In his commentary (June 17), George Will postulates that the realistic portrayal of violence in the movie "Menace II Society" could serve as a catalyst for reducing the violence of inner city youth. He states seeing "Menace" would "sicken the viewer and strengthen their resolve to enforce domestic tranquillity."
For the past several years, I have worked with inner-city children and adolescents. My experience has taught me that such solutions to our problems with violence are overly simplistic, to say the least.
Movies about the negative effects of violence, no matter how realistic and unromanticizing, are not going to curb this behavior.
The truth of the matter is that violence can only be stopped if we are willing to face up to its causes. These causes are multiple, and they begin early in the child's life.
First, young people who become violent are often the victims of violence themselves. Many have been physically and sexually abused, and they have been neglected and rejected by their own parents.
In essence, they are reared in material and emotional poverty. Because they have received little, if any, love and nurturing, these children become hardened and latently hostile. Eventually this increasingly intense anger leads to lashing out against all authority and society.
Second, angry, hostile children often fail to learn to empathize with or develop feelings for others. They become egocentric and mainly concerned with the fulfillment of their own basic needs. Victims are viewed as objects, not people. As a result, they can be preyed upon without feeling guilt or remorse.
Third, although angry youngsters may know right from wrong, they have little incentive to behave morally, particularly if it does not directly benefit them.
Controlling impulses, the delay of gratification and a sense of responsibility for self and others has never been taught or consistently reinforced by the significant adults in their lives. Compromise, negotiation and self-restraint are viewed as weaknesses rather than strengths.
Fourth, because of their tumultuous upbringing, many inner-city youth have never received the early cognitive and educational training needed to be successful in school. As a result, they often fail several times.
This lack of success leads to strong feelings of inferiority and frustration. An "I don't care" attitude develops, and anti-social behavior follows. Many of these children have no emotional investment in the system. Thus, they become antagonistic toward the school, the community and the society, blaming them for their lack of success.
Fifth, the fact is that for many inner-city young people, violent or "crazy" behavior often has an immediately beneficial result. It enables one to frighten and subdue a victim or to defeat an adversary.
It may also lead to material rewards without going through the daily grind of working for them.
Sixth, children who develop violent personalities are often willing to take the risk of being maimed or killed. Even though the odds are against them, they disregard this and are willing to take their chances.
This is a difficult mind set to change. Many youngsters are convinced that this is the only way to survive, given their circumstances. They believe they have little or nothing to lose by behaving violently.
Violent, impressionable youth often live in a world in which the toughest, strongest and meanest serve as role models.
Kindness, compassion, patience and empathy are viewed as "wimpy." No self-respecting tough would dare to foster or acknowledge that such feelings exist or that they were worth having. Rather, they exhibit the opposite traits, emphasizing a .. hardened, insensitive notion of manhood.
These are just some of the problems we must address if we want to curb youthful violence. Viewing movies like "Menace," buying back guns, and other "quick fixes" won't solve the problem.
The fact is that for the past 20 years we have, through our neglect, created an underclass of seriously disturbed children who have become violent adults. Unfortunately, the conditions causing this have not changed.
If we truly want to solve this problem, we must be prepared to look violence right in the eye and take some tough steps to curb it.
We need to support the police and to provide them with the resources and manpower to deter street crime. By strengthening law enforcement, we are sending the message that violence and its aftermath will no longer be tolerated, and we are prepared to take strong steps to stop it.
We need to provide the resources to those persons, programs and institutions who deal with troubled youth and families. If we provide the needed services now, it is more likely that our young people will become viable, productive citizens rather than future criminals.
Paul J. Lavin
Bad Behavior Doesn't Make an Effective Warrior
I, too, am a former fighter pilot. James White, the author of "What Qualities in Its Warriors Does the Nation Require?" (Opinion * Commentary, June 16), does not speak for me. I found his statements incongruent, factually untrue and distressing.
My reading of the article tells me that our nation's best war fighters, by his definition, must be characterized as socially misbehaving, malicious tricksters with the maturity level of adolescents.
Additionally, the article indicates that it is to be expected of these warriors to exhibit anti-social, disrespectful conduct toward not only their enemies, but the men and women they have been called to defend.
Mr. White cites several over-dramatized scenarios that create best sellers and box office hits. These over-dramatized, over-romanticized stories are not justification that a man or woman in the armed services needs such attributes.
Some of our warriors engage in the anti-social behavior as described, but it is not the norm and is not the quality needed to be an efficient warrior called to arms in service to society.
The proper characterization of the kind of warrior this nation requires is no different than the character required of any human being whether he be doctor, lawyer, teacher, factory worker, homemaker, white-collar worker, minister or, yes, warrior.
The proper characterization of any successful human being is a disciplined sense of maturity gained through the realization of respect for life measured with a strong sense of self-control.
A true warrior has a lot of respect for life. He stands to lose it in service to his country, as many have.
We who are serving and have served have lost comrades in either battle or in training accidents. It is this fact that brings into focus the dilemma of this well-publicized anti-social behavior.
I agree with Mr. White that the events of the last Tailhook convention were not merely about sexual harassment. They are indications of how far we as warriors and society have permitted our high moral and ethical grounds to become eroded.
We, like society, have abrogated our responsible conduct by allowing the continuation of the irresponsible actions of dominance, exploitation and promiscuity to continue unchecked. It's O.K. -- "Warriors have to let off steam."
In Plato's "Republic," Socrates warns that acceptance of this out-of-bounds aggressiveness is dangerous.
Socrates states that warriors must possess special characteristics, the most significant of which include that of upholding the highest of moral and ethical standards -- lest they turn on and destroy the society they serve to protect.
This is the dilemma that Mr. White and all of us need to be concerned about. We see around the world today and even in our own back yards examples of what Socrates was warning against.
It is unfortunate that a comparison was made between highly integrated, armed and trained German Panzer divisions and poorly trained and equipped French soldiers. The early German success in France had nothing to do with "mean spiritedness" but with discipline and unit cohesion developed through sound training and employment doctrine, not to mention some of the finest technological military hardware ever known to humankind.
The dilemma is, again, not over the issue of "bad fighters" or "bad citizens" as Mr. White suggests.
And it is not over the requirement to "tolerate a certain amount of anti-social behavior." Bad behavior does not make an effective warrior. Men and women of high ideals and noble character, well trained in disciplined combat tactics, properly equipped and supported by the society they serve, make effective warriors.
The dilemma is how to instill in our warriors a renewed sense of nobility and servanthood while regaining the support and trust of the people of this nation.
What are the "rules of God in war" and "the rules of man in peace" that Mr. White says we are to follow?
Mr. White implies there is a world of peace and a world of war. Only one world exists, and it is not a world of peace but a world at war.
But to hope for anything less than peace is to hope for nothing at all. We will find no hope for peace in an armed force of anti-social misfits. Ask the citizens of former Yugoslavia.
Lt. Col. John A. Fair, USAF
Struck on Mideast
Doug Struck struck again! On the front page, June 21, he again gives a one-sided, biased, anti-Israel report on the "bloody Israeli crackdown" in the Gaza Strip.
Although he states that the crackdown began "after a bloody March in which 15 Israelis and 20 Palestinians were killed," he does not state that both the Israelis and Palestinians were killed by Palestinians, mostly from Gaza; or that most of the Israelis were killed inside Israeli cities such as Tel Aviv and Hadera by Gazans who were permitted to work in Israel.
It is interesting to note that between January and March 28, there were 39 Gazans killed by Gazans. After the first two months of closure, Gazans killed by Gazans were reduced to 18, and Israelis killed by Gazans were 4.
Of the 4 Israelis killed, one was a Tel Aviv lawyer who commuted to his office in Gaza, where he represented and helped Palestinians with their legal problems. He was hacked to death in his office by Palestinians.
A second casualty was an Israeli woman who owned a farm in the Gaza area and for many years hired Palestinians from the Gaza Strip. She was murdered by one of her Gazan employees.
Doug Struck has struck again. His article of June 21, under the inflammatory headline "Peace remote for Gaza under bloody Israeli crackdown," emphasized the hardships residents are experiencing since Israel closed the Gaza Strip from Israel proper.
There is only a passing reference to the reason for the closure, the tremendous increase in violence against Israel's population at the hands of Palestinians, culminating in the death of 15 Israelis in March. When will you favor us with vignettes of the suffering of the Israeli families who have lost loved ones to the mindless violence?
When will you remind the reader that Israel, having been established pursuant to international law and recognized by the United Nations was immediately attacked by all of its Arab neighbors and remains in a state of war with all of them (except Egypt) until this day?
When will you recognize that the current Israeli government, which is much more moderate than its predecessor in its approach to the peace talks and the handling of the Palestinians in general, is probably the last best hope for a Middle East peace?
The Israelis have made a number of concessions in an effort to move the peace talks forward.
This has been done at substantial domestic political cost to the ++ Rabin government, and it is reasonable to expect that if the violence continues and the peace talks founder, there will be a change to a different government with a more confrontational orientation.
It has become a cliche of the Middle East to say that the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. It was never more true.
Searle E. Mitnick
Cruel Boaters and the Death of a Mute Swan
This letter is an obituary to a mute swan. This swan resided in a cove off the Wye River for the past 20 years. He and a female swan nested there and raised many families of swans in that time.
At one time, they were so tame, they would come up to my mother's kitchen window and eat out of our hands. They have given my mother and father (when he was alive) many hours of great pleasure watching them.
Shortly after this past Memorial Day weekend, they hatched four new baby mute swans. Hopefully, they will grow to be just as beautiful as their mother and father.
When these swans nest, the female stays with the eggs while the male protects the area. They can pose a danger to humans or other predators because there are barbs on the wings and they can beat you to death, if it is required.
They are not on the protected list of birds and are considered dangerous, if provoked, but we have seen the beautiful side of these creatures that nature has provided us and appreciate their beauty and their gentleness.
While I was visiting my mother in late May, I saw four different boats (the type you inflate and attach to larger boats) enter the cove.
Several times, they antagonized the male swan until he would fly toward them and then proceed to lead them out of the cove by flying a little and land ahead of the boat. The people would chase him and he would fly a little further out of the cove until he had them out in the Wye River. He was trying to keep them away from his nest.
I was observing one group of people through the binoculars and one of the women picked up binoculars and looked back at me.
Sound carries easily over the water, and they were laughing. I called the Maryland Natural Resources police located in the area, who were extremely courteous. By the time I had walked outside after hanging up the phone, the sea plane was flying over the farm.
I do not know if they caught the people in the boat or not, but I did hear the plane go down into the water. I also called them back on Memorial Day, which was a cold, dreary day. I figured surely no one would be out chasing the swan that day, but there they were.
It is hard for me to understand how people can be so callous. I realize that people from the city finally get a chance to get away from work, get on that sailboat they spent a lot of money on, get out on the water, and enjoy themselves.
Maybe chasing a swan was just sport for some bored people who could not find anything else to amuse themselves with.
Since I now live in the Washington area, I live around this type of people all the time, and I understand how frustrating everyday life can be, but surely there is some hobby or pastime that will suffice and cool the nerves rather than antagonizing a swan.
This swan would not otherwise give a second thought to humans. He knew which boats were there to antagonize him. There have been boats come into the cove for fishing or just enjoying the beautiful scenery, and the swan never bothered them.
Recently, someone came into the cove, antagonized the swan, and the swan was caught in the motor of the person's boat.
His wing was broken and his body was cut into pieces. He made it back to the cove where my mother lives because he knew he could get help there, but he was so badly damaged that they had to put him to sleep.
Swans mate for life. Now there is the female and four babies. The female will die in the near future because of this atrocity. The babies may or may not survive.
I can only hope that whoever did this atrocity has a very damaged boat, motor, and maybe themselves. It was really fun, wasn't it?
There is a $500 fine for shooting one of these swans. Can we also fine these people in their boats when they destroy something so beautiful?
My family and I are very upset over an incident that took place in Quarter Love off our great Wye River.
We have had a pair of mute swans in the cove nesting for 20 years. They are not noxious birds, as some claim. My husband, now deceased, and grandchildren have hand-fed them for years. When my grandchildren bathe off my dock, the swans never come near.
For the past several years, sailboaters have used their inflated powerboats to chase our mute swans. Recently, they ran over the male and broke both wings and cut his body in several places.
I have lived here for 77 years, and I have never seen anything like this. The swan came home to die.
We are on the lookout for the sick people who did this, as the mother and four little ones were in my cove recently.
Helen E. Connolly