Odd Man Out
The parallels and historic precedent cited in the criticism of U.S. presidents (feature story Aug. 1) were overshadowed by the stark contrast among the four presidents whose portraits accompanied the article (Clinton, Lincoln, Jefferson and Hoover).
Three of these presidents understood that dissent and criticism were an integral part of our political system and refrained from railing against it.
Three exercised leadership by clear, unwavering commitment to declared principles and policies, even in the face of political adversity.
Three had records of impressive personal achievement outside politics.
Three had contemporary reputations for political courage and impeccable personal honesty.
Three consistently assumed responsibility for shortcomings and failures in their administrations.
In this company, President Clinton is decidedly the odd man out.
David S. Hilder
Soon Pope John Paul II will visit Baltimore. Many thousands of people will revere him, see his procession and attend the mass he will celebrate. The occasion will be a happy one.
Fortunately for the future of the world, not many people respond to the pope's most frequently spoken message.
Everywhere he goes, he preaches against birth control. And yet, in the Vatican's host country, Italy, the birthrate has fallen below the replacement level.
In every country where people have access to the means of birth control, few people pay attention to his message.
Now the Vatican is waging an intensive campaign to undermine a plan to stabilize the world's population at 7.8 billion people, a plan to be presented at the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, Egypt, in September.
Without a worldwide effort to stabilize the world's population, the numbers of people depending upon the earth's present resources will triple in the next century. This is not an outcome that bodes well for generations to come.
Let us hope that the Vatican's campaign will fail and that sensible policies will prevail. With this understanding, let us just enjoy the pope's visit to Baltimore.
Carleton W. Brown
I have been reading many columns on the issue of child support and I'm continually frustrated to find all the attention to be on enforcement of the law with little or no concern for the cause of the problem.
Of all those delinquent on payments, I believe there to be a great many who would pay support, if their role as a father was protected and encouraged.
In my own situation, I have been divorced six years and separated from a daughter, now 12, by 300 miles. I find that nearly all states favor custody to the mother.
All too often the mother, bitter by divorce, uses the child as a tool of power for revenge. The mother can separate the father and child by hundreds of miles at her discretion, deny visitation at the last second, put the father on a state-enforced program for payment and it goes on.
If fathers are behind on payments, there is a state "figure" they must eventually catch up to. But once visitation is lost, there's no way to get that lost time back.
I drive 300 miles each month (each way) to visit my child -- and that is my one and only right. I have no say on anything regarding her life -- dress, school, religion, etc.
And the mother has no obligation to assist a father in any way with the obstacles to his parenting created by courts and attitudes of the mother.
I feel a God-given right and responsibility to be a father to my daughter. I have compassion for those who have been so separated from their children, and whose role has been so aggravated by courts and mother that their only place now is to pay money, period.
Child support will always have problems until our society realizes the important role of the father as parent.
In his July 30 letter attacking pro-Confederate letter writers David M. Owings and G. Elliot Cummings, Paul O'Brien says: "Mr. Cummings claims that the South had an absolute right to secede . . ." whereas the U.S. Constitution does not specify this.
On the other hand, it does specify that parts of states cannot secede from their states, unless Congress and such states agree to the separation.
Nevertheless, Lincoln's government connived at the secession of western Virginia from Virginia, during the war. As the U.S. attorney general declared at that time, this was clearly and obviously illegal.
If we agree with the argument that statutes of limitation cannot run out on constitutional rights, the result is that there is legally no such state as West Virginia.
At a social affair, I once tried to explain this to then Gov. Jay Rockefeller, but he was not interested.
Willis Case Rowe
In a July 28 letter to the editor, John Pattillo took issue with Vaclav Havel's Fourth of July address, which was a wise and useful critique of contemporary culture.
Mr. Pattillo saw it as un-American. He considered it un-American because it reminded us of the need of an opening to the transcendent in the human spirit and sounded a warning that without it, humanity can define itself as beast or slave or robot, with all the terrible consequences of those definitions.
Might we remind Mr. Pattillo that it was the great European revolutions, French and Bolshevik, that followed his desire and proceeded immediately to the slaughter of the innocents.
It was the American revolution with its appeal to the transcendent that gave birth to freedom. The Americanism that defines itself as strictly materialistic will lose its freedom. Raw matter knows no freedom.
Would Mr. Pattillo wish to change our motto to "The one who dies with the most toys wins?"
T. Howard Metzger
I must take issue with Michael Olesker's column on the lunar astronauts (July 24). It's quite unfair for Mr. Olesker to slam the Apollo astronauts for their tech-head approach in describing their experiences on the moon. These men were test pilots, and if at times their personal demeanor seemed distant and cool, it was only because they had an extremely difficult and highly dangerous mission to accomplish.
Mr. Olesker quotes the journalist Oriana Fallaci some years back bemoaning the fact that the astronauts could experience the moon first hand and not her.
She wrote, "I would have gone upstairs with all my eyes, all my ears, all my tongues," -- all of which, I have no doubt, would have been paralyzed by sheer terror.
I watched Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon, being interviewed recently on the Today TV show, fighting back tears as he tried to convey the indescribable vistas of the moon's magnificent desolation.
It was the story in his eyes that said it all.
Sharing Burdens and Benefits
Sean de Hora, whose July 26 article found idle women to be mischief-makers throughout history, can take hope in the knowledge that today the overwhelming majority of women work.
Many women are eagerly pursuing careers, including combat arms, once barred to them by men.
What is the standard by which the author's "man's world" rejects a few men and many women? What does it value?
Human experience includes spiritual and emotional elements which are neither fringe nor gender-based.
Men and women share these capacities together with others like intellect and courage. Only by sharing the burdens and benefits can we all get along and ahead in this world.
D. J. Lilly
Sean de Hora's article leaves me cold.
He carefully blames women for everything and anything that went wrong in history -- starting with the demise of the Roman Empire -- but states that it is understandable for women to dominate the militant faction of the abortion rights movement.
In other words, stay out of a man's world with the one exception of destroying human life.
Elizabeth R. Schreiber