Yes, isn’t it though!” Paladin answered amiably. The chatter continued.

The class of thirty-two students was pretty evenly divided between former students and students who had never seen Mr. Smith before. The initiated knew enough to settle down by now. That wasn’t to suggest that they had any idea how he intended to bring order. No one ever knew what the history teacher would do from moment to moment. He was never that predictable. They simply knew from experience that he would do something. The others were oblivious to this reality and kept talking. After all, class hadn’t really begun yet.

Smith casually strolled over to the side of the room and picked up a black baseball bat that was leaning against the wall. “My dear friends, I can tell you’re excited to be here on this, the first day of class.” Not much change. He smiled and hefted the bat in both hands. “This is a Louisville Slugger, thirty-two ounces of perfectly-balanced, crafted, polished maple.”

Poising the bat vertically, he scanned it with admiration. His eyes rested on the logo and, below it, the monogram: Presented to Paladin Smith—Midwest Baseball Challenge—2001. He continued. “In the hands of someone who knows how to use it, this stick of lumber can send a baseball soaring four hundred feet over the garden wall.” The bat arched down as he leaned on it like a cane. “It is a symbol not only of the national game but also of American society itself.”

Paladin had their partial attention. But since they never really paid full attention in any other class, why should they here? With the bat still in hand, Smith walked to the opposite side of the room where a huge, beautifully decorated pot stood four feet from base to brim. “This is a vase, a reproduction from the Ming Dynasty, dating from approximately the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries. It represents the greatest in art, culture, and technology which the world of the Orient had to offer that corner of the globe.”

Mr. Smith glanced up. As he fully expected, his introduction to World History had left them nonplussed. Less than half of them were even looking at him. “Okay. What do you suppose would be the result with the inevitable meeting of these two cultures?”

No answer. Smith smiled and took a deep breath. The students who knew him braced themselves.

“LET ME REPHRASE MY QUESTION!” Paladin suddenly raised his voice to a level that could be heard throughout the building.  He strode to the front, center of the class.  “LISTEN CAREFULLY,” he shouted, hefting the bat again in both hands as he stepped deliberately over to the huge vase. “WHAT WOULD BE THE OUTCOME WHEN THE MODERN WESTERN WORLD EVENTUALLY CLASHED WITH THIS LESS-SOPHISTICATED ORIENTAL SOCIETY?”

He hadn’t even finished the question before he settled into a perfect batters position a few feet from the vase. Without waiting an instant for the imaginary pitch, his face tightened, and he swung the bat toward the fences in one flawless and powerful motion. As he made contact the vase shattered into a thousand pieces that showered around the room.

Mr. Smith stood amid the dust and wreckage, covered with shards of clay. Wide-eyed students were too stunned to speak. Even the veterans had never seen anything like it. He certainly had their attention. Conversations were frozen in mid air.


Excerpts from PERSONA NON GRATA by Stephen J. Stirling


            The American stood erect on the forward deck of the Russian yacht. Cloaked in the shadows of the night, he stared silently over the dark expanse of the Black Sea. Impeccably attired in a dinner tuxedo, he wore the confident expression of a man in control of his world—with the cynical smile of one who intended to retain that control at any cost. He laughed softly to himself and gripped the railing. Under his feet the yacht churned at leisure through the water as waves lapped against the bow. Breathing deeply of the Crimean air, he felt himself at one with the luxury craft—the perfect blend of elegance, power, and heartless drive.

He shifted his weight ever so slightly as the yacht rocked on the surface of the water. Like himself, the ship had no sympathies or loyalties. Built of cold steel and lifeless wood, it was designed for self-indulgence, pleasure, and the display of ambitious superiority. And anything that lay in its course beyond the bow it would crush and send sinking to the bottom of the sea. He smiled again and peered contemptuously into the black distance, defiant of anything that would come into his path.

Behind him a steward cleared his throat. “Sir, the secretary will see you now.”

The American turned emotionlessly and walked past the steward to the staterooms. He knew his way to the cabin occupied by the Russian official who waited for him. He opened the door and entered without knocking.

A distinguished, gray-haired Russian stood behind a large desk. He was only slightly surprised at the insolent air of his American guest. “Mr. Ambassador,” he greeted him without smiling. “Sit down, please. I apologize for not welcoming you sooner. I’ve been on the telephone with our patron.”

The Ambassador nodded and sat in a cushioned chair. “Please relay my compliments to your president. His yacht is magnificent. I’ve been admiring the horizon.”

“Indeed?” The man behind the desk cocked an eyebrow. “What horizon can you possibly appreciate at midnight?”

The guest smiled. “I’ve learned that the cover of darkness always provides a superior view, providing one knows precisely what lies in the waters ahead.”

“You come to the point quickly,” said the Russian, taking his seat. “That is, of course, the reason I am here—to verify that we do know what is just ahead. We venture into perilous ‘international’ waters.”

The American leaned forward. “Mr. Secretary, our course is perfectly set. We know exactly where our vessel is going. Every detail of our voyage has been flawlessly arranged.”

“As per our discussions, I am sure.” The secretary shifted in his chair. “Your services and contacts have been invaluable. My president merely wants to make sure that there will be no interference from NATO or from the United States.”

“Your president should know better,” the visitor soothed. “He is well aware how the wind blows in America these days. There will be no intervention from the United States, the United Nations, or anyone else. In seven days the Russian Federation will be some two percent larger than it is today. And I will be some five hundred percent richer than I am today. But how uncouth! Who can put a price tag on patriotism or other noble aspirations of the heart?”

The Russian was stoic. “Setting aside the American sarcasm, my friend, Alexander Trotsky seeks a final assurance that we will encounter no unforeseen obstacles.”

“You may give Alexander Trotsky my personal pledge,” said the American as he casually lit a cigarette. “Every element in our little drama is in place—like the pieces of a brilliantly played game of chess. The checkmate is certain. There is no man on earth and no power in the universe that can stand in our way.”



A Crimean Afterthought on Independence Day

Before we get into deep-thinking here, I want to answer the frequently asked question – “What are your qualifications to write on the affairs of Crimea?”  Well, in addition to my own personal study, I have sources on the ground in Eastern Europe that keep me well informed on current international events.  This snapshot of me conversing with three of my most intimate Russian contacts should quell any grumbling on that account.


The author (Stephen J. Stirling) with Vladimir Lenin, Karl Marx, and Vladimir Putin (standing) at a recent meeting on Red Square in Moscow.

The author (Stephen J. Stirling) with Vladimir Lenin, Karl Marx, and Vladimir Putin (standing) at a recent meeting on Red Square in Moscow.

Having said that, I genuinely feel it is a civic responsibility and patriotic duty for us to keep ourselves informed on the affairs of an ever complex and increasingly interconnected world.  That is a particular challenge in a national and international atmosphere charged with so much misinformation.  All of this brings us to the subject of Crimea.

 I reprint this excerpt from page ix of Persona Non Grata – “An Author’s Note.”

“In the autumn of 2008, I began to write an action adventure novel which I christened Persona Non Grata. The story had a simple message: God is still interested in the affairs of men and continues to guide our lives.  As a backdrop for that ponderous thesis, I needed a stage on which my players could perform. That theatre turned out to be Crimea – a nation which I created out of whole cloth.

Located east of the Crimean Peninsula and north of Georgia and Azerbaijan, my “fictional” Crimea is a constitutional monarchy nestled between the Black and Caspian Seas in what is today 120,000 square miles of southern Russia.  It’s actually quite small as fictitious countries go.  I didn’t think Vladimir Putin would mind my borrowing it. (I had no idea how sensitive and aggressive he was about Russian real estate.)

As this novel was about to go to press, a banner headline splashed across the newspapers of the world:  “Russia Invades Crimea.”  Of course, it wasn’t exactly the same Crimea which I had manufactured for this novel.  But a few of the similarities were staggering.

With that in mind let me say a word regarding the real Crimea and [up until recently] her actual national status.  An “autonomous republic”, Crimea has been recognized as part of the “independent nation of Ukraine” since the breakup of the Soviet Union. Of course, we’re beginning to discover that Vladimir Putin, in his own way, doesn’t believe the Soviet Union ever broke up.  But that is another issue.

Written five years ago, this novel does not pretend to reflect the intricate elements of the current Crimean crisis.  However, true to the narrative of Persona Non Grata, the Red armies of 2014 did invade Crimea, and did so at the request of the republic’s ambitious “would-be” rulers, in an occupation that took the world by relative surprise.  And that world was prepared to do little more than look on, in helpless impotence.

The scenario in Persona Non Grata presents the story of a common man who steps into this maelstrom to stand for what is right and to do uncommon things.  It is one pleasant outcome of a real situation – all part of a complex world that is not so fictitious after all. One thing is certain. . . the current international situation in Eastern Europe is an ominous sign of the perilous times in which we live.  And there will be more to come.”

And with that short commentary, the book begins.  It is a good book – one of my proudest accomplishments.  But there will be time to discuss that in the coming weeks.

For today, I want to present one final afterthought on Crimea — appropriate to the 4th of July.  In March of this year, the Russian government sponsored a referendum, a vote by the Crimean people which seemed slightly out of character with a military invasion and occupation by foreign forces.  That referendum, shielded from the watchful eyes of international observers, returned a result of 96.7% of the Crimean populace in favor of annexation to the new mother country.  Those voter returns were a heartening sign that right had prevailed.  But by any account, the numbers were always dubious.  A referendum of the United Nations General Assembly went so far as to declare the referendum invalid and affirmed Ukraine’s territorial integrity.  Russia, of course vetoed the Security Council version of the declaration.

In May, both Forbes and the Washington Post reported the official report of Russia’s Council of Civil Society and Human Rights.

According to the Council’s report about the March referendum to annex Crimea, the turnout was a maximum 30%. And of these, only half voted for annexation – meaning only 15 percent of Crimean citizens voted for annexation. The fate of Crimea, therefore, was decided by the 15 percent of Crimeans, who voted in favor of unification with Russia (under the watchful eye of Kalashnikov-toting soldiers).”

And let’s make no mistake about it: This scenario is not the chronicle of a benevolent neighbor coming to the rescue of a benighted and oppressed people.  Reports are already surfacing which detail the decision to “liquidate” the pro-Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the region, the persecution of groups opposed to Russia rule, and “numerous restrictions” on freedom of speech and press imposed by Russian law.  No, this is the resurgence of the former Russia we so loved during the cold war.  Just like old times.

Persona Non Grata offers us a different ending – an ending which would suit us in a slightly different world where the scales are tipped in favor of virtue, where good men take a stand against political despotism and where right can prevail, even against the strength of invading armies.

That isn’t always the world we live in where there is ‘opposition in all things’ and where the forces of evil still hold sway.  But in the meantime, today, Independence Day, is a reminder that once, not all that long ago a little band of good men and women did fight against tyranny and emerged, against all odds, triumphant.  America was the product of that miracle and was and still is a miracle in itself.  Never before in the history of mankind had there been anything like the United States.  And in spite of the cynicism and the pessimism and the distrust that characterize the age we live in – America is still the shining city on a hill that good men still look to and cling to.

We must maintain that shining city as the miracle it was meant to be.  Today’s lesson from Crimea is an illustration of how easily that freedom can be lost if we are not vigilant to preserve it and courageous to raise our voices and our might in defense of it.

We are still part of that miracle.  We can still make a difference.