Dung HeapAs a citizen of this country,...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Dung Heap

As a citizen of this country, who also happens to be a Vietnam veteran, I am angered and ashamed that Bill Clinton has chosen to establish full diplomatic relations with the government of Vietnam at this time.

To extend the open hand of friendship to the communist government of Vietnam is just one more finger in the eye of the thousands of American men and women who gave their time and even their blood during the Vietnam War.

It's an "in your face" to the families of Americans still missing and unaccounted for in Southeast Asia. It offers a single-digit salute from our president and State Department to 58,000 who can no longer speak for themselves on this issue.

With the action, Bill Clinton has officially dumped Vietnam-era veterans and their families onto the proverbial dung heap of history. He should remember, however, that we will be working very hard to have him join us there in November 1996.

Ralph E. Patterson.

Towson

Israel's Rights

"Claims of historical or religious ties of Jews with Palestine are incompatible with the facts of history and the true conception of what constitutes statehood. Judaism, being a religion, is not an independent nationality . . ."

That paragraph is taken from the Palestinian National Charter. In contravention of the 1993 Oslo Accords, this discriminatory document has not been abrogated by the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The PLO also has appointed more armed policemen than allowed by the Oslo Accords. Its leaders continue their inflammatory rhetoric, calling for holy war, declaring Israel their main enemy and calling for violence against Israel.

The United Nations hasn't condemned any of these violations of the Oslo Accords. In contrast, the Security Council attempted to condemn Israel for exercising eminent domain in Jerusalem.

Only a veto by the United States prevented this condemnation from taking effect. Israel has been treated quite harshly for exercising its sovereign rights. The PLO's violations of the treaty it signed have gone unmentioned. This disparity is disturbing.

This imbalance doesn't bother the editors of The Sun. Instead, in an editorial May 25, the newspaper is concerned that Israel violated the "spirit" of its agreement with the PLO and that the implementation of the treaty is behind schedule.

Like the Security Council, The Sun only finds blame with Israel's behavior and asks that Israel "desist from creating new facts."

The Sun has it wrong. Israel is not "creating new facts." It is asserting the historical rights of the Jewish people.

Jerusalem was a Jewish city and the seat of Jewish government more than 1,500 years before the founding of Islam on the Arabian peninsula. This history contradicts a fundamental principle of Palestinian neighborhood.

The Sun also doesn't recognize that only one side in the "peace process" has made any concrete concessions. Israel has actually ceded Gaza and Jericho to the control of the Palestinian Authority.

The PLO has done nothing. It has not halted terrorism. It has not set up accountable institutions. It has not changed its ideology.

If The Sun is so concerned about the "peace process," it should be encouraging the PLO to live up to its commitments. It should be applauding efforts to normalize Israel's place among the nations of the world. And it should condemn the religious bigotry toward Israel that is still displayed by the Muslim world.

L The cynical and dishonest criticism of Israel helps nothing.

David Gerstman

Baltimore

Truck Safety

Are you trying to destroy the trucking industry with your angry cartoons? Your June 22 cartoon was grossly unfair in depicting a bug-eyed, teeth-clenching truck driver who supposedly had devoured half of his trailer load of No Doz tablets so he could stay awake and deliver the load on time.

Truckers see this as a mean-spirited attack on millions of safe drivers. To add insult to injury, the cartoonist added this comment: "Important News: Trucking Companies Frequently Flaunt Federal Safety Rules!"

Let me tell you some important news. The trucking industry's safety record is improving. Why don't you print stories about how truck drivers, trucking companies and federal and state governments are working together to make the roads safer?

For example, over the past 10 years the number of miles driven by trucks has increased 41 percent while the fatal accident rate has dropped 37 percent.

Why don't you tell your readers how they can improve their driving skills so they'll know how to share the road with larger vehicles? Tell them not to drive in the truck's blind spot or suddenly pull in front of a large truck, thereby cutting off the safety margin the driver needs.

The Sun could do a great public service by printing the "good news" stories about truck safety.

Rita Bontz

Baltimore

The writer is president of the Independent Truckers and Drivers

Association.

The New WJHU

WJHU asked its members to give its new programming format a chance before deciding whether they liked it. Well, the trial period is over, and here's my report: I miss Lisa Simeone on weekday afternoons.

I miss Bill Spencer's witty comments on weekday mornings. Most of all, I miss the unique and varied classical repertoire which, despite comments to the contrary, nobody else is playing in this area.

WJHU provided an important tile in the Baltimore radio mosaic. The service was high-quality and informative, even if it was not quite as popular as other programming formats. The station has already become a pale shadow of its former self.

I resent the fact that the decision was made with no input from listeners and with almost no notice. I will not be renewing my membership until classical music is restored.

Must everything be judged solely on its audience or fund-raising appeal? Is it possible that something could exist primarily because it great, informative and worthwhile?

I guess not, so I'm voting with my pocketbook.

Cyrus Ginwala

Baltimore

Soviet Paranoia

Schuyler R. Denham's July 6 letter, "Base Closings," is way off base. I was part of the military defense complex for some years, and we did not suppress freedom worldwide -- we promoted it.

The Iron Curtain is gone. Eastern Europe is free. China has turned to capitalism with a vengeance and political freedom may come next.

No, it was not American paranoia that suppressed freedom worldwide; it was Soviet paranoia. Our military industrial complex (President Eisenhower's careful warning, not foreboding) was in response to Soviet aggression.

Remember Soviet tanks and troops in Hungary? Poland? Czechoslovakia? Now our military industrial complex is being intelligently downsized. We should be grateful that it ensured our freedom for half a century.

Tom Gill

North Beach

Critical, not Elitist

Baltimore magazine is grateful for your recent attention to our July "Best of Baltimore" issue.

I've got a small quibble, though, with something I'm supposed to have said in my capacity as the magazine's editor. One of your columnists quoted me second-hand as saying that, when choosing Baltimore's Best, we embrace a philosophy that "ours is the elitist view."

Ouch!

What I actually said was that we "sometimes disregard the popular vote" in making our final judgments. (To enslave ourselves to simple popularity would mean that Domino's pizza would always overshadow the likes of Baltimore's own remarkable Al Pacino Cafe.)

Perhaps it sounds like I'm splitting hairs; we do, after all, exercise careful but critical judgments in guiding our readers to the best of everything the area has to offer.

I believe, however, that mere selectivity -- an occupational hazard endemic to every city magazine in this very fine country of ours -- shouldn't automatically saddle us with the annoying label of elitism.

We're trying to make our readers' lives easier, not clubbier. The buzz I'm lately hearing from all parts of town tells me we're hitting the mark.

Ramsey Flynn

Baltimore

;/ The writer is editor of Baltimore magazine.

Blacks' Legacy and Belair-Edison

"Reality" and "racism" are indistinguishable in Linda M. Hess' letter, "Reality, not Racism, in Belair-Edison," published in The Sun on July 8.

It requires little imagination to know to whom Ms. Hess is referring when she states: "Race becomes the issue when one group of people witnesses the decline of its neighborhood, when a certain race comes into a neighborhood and within a few months stores are boarded up and merchants start leaving."

Without ever using the word "black," Ms. Hess makes unmistakable references to blacks with such phrases as "a certain race," "the ones who created the problem," "certain groups of people," "so many people in today's inner city" and "these people."

And she blanketly characterizes "these people" as: (1) having made the streets of Belair-Edison unsafe; (2) having chased away merchants and "hard-working" people like her; (3) providing little supervision or guidance for their children; (4) lacking pride in their homes and communities; (5) leading non-productive lives and (6) giving nothing back to the &r; community.

The other unnamed group (dare I guess that they are white?) are repeatedly characterized as "hard-working" and, by implication, as possessing all of the virtues that "a certain race" lacks.

Ms. Hess asks: "Isn't it only human nature to place the blame on the ones who created the problem?" That may be so, but if Ms. Hess believes that "the problem" was created by "certain groups of people" who live in concentrated poverty in the inner city, she is sadly mistaken.

The problem was created by those who held "certain groups of people" in involuntary servitude for 200 years and who then for 100 years after slavery ended continued to relegate them to second-class citizenship through discriminatory laws and practices.

If Ms. Hess believes that this legacy of slavery, discrimination and segregation, which has continued even after the 1954 Brown decision and the 1968 Civil Rights Act, has not adversely affected "certain groups of people," she is again quite mistaken.

Blacks have a legacy in this country, unlike any other immigrants, that has been so debilitating that their survival is a tribute to their resilience.

Even assuming that all discriminatory practices were to end tomorrow, the crippling effects of that legacy are likely to be with us for a long time.

Just as Ms. Hess feels that she was "fortunate" to have moved from Belair-Edison, many people now living there feel that they are fortunate to be part of this extraordinary community.

Rather than bemoaning the demise of a past when "a certain race" could not live in Belair-Edison, current residents are trying to create and maintain a community that embraces diversity.

They have problems, but, unlike Ms. Hess, they choose to stay and deal with those problems.

Like those who preceded them, they are hard-working. Unlike their predecessors, however, they come in a variety of colors, ethnic groups and religions. Even people of "a certain race" now live there.

Although I don't live in Belair-Edison, I know people, black and white, who do. I dare say that they take as much pride in their community as those who lived there earlier.

They do not feel that "it is a shame" that they did not move to Sykesville like Ms. Hess. I am sure that they wish her well wherever she chooses to live and would ask only that she accord them the same courtesy. They do not need to have themselves, their homes or their community denigrated, as Ms. Hess has done.

Not having lived in Belair-Edison for a long time, Ms. Hess knows little about the community today. She won't learn much about it from an occasional "venture down into the city."

I doubt that she'll ever be brave enough to venture into the "inner city," where the people live whom she holds in such obvious disdain. She knows nothing about them or their problems, and like the people in Belair-Edison, I am sure they would appreciate her refraining from denigrating them.

As a black person, I resent Ms. Hess' poorly veiled references to me and my people, as though the mere mention of the words "black" or "African-American" is itself racist. Ms. Hess seems much too anxious to deny the label.

Martin A. Dyer

Baltimore

The writer is associate director of Baltimore Neighborhoods Inc.

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After reading Linda Hess' letter, I just had to write.

I totally agree with every word she wrote. I too grew up in the Belair Road corridor and currently own a home in Gardenville. My son lives in Belair-Edison and has had his garage broken into twice. He is resigned to owning an old car because he fears a new one would be stolen, as his neighbors' cars have been.

If this could happen in Belair-Edison, it could happen in Gardenville. If we talk about our fears we are deemed to be racist. So we just talk to our neighbors and hope and pray that our neighborhood remains stable and we can stay in a neighborhood we love.

Unfortunately we can't count on any help from City Hall. Our neighborhoods have steadily gotten worse under Mayor Kurt Schmoke's leadership.

I just wish someone had some answers before it is too late.

Joan R. Beard

Baltimore

Old Town Mall and Belair Market

I am writing in response to the letter by David Borinsky (July 5) with regard to the proposed renewal amendment for the Old Town Mall Shopping Area.

As a past president of the Mall Merchant's Association and as one who was intimately involved in the formulation of the original renewal plan 25 years ago, I must agree with Mr. Borinsky that the Old Town Mall needs radical change and needs it without delay.

However, that is where my agreement with his letter ends. While a full response to his letter would be too lengthy for this limited space, I do want to address several issues that he raised.

Mr. Borinsky states -- twice -- that the current proposal would disrupt mall business for up to two years. Actually, the plan envisions a time frame of one year for demolition and construction once the properties are acquired and turned over to a developer.

Further, these properties are in a confined area on the north side of the mall, and customer access to businesses would not be effected in any way. He also states that no one at the recent Planning Commission hearing spoke "passionately" in favor of the plan. I have to wonder where he was during the more than one hour of "passionate" testimony given by residents and mall merchants in favor of the proposed supermarket.

Mr. Borinsky writes that mall merchants are in a "panic" and are willing to throw "fellow passengers overboard" to achieve our objectives. This is an outright distortion of the facts.

We are not in a panic. We are, however, vitally concerned about the continued stability of our retail area, and we, unlike the merchants in Belair Market, recognize that it will take more than Mr. Borinsky's paint and powder approach to renewal to make the Old Town area viable once more.

Lastly, Mr. Borinsky's letter completely ignored, for good reason, two of the most important elements of this debate.

The first is the often stated position of the Belair Market merchants that they do not want any private competition and that they will continue to fight to keep a food competitor out of Old Town Mall.

This position that they have taken is a matter of public record and has been openly expressed by the merchants at public meetings and with the media.

This arrogant contention that, for some reason, they should be protected by the city from competition does an incredible disservice not only to the community these merchants serve but to all Baltimore citizens who subsidize the public markets with their tax dollars.

The second element omitted by Mr. Borinsky is the overwhelming support for the supermarket proposal by the residents of Old Town. This plan would have never reached the Planning Commission or the City Council without total community involvement and approval, and it is my sense, from what I am hearing from my customers, that the residents of Old Town are extremely bitter that 27 Belair Market merchants could thwart, even temporarily, the expressed will of the community.

They are also upset at their elected officials who abruptly postponed the public hearing on the bill.

Hopefully, meetings during the summer will produce a comprehensive plan that is equitable to all, especially the community.

However, before that can happen, the merchants of Belair Market must learn that they do not operate in a vacuum and that they are subject to the same competitive forces as are the rest of us.

They must also learn that competition, which is the very basis upon which our economy is built, can be turned into a positive force if merchants are willing to change with the marketplace.

Lewis A. Goldstein

Baltimore

Objectivity about Disability

Five years since passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 30 years after the genesis of the disability rights movement -- but The Sun still sentimentalizes disability.

I am referring to Tom Keyser's story on wheelchair athletes June 8: "Athletics for them are often building blocks with which they reconstruct their broken lives."

Broken lives?

The athletes interviewed did not portray themselves as "broken" in spirit, finding "self-worth" only in sports. Members of the league are professionals, businessmen, fathers, husbands, sons, students. Surely their "self-worth" is not dependent on baseball!

But not until halfway through the story -- on the often skipped second page -- are the stereotypes dispelled by the athletes themselves.

Why not lead with the strength of the athletes' own perspectives? Instead, the story leads with the unfortunate remarks of Mike Naugle, coordinator of the recreation program, not himself a wheelchair athlete.

Setting the patronizing tone, the reporter quotes Mr. Naugle's reference to league members as "physically challenged," a euphemism coined in the 1970s. For most disability activists, calling persons with disabilities "physically challenged" is as absurd as calling African-Americans "pigment-challenged."

In contrast, the phrase "with a disability" is used as a term of cultural identity and an expression of pride in the disability rights movements. The term "disability" does not "dis."

Reinforcing stereotypes, the reporter quotes Naugle: "[Recreational activities are] important for [their] feeling of self-worth. They fill a void in these guys' lives." Michael Jordan must get a "feeling of self-worth" in competition, but who would ++ refer to a non-disabled athlete in that way? . . .

Can "human interest" stories on disability be done any other way? Yes! And most recently by two other Sun reporters:

Mary Maushard's "Disabled pupils blossom in their garden" (June 9) manages to treat situation and subject with respect and dignity -- and to avoid the euphemistic "intellectually-challenged" often favored by special education teachers.

And in "Teen heads for Special Olympics" (June 9; Carroll County edition), Ellie Baublitz writes about equestrian Adam Dunn without the paternalism so common in Special Olympics stories.

I challenge Sun reporters to write on disability with objectivity, to seek out disability assignments with substance and to delve deeply for the serious issues in every disability topic.

Where are the stories about employment discrimination, lack of accessible housing, institutionalization instead of independent living, the dearth of students with severe disabilities at Maryland colleges?

Marilynn J. Phillips

Hampstead

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