Avoiding TragedyEditor: Someone said: "My country, right...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Avoiding Tragedy

Editor: Someone said: "My country, right or wrong. When right, to be kept right; when wrong, to be put right."

Please tell all our congresspeople who spoke so eloquently to give sanctions time to work to take heart. There are many of us who agreed with them and with their courage in speaking out to avoid the tragedy of the gulf conflict.

In my opinion the one really good thing that evolved from the conflict is that we are finally trying to work problems out diplomatically with the United Nations and all its members.

As a mother and grandmother, I hope and pray that my children will never have to die in war.

Agnes McAvinue.

Baltimore.

Legal Choices

Editor: I wish to comment on George N. Sfeir's March 4 Opinion * Commentary column on Islamic law and international law.

In the entire civilized world, Eastern as well as Western, there are only two basic systems of jurisprudence -- Roman and English, the latter being more or less derivative. (However, only three American jurisdictions follow the Roman civil law.) Restated after a thousand years of evolution as the Corpus Juris Civilis, it derives from the great jus gentium, often confused with "international law." Accurately translated, it means "the law of all peoples."

It is private law (jus privatum) evolved, like the English common law, through case-by-case analysis of what ordinary people have led each other reasonably to expect of each other. Applied by analogy to political entities, it becomes public law (jus publicum). Thus jurisprudence -- wisdom about rights -- is a science both natural and social, logically a branch of psychology, the psychology of obligation.

Islamic law is essentially Roman civil law, the Arabs, before miscegenation with their black slaves, having preserved Hellenistic culture throughout the European dark ages. However, just as ignorant Americans are led to imagine that our English law somehow derives from the Constitution, or as ignorant Romans were led to imagine that their law somehow derived from the Twelve Tables, ignorant Arabs are led to imagine that the law somehow derives from the Koran.

In other words, ignorant people everywhere are led to suppose that the law (jus) originates in legislation (lex, leges) rather than from a process too complex for the layman's mind.

In jurisprudential principle, there is one universal system of law. Over many centuries, the great Roman jural scholars and philosophers proved the point magnificently. The law, Ulpian declared, is "the law of nature."

In principle "international law" is the law of nature as applied to nations by analogy to private organizations.

Willis Case Rowe.

Catonsville.

Save the Magazine

Editor: An established state institution could very well fall victim to the economic ax if Maryland Magazine, the state's official publication, is cut by the legislature.

In its 23 years, the magazine has been a viable educational and promotional tool for the state. It has been used by Peace Corps volunteers in African classrooms and by teachers around the state hungry for historical material on Maryland.

Metropolitan area newspapers and TV shows have used it as a resource for story ideas. Transplanted Marylanders now living in nearly every state have kept in touch with "home' through the magazine. And, thousands of Marylanders have become loyal subscribers who have explored and learned about the state based on articles in the magazine.

Often, in times of severe budget cutting, publications are viewed as "fluff" and therefore expendable. Maryland Magazine is not fluff. It goes about its business of promoting the good things about Maryland -- its lifestyle, traditions, businesses, recreational facilities, natural resources and people -- with style and dignity. In fact, during the past two decades, the magazine has earned dozens of national awards for graphics and editorial content. Moreover, it has been able to tell the Maryland story in a first-class manner on a modest budget with a small but dedicated staff.

Maryland and Marylanders deserve to keep their fine publication, and Maryland Magazine and its staff deserve a better fate than the legislative ax.

Bonnie Joe Ayers.

Silver Spring.

The writer is a former editor of Maryland Magazine.

Hospital Closing: Patients' Loss

Editor: The imminent closing of Homewood Hospital Center will have a painful impact upon the patients who use the Partial Hospitalization Program in the Department of Psychiatry and Addictions. They are people who struggle daily and heroically with major mental illness. By attending the program during the day for therapy that is more intensive than the usual outpatient care, these folks have learned to manage their illnesses.

They've learned to detect their "early warning signs," to stick with care plans, to manage medications and side effects, to structure their days, thus avoiding expensive in-patient hospitalizations or emergency-room visits. Instead, they have returned short-term to the program for what many of them call a tune-up.

In a recent group in which some patients were attempting to deal with their worry and sense of loss, they discussed feelings of powerlessness, not an unfamiliar feeling for psychiatric patients. They wanted to gain a little sense of power by letting someone know what a loss the closing of Homewood Hospital Center will mean to them.

About the closing of the center, we have no choice. It will affect numbers of people throughout the community, but none more poignantly than the patients who have depended for the last 15 years on the Partial Hospitalization Program to grow as persons and maintain independence in the community despite mental illness.

Ann Kirby.

Baltimore.

The writer is a psychiatric counselor at the Homewood Hospital Center's Partial Hospitalization Program.

Land in Danger

Editor: Since 1985, Maryland's new development has gobbled up approximately 144,000 acres of open space and farmland.

The proposed 2020 bill will limit the number of houses that can be put on our remaining unimproved land. This will mean less traffic, pollution and the possibility that Maryland won't end up becoming one giant suburb punctuated by strip centers and business parks.

If you believe it will hurt some farmers, you're right.

If you believe it will hurt farming, you're wrong.

If nothing else, tougher county building restrictions will shift development pressure into our urban centers where it is urgently needed.

Let's hope that our legislature has the strength to deny the profit motives of a few shortsighted individuals so that the quality of life of all Marylanders benefits.

Joe Gillet.

Monkton.

Rank

Editor: Do you enjoy wallowing in the "s---house"? Our governor made the remark once, but it has been repeated in the papers at least a dozen times.

You didn't pussyfoot when you reported that the president said he would "kick ass." Rank has its privileges?

Don't be coy. Spell it like it is.

Silven Nitzberg.

Baltimore.

Test the Elderly

Editor: Here's a proposal that would save lives, reduce insurance rates and be income-producing for Maryland. Just as much revenue could be generated by testing senior citizens as by emissions testing and, frankly, testing seniors could help reduce everyone's auto insurance by eliminating tons of fender-benders and more serious accidents yearly.

Everyone knows that emissions testing was devised to earn the state revenue. Since today's cars have emission controls which prevent all but the old "klunkers" (which are exempt anyway) from being environmental hazards, we motorists resent having to get in line to pay that insurance fine every year.

As it now stands, all the old folks need to renew their licenses is get new glasses and pay high insurance rates. This penalizes the older person who is a safe driver but hasn't enough money to keep up with high rates tacked on solely because of age. However, if each driver was required to retake the entire driver's test at age 65, 70, 75, and each year thereafter, those whose reflexes were good could "keep on trucking," while the rest would have their licenses "retired."

It is a neat and simple plan, and one with a very important added benefit. If we made testing mandatory for seniors, their children would not be stuck with the dirty work of taking that last bit of independence away. Let's face it, telling loved ones they are no longer capable of driving is tough. Some children wait until the parent has an accident, and then they, the children, feel guilty. Others wait much longer than they know they should because as long as "mom" can drive to the corner, they don't have to cart her. With this plan a lot of problems would be solved. Think about it.

G. Connolly.

Baltimore.

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