Flag and petty officers reflect same standards
With regard to your Nov. 26 editorial, "The Admiral Walks the Plank," I find myself agreeing that Adm. Richard Macke's words were entirely inappropriate and utterly boorish.
What I object to is your claim that his comments "might have been understandable from a petty officer." Why?
How do you come to the conclusion that a petty officer might be expected to make such a statement, but not a flag officer?
The petty officer ranks are the backbone of navies the world over.
As in the officer ranks, you will find intelligent, dedicated, well-trained people; being non-commissioned makes us neither dullards nor boors.
As in the officer ranks, you will also find less than savory characters.
To insinuate that the ignorance shown by one man tarred by the dumb-brush might have been expected from a whole group of people is to slight those of us who take pride in the crow on our sleeves.
Don't expect troops to be abstinent
Adm. Richard C. Macke, commander in chief of the American military forces in the East Asian and Pacific region, was forced into early retirement after a remark he made about the three military men who are now being tried for rape in Okinawa.
He severely criticized the rape and went on to say that for the price they paid to rent the car that they had used, the assailants could have paid for sex. Most veterans or men in the military today would agree with him.
Let's be realistic about this issue. Are all military men during war or in peacetime expected to practice abstinence?
After the end of World War II, occupation troops were sent to Japan and the military was mindful of the fact that while they were in the Philippine Islands, the venereal disease rate in the islands was astronomical among GIs. Safe houses were made available to service men who wanted to engage in sex. The girls were periodically examined by the medics to ensure safe sex. All went well and venereal disease plummeted.
Then GIs began going stateside and eventually were discharged. Soon the word got around about the safe houses. Life magazine ran a story about them and the outcry by some outraged parents and moralists was so great that Gen. Douglas MacArthur was forced to close them all down.
It seemed perfectly all right for the cream of America's crop to be wounded or even die in battle, but for them to engage in sex -- heaven forbid. As a veteran of the Pacific theater, and a member of the occupation troops that went on to Japan, I salute Admiral Macke for telling it like it is. I am certain that most veterans and men in the military today will agree with me.
Fatherless families have tragic void
It was with sadness that I looked at the Thanksgiving Day picture and accompanying article on the front page of the Nov. 24 Sun. The photo showed two mothers serving children dinner. Husbands/fathers for these families were nowhere to be seen, nor were they mentioned in the article.
Even with the tender love these mothers clearly have for their children, the absence of a father for these growing boys and girls is indeed a tragedy.
I, as many others, believe most of our social ills can be traced to the increasing rarity of the traditional family structure. Especially in our cities, the nuclear family is getting tough to find.
Crime, drugs, poverty, lack of education, undeveloped work ethics and moral values -- a strong family is the best defense against all of these social diseases.
I hope the young children in the photo grow up true and strong, but if they're without loving fathers, they're starting with two strikes against them.
State workers don't need smoking breaks
How interesting to read (Nov. 17, "Maryland set to sue tobacco companies") that the state is trying to recoup the $50 million it spends treating smoke-related illnesses. Maryland would cut expenses considerably if it did not permit state workers to smoke during working hours. Although smoking in state offices is banned, any state employee is permitted to leave the building for unlimited smoking breaks for unlimited amounts of time each day.
This can be observed by anyone who works downtown near 6 Saint Paul Street, which is for the most part a state office building. At any given time, state workers can be found in social groups puffing away at cigarettes for as long as they please. They take as many smoking breaks as they please. The governor can observe this at any time, as he also has an office in this building.
Welcome, hon, NFL belongs here
All I can say is, "Way to go!" NFL football is back where it belongs.
Thank you, Art Modell. No matter what the sports writers at The Sun say, I think we all should say, "Welcome to Baltimore, hon."
First Amendment and public school
In her Nov. 17 column, "Christmas dissonance," Mona Charen misconstrues the very ideals of religious freedom and tolerance that this country was founded upon.
She has taken the First Amendment, 48 years of Supreme Court rulings and the actions of a 16-year-old Jewish student attending a public high school in Utah, and distorted them to promote her own views of religious freedom.
Ms. Charen condemns the student, Rachel Bauchman, for having requested that the school provide a balance in the religious music sung at a graduation ceremony -- a ceremony which included two Christmas songs and no other religious music.
At issue in this case is not the suppression of "any expression whatsoever of Christian spirit," as repeatedly asserted by Ms. Charen, but rather the inclusion of other religious music such that the school, as an arm of the government, is not giving preference to one religion over that of another.
In short, Ms. Bauchman requested that the school comply with the mandates of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which provides that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."
Such compliance is not synonymous with the "secular[ization] of every aspect of life that can be called public."
On the contrary, the Establishment Clause aims to foster and protect the freedom to practice one's religious beliefs.
To suggest that "religious Jews never bring cases like this," because they are "so well grounded in their own faith that they do not feel threatened," is offensive and inaccurate.
As a practical matter, if, in her characterization of "religious" Jews, Ms. Charen is referring to Orthodox Jews, a large percentage of their children attend parochial schools and are rarely faced with the difficult and painful dilemma of school-sponsored religion.
More importantly, Ms. Charen's link between religiosity and "well groundedness" is flawed. Our faith teaches us that religious tolerance and inclusion should be pursued.
Rabbi Joel H. Zaiman
The writer is president of the Baltimore Jewish Council.