The Benefits of the Columbus Hoopla
Editor: I read with great interest Ben Wattenberg's June 26 Opinion * 1ommentary piece on the debate over Columbus' historical role and the U. S. pavilion at Spain's World's Fair in Seville.
Readers may be interested to know the following:
There will also be a huge fair in Genoa, Italy, in 1992. Recently, the U. S. Information Agency, which mounts such expositions, announced that the U. S. pavilion at Genoa Expo 92, the world's fair marking the Quincentenary in Columbus's birthplace, will feature the immigrant experience in Baltimore and the maritime culture of the Chesapeake Bay region. The fair will draw millions of visitors between May 15 and August 15, 1992. Remarking on the theme, the U.S. commissioner general for the Expo said "the Chesapeake Bay represents a slice of Americana that the United States can show to the world."
Adhering to the overall theme of the Expo, "Christopher Columbus: The Ship and the Sea," the 5,000-square-foot, multi-media exhibit will "focus on the Chesapeake Bay as a microcosm of American maritime life and culture -- one in which honored traditions and constant change have molded a society rich in diversity and proud of its freedoms."
In addition, "Maryland 1992," the governor's commission, recently announced a full slate of programs. Among them are: a year-long, Chesapeake-wide festival of history and ecology; an educational enrichment kit on our multi-cultural heritage for all state schools, K-12; and an event in Hagerstown and Washington County which will invite, for the first time in history, all 850 federally recognized Native American tribes for a week-long cultural exposition and a summit on the Native American agenda for the 21st century.
Finally, since 1986 a group of local leaders have been promoting the idea of using 1992 to create a marine science center in Baltimore. Greatly expanded and supported by the mayor, the City Council, the governor, the General Assembly and the Maryland congressional delegation, this will open in 1994 on Piers 5 and 6 as the $200 million Christopher Columbus Center of Marine Research and Exploration.
What may be discovered in 1992 is that Baltimore, Maryland, and the Chesapeake Bay -- which have no direct ties to Columbus -- stand to benefit most from all the hoopla.
The writer is chairman of the Christopher Columbus Center of Marine Research and Exploration.
Blame the Records
Editor: In recent weeks Stephen Wigler has pondered the dearth of top concert pianists now that the world has mourned the departure of Rudolph Serkin and Claudio Arrau.
He missed, however, the one item that not only addresses the situation with pianists, but lends itself to understanding the absence of big-name conductors and violin soloists. In addition, this same phenomenon predicts that this condition could continue indefinitely.
It is, in fact, the advent of the recorded performance. With high-fidelity sound reproduction, the superb artistry of a musician is preserved for posterity. These audio history books then set the bench mark for the style, technique and interpretation of the stagnant classical repertoire.
Thus, recordings have allowed an earlier generation of musicians to claim ownership of either particular composers or masterpieces. Witness the Van Cliburn Tchaikovsky first piano concerto or Arthur Rubenstein's Chopin.
Today's young performers face significant difficulties indeed, in the shadow of these now-legendary recording artists.
No Robin Hood
Editor: President Bush's chief of staff, John Sununu, has been described in many ways recently because of his travels.
Leo Rosten's "The Joys of Yiddish" has just the right word for him:"Schnorrer" -- defined as "a moocher," "a cheapskate," "a chisler."
So even if you don't know Yiddish, there's no question what the translation means. A Robin Hood, he's not! What he gives us taxpayers is the back of his hand.
The Cuba I Saw
Editor: In his opinion about Castro's Cuba, Alejandro Portes may be right or he may not; I'm no seer. But having very recently returned from Cuba, I will grieve the change if Cuba gives up its idealism for the future he predicts.
I do not claim to know about everything everywhere, but I have traveled extensively in 11 other Latin American countries. They all have their charm -- and their poverty.
Nothing I saw in Havana compared to the people sleeping in the streets I saw in Brazil's largest city (without mentioning what we see regularly in Baltimore). Cubans were well-clothed, nothing like the shoeless majority in the capital city of Paraguay. Nothing came near the repression of "democratic" El Salvador.
Yes, I did see hope and altruism. I met people working for the betterment of all, willing to make sacrifices and building day-care centers (which are seriously lacking here in Maryland at a price middle-class people can afford) and homes.
I have to mention Mr. Portes' sneering at the distribution of bicycles in Cuba as a means of countering the oil shortage. I see it as creativity; he calls it a sign of "desperation."
As for the Cubans who come to Miami, are they different from the refugees fleeing Mexican poverty? Whenever a society which promises everything (though we know it delivers only to some of us) is next door to a Third World country, struggling (in the case of Cuba) against a blockade from its powerful neighbor or (in the case of Mexico) against exploitation, people will try to cross over to the "promised land."
My experience was one of elation that people in a society care enough about one another to plan, constructively criticize their government and volunteer during free hours so that others can have houses, so that they can supply all the food the country needs, so that their and their neighbors' lives -- including free education and medical care -- will be better than their parents.
I hope greed doesn't destroy that idealism, for I feel the world needs more of what Cuba has.
Humility Needed '
Editor: How astonishing it was to read Ronald Dworkin's Opinion * Commentary article, "Facts Intrude on Feminists' Dance with Science."
Dr. Dworkin is nonplused that not only one of the "forms" of American medicine (i.e., its male chauvinist practices toward women) but also the "content" of medicine is being challenged by feminist thinkers. In an era when even the infallibility claims of the pope are downplayed, Dr. Dworkin is chagrined that feminist thinkers challenge what he refers to as "the actual scientific content of medical science."
To prove his opinion, he details the errors, as he see them, in two recent "feminist" studies. What he doesn't detail are the numerous other studies, both feminist and nonfeminist, and most of them also the work of medical science, which challenge "the actual scientific content of medical science."
One would expect a bit more humility from "medical science" these days. The average American medical consumer, feminist or not, has a catalogue of stories to tell along the lines "medicine is an imperfect science." The best physicians, humble and cautious about the findings of medical science, are well aware of this.
Out with the Old in Roland Park
Editor: I wish to respond to the eloquent letter from Janet Heller on racial and religious intolerance in Roland Park. I have for the past five years served on the board of the Roland Park Roads and Maintenance Corp. -- the organization that has enforced the restrictive covenants in Roland Park since 1909.
In the course of my duties I have examined hundreds of our office files on individual homes, all of the original covenants prototypes and have read the minutes of our board meetings for the period 1911-1959 (these are preserved at the University of Baltimore and are open to the public). I have been unable to substantiate the commonly held belief that restrictive covenants barring racial or religious groups existed in Roland Park.
The Roland Park covenants predate zoning and established a means of preserving the community's architectural and aesthetical standards and residential character -- they deal solely with these issues. They make mention of neither race nor religion.
In contrast, a clause restricting home ownership to whites was incorporated by the Roland Park Co. into the similar deed agreements in Guilford/Homeland. This clause was not struck out and repudiated until the 1960s. It is interesting to note that even those parts of Roland Park developed concurrently with Guilford do not contain a racial clause.
This is not to deny that there was prejudice in the community. It is clear that in practice Roland Park was, in large degree, once restricted to white Christians and this organization did incorporate evidence of this regrettable fact in our historical display at the centennial celebration.
It is not clear how the belief in a racial and religious restrictive covenant gained currency. The extent by which residents declined to sell their homes to Jews and blacks because they mistakenly thought that they could not, versus the extent by which they merely found it convenient to cite a nonexistent covenant in order to hide their own or their neighbors' fears and hatred, is not reflected in our records.
It is clear, however, that the issue is more complex than it has been presented over the years and merits the attention that Ms. Heller has called to it.
The writer is vice president of the Roland Park Roads and Maintenance Corp.
Editor: In the past year the state government has seen fit to raise revenues by extending the tax on the sales of snacks and increases in taxes on alcoholic beverages and cigarettes, so-called sin taxes.
How about taxing the ultimate in a "sin" product: firearms?
Every other consumer is paying an increased share in the cost of government. With the police departments working overtime on the results of firearms use, it would seem very appropriate that, if there is no tax now beyond the mere 5 percent sales tax, this product justifiably be targeted for added taxes, along with the bullets used.
Richard L. Lelonek.
Editor: Because the state's deficit is a result of the present recession, why are our legislators even considering burdening Marylanders with more permanent taxations?
Last year Maryland experienced an income windfall only to have it squandered by the governor. If more permanent taxes are added to the already long list of taxes, think of the windfall the governor will have to squander when the recession is over -- Utopia.
Temporary taxes that would be lifted once their purpose was served (eliminating the deficit) would make things easier on the Maryland taxpayer in the future.
George Hewes, Jr.