Literature is one of my passions. While I spend quite a lot of time in my car, where I indulge in listening to modern crime novels, I do firmly believe that nothing can replace the comfort and contentment of snuggling up with a great book.

Having said that, I have found listening to an engaging "whodunit" while I am tooling along, to be a great way to spend my time driving.

Have you ever heard of a spinel? It’s a semi-precious gemstone. I hadn’t heard of it until, in one of my “car books,” a spinel played a major role in the mystery to be solved.

For over a thousand years, red and blue spinels were mistaken for rubies and sapphires. According to geology.com, it was an easy mistake to make. They are formed from the same rock units under the same geological conditions and are actually more rare than their much more valuable counterparts.

Way back when, every bright red or blue stone, mined in certain areas, was assumed to be a ruby or a sapphire. Kings and Tsars, Potentates and the very wealthy thought they knew what they were getting. As a result, these spinel’s can be found in the crown jewels of a multitude of empires, family heirloom collections and museums all over the world.

For me this begs the questions: how does one know the real thing?

To the very well-trained geologist or jeweler there are several indicators making the distinction. But to the naked eye there is no difference.

Like precious adornments, our country is as multifaceted, our government as meticulously crafted as any fine piece of jewelry. But, unlike even the finest jewelry, the ideals of our country, our government are indeed priceless.

I fear that for many years, perhaps even decades, the value of our constitutional gem has been diminished by elements that appear to be the real thing but the underlying composition just isn’t quite up to genuine gem standards.

We are naturally attracted to the sparkling, the glowing, the larger in life but how do we know we aren’t being fooled by a glittering look-alike?

Disappointments in our elected representatives, both Democrat and Republican abound. I fear the nature of our country, its pure, unique, priceless composition is in question.

No doubt you have heard of President Trump’s decision on DACA. There are valid constitutional questions as to the original order’s legality. But, I fear that in the current political climate, no congressional solution to the problem can be met in the six-month timeframe. And there are valid arguments for continuing the practice by simply making it law. But there is nothing simple about it.

The national percentages are overwhelmingly in favor of finding a way to have these “dreamers” stay. It is the right thing to do.

The DACA conundrum is just one example of my underlying fear. Have we strayed so far from the ideals our Founders sought for this great nation? Are we merely a sparkling imitation of the welcoming land of opportunity, or are we the real thing?

Wendy J. Levenfeld is a published novelist, playwright and columnist. Send comments to wendylevenfeld@gmail.com. Visit Wendy’s website at www.wendylevenfeld.com.

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