Protecting Baltimore's Lucas collection
Judge Joseph Kaplan undoubtedly knows fine points of the law but does he fully understand the mandate and role of museums? His decision that permits the Maryland Institute of Art to sell the Lucas collection would indicate he falls into the common misconception that museums are mausoleums -- places where inert, long-dead items are stored, some displayed to satisfy current taste or whimsy. Unfortunate.
Museums are not guardians of the irrelevant, unless one subscribes to the trendy, mindless rejection of the output of all dead white European males. For those, the vital dynamic nature of what is to be found in a museum will be forever self-denied. For what museums do best is show us what we were, what we are and what we can or should not want to be -- and not just what we are as Caucasians but as Asians, African-Americans and Native Americans. It's all there but only for the curious, wishing to know more.
What museums have on their walls and in the "stacks" are not simply objects to view aesthetically. These items are about ideas, both personal and social, about values, political and ethical; in short, about us. They tell us from where we came and how we define ourselves. We are comforted by a sense of continuity, a feeling for time and place. If these objects are not to be revered and preserved in museums -- where? Certainly they were never meant to be cast off like unneeded items in a garage sale.
The Lucas collection has been nurtured for 60 years by two of America's finest museums. Their curatorial efforts have burnished the collection to its current international stature. The collection did not stay in a hall closet like a bundle of baseball cards. It was endlessly studied, mounted for display, reviewed, cataloged, handled reverently with white cotton gloves, made available to scholars from around the world and students locally. This was a costly process that even Judge Kaplan concedes -- evident in his caveat that the institute may owe the museums a fee for 60 years of proprietorship.
But the museums are not interested in reimbursement. They are, correctly, appealing the decision. They assess George A. Lucas, a discerning and learned collector. His eye and values tell us much about his time and place -- 19th century France. Dismantled, we lose not only that part of our heritage -- we lose the man.
Baltimore is hemorrhaging. We have lost sports teams, corporations and tax-paying residents. What's next? Fort McHenry, if the price is right?
The bleeding must stop. This world-class collection should stay in Baltimore and remain intact.
Kenneth A. Willaman
We all pay a price for our indifference
As the welfare reform debate proceeded in the U.S. Congress, another drama unfolded before my eyes on my daily train commute from Baltimore.
At first I didn't notice. Perhaps the passenger shelter on the station platform looked a bit shabbier, but who could tell for sure amid the dreary urban setting? Days went by, and it became more obvious: a metal brace was detached and twisted one day; the next day an entire support post was gone. The scavengers -- "metal men" featured in an earlier Sun article -- were at work, trying to make a living selling to junk yards.
The two dramas moved in sequence. Each day's news reported another "savings" in a welfare reform proposal in Congress, and I watched as another piece of the passenger shelter disappeared.
Finally it happened. As I climbed the steps to the station platform, there was no escaping it: the passenger shelter was completely gone. The only remnants were a stripped bolt or two, and non-salable and now broken plastic roof panels tossed in the weeds.
That morning's paper reported that welfare "reform" reductions had passed both houses of Congress. How fitting a symbol of the future. Because of inadequate programs for the poor, I and my fellow job-holding commuters would wait for our trains unsheltered from the rain and snow. We all pay a price for indifference.
Living wills and power of attorney
The Sept. 28 story by Ed Brandt, "Patients can stop intervention," discusses a new law in Maryland which allows persons to make known their wishes relative to resuscitation or care in a medical emergency or crisis.
Mr. Brandt stated, "Many elderly people have a living will, which designates a relative to make the life and death decision, but paramedics will recognize only the form or the bracelet because the new laws shields them against lawsuits as long as they 'act in good faith.' "
The often misnamed "living will" is a life-sustaining declaration. The declaration does not designate a relative to make a life-and-death decision, if not being kept on a life support system is the desire of the individual, but removes that responsibility from the family, which is one of its great benefits.
There is a medical power of attorney, which empowers, under recently approved Maryland legislation, an individual to make medical decisions.
Some law firms include the life-sustaining declaration in their medical power of attorney.
However, the decision to remove from life support is not given to the person designated as medical power of attorney, but is still a decision made by the individual executing the document.
Malcolm Joseph Bond
Three religions are connected
In an Oct. 6 letter, Margaret D. Pagan took issue with columnist Gregory Kane's reference to "the Judeo-Christian-Islamic" tradition, insisting that history does not warrant his inclusion of Islam in the phrase. While she accepts the relationship between Judaism and Christianity because "Christ references himself to the Jews," she does not see the similar relationship between Islam and these earlier traditions.
Perhaps Ms. Pagan is unaware that Islam recognized Jesus and the earlier Jewish figures as prophets. Islam did not spring into being from a void. Just as Christianity's recognition of earlier prophets reveals its connection to Judaism, so too does Islam's recognition of Christian and Jewish prophets reveal its connection to both traditions -- as well as the accuracy of Mr. Kane's phrase.
Julie E. Kraft
Verdict in Simpson case sparks varied reactions
My reaction to the O. J. Simpson verdict: In my head, I can clearly see how the jury could respond with reasonable doubt to the evidence presented by the prosecution. In my heart, I believe that he did it. This leaves me with a sick feeling in my stomach.
Ultimately, I am going to keep faith in one thing that Johnnie Cochran said in his closing argument: Truth crushed to earth will rise again.
Brenda C. Brisbon
In this country, a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty; O. J. Simpson was guilty until proven innocent.
The only way to be sure a jury renders a fair verdict is to insist that each jury consist of three whites, three blacks, three Asians and three Hispanics. There should also be six males and six females.
When a jury is predominantly one race, it's pretty obvious that people get away with murder. God help us.
No one verdict divided this already divided nation. The racial lines of division were drawn when the first slave ship arrived in America in 1619. These lines were further made evident by the Plessy vs. Ferguson decision in 1896. We were again reminded of these racial barriers at the time of the Rodney King verdict in May of 1992. And Oct. 3, 1995, as the world watched in suspense for the Simpson verdict, we were but again reminded of the consequences of race and injustice in America.
The one thing that this verdict has made evidently clear is that the so-called obscure lines of injustice and race are perhaps now clearly seen by, as a dear friend of mine has so eloquently put it, the other America. These lines have always been there. They have always been clearly drawn; however, they have only been seen by our America.
What perhaps we have seen for the first time in America's history the barrier of race being moved from the other America's background to their foreground. Perhaps now we can all see that injustice and race in America are intricately interwoven into our system of alleged justice. Has the other America now had a glimpse of our America's justice?
Paris M. Brice
I'm African American and it seems to me that all a defense lawyer has to do to get the acquittal of a black murderer being tried before a black jury is to tell or convince that black jury that the white man is out to "get" or "frame" the "brother" because the messenger is more important than the message.
The evidence was there, but that jury would not have convicted O.J. Simpson if Marsha Clarke had been able to turn back the hands of time and let the jury witness the crime being committed as it was being filmed on video tape. That jury would have sworn that it was a look-alike who committed the crime.
The results of the O. J. Simpson trial confirmed for a national audience what has been known in Baltimore since the recent acquittal of the black man accused of murdering Joel Lee.
A predominantly black jury will not always deliver a fair and impartial verdict in a case with a black defendant.
After O. J. Simpson was acquitted of murdering his ex-wife and Ron Goldman, his son read a statement that Simpson would devote the rest of his life to finding the true killers. I believe his life could be better spent. After all the publicity concerning his frequent beatings of his ex-wife, Mr. Simpson should devote his life to eliminating spouse abuse.
Before long he will write a book and possibly begin endorsements of various products. If he donated 100 percent of the profits from his future activities to charities helping battered women and children, we would finally see something very positive from an extremely disheartening experience.
The people of the United States served jury duty in the O. J. Simpson case for a long, long time. Now obviously, it was a big case, but was it "the trial of the century"?
Was the Simpson case really on the same level of importance as the Nuremberg trials of the Nazi leadership responsible for the Holocaust and World War II?
For those millions who died as a result of the horrors of Hitler's Third Reich, the Nuremberg trials, not the O. J. Simpson case, should be remembered as the "trial of the century."
"I found the prosecution's 'ocean of evidence' fatally poisoned . . So apparently did the jurors." "If 90 percent of the evidence against him had been excluded . . . the remaining 10 percent would have sufficed [to convict]."
These two statements appeared on the same page of The Sun on Oct. 5. The first statement was by columnist Carl T. Rowan and the second by columnist George Will.
They are representative of the differing conclusions reached by the overwhelming majority of black and white Americans in response to the O. J. Simpson verdict.
What is striking is that so many intelligent people, who would not be considered racists by anyone, examined the evidence in what they believed to be an evenhanded manner but were so polarized in their opinions along racial lines.
It is quite a comment on our self-processed objectivity. There's a phrase that neatly describes this situation, and quite a few others for that matter. "I wouldn't have seen it if I hadn't believed it."
When historians discuss the fall of the Roman empire, the reasons given range widely from lead plumbing to overextension of the military. The truth is that a civilization declines from forces undermining all of its foundations. With the Simpson trial, the world has witnessed the prop of our justice system being kicked out from under both black and white alike. It took Rome hundreds of years to complete its downward spiral. I fear it will take us much less.
As a black man who thinks O. J. Simpson is guilty, I do not see his acquittal as a race issue. It was more of a money issue. John DeLorean and the Menendez brothers were obviously guilty, but the wealthy can buy their way out of criminal punishment.
This is just a circumstance where a black man was able to benefit from "rich man's justice." He was able to afford a legal team that played any and every angle necessary to win. Their skill and expertise at manipulating facts and circumstances was superior to that of the prosecution.
I believe that, like Newt Gingrich and his followers, Johnnie Cochran played the race card for his own selfish purposes even though it was detrimental to national race relations.
Based on black reaction to the trial and acquittal of O. J. Simpson, there is no doubt that an "O. J. Schwartz" -- a rich, wife-beating white stud who was accused of murdering his black wife, someone like the singer Whitney Houston, and her black friend -- would have been found guilty by the same jury.
I believe that a poll taken of whites, based on the same evidence and circumstances, would have been virtually the same regarding the guilt of an O. J. Schwartz, as it was with O. J. Simpson.
And I believe that a poll taken of whites regarding the possibility of a Colin Powell presidency would be virtually the same, whether General Powell was white or black. No doubt, there are many white Mark Fuhrmans. But, based on the polls, more than 70 percent of blacks, led by Johnnie Cochran, have identified themselves as black Fuhrmans and poured a bucket of gasoline on the smoldering embers of racism.
The backlash from the O. J. Simpson case will unfortunately end the political hopes of retired Gen. Colin Powell unless he immediately denounces, in no uncertain terms, the gross travesty of justice that occurred in Los Angeles.
He must seize the initiative now and strike while the iron is still hot, or it will be too late.