Senate apology shows bigotry is on the decline
So the U.S. Senate has formally apologized for the crime of lynching or, more specifically, for its failure to enact the more than 200 bills offered that would have made it a federal crime - a failure that cost the lives of thousands of African-American men, women and children between the end of the Civil War and 1968 ("Senate apologizes for lynching inaction," June 14).
The fact that this resolution cannot restore the lives of these lost souls or ease the continued suffering of their survivors and descendants is but a small piece of the larger picture, for the act itself represents another small step in this nation's concerted effort to come to grips with the darker elements of its past.
It is symbolic of America's attempt to heal the racial divide, to make this one day one nation, regardless of race, and where the dogmas of the stormy past do not block the sunlight of our future spring.
Bigotry is alive in America, but it is not well, and this resolution is a testament that its days are numbered - that we will one day become a country where race has no place in our life or culture.
Of that we can all be proud.
Eric Dale Smith
Act next to stem anti-gay violence
I am gratified that the U.S. Senate took the morally responsible and courageous act of apologizing for its inaction during the lynchings that terrorized African-Americans in the 20th century ("Senate apologizes for lynching inaction," June 14).
This action, though late, must offer some measure of comfort to the souls and families of James Cameron, Emmett Till and Anthony Crawford.
In the same spirit of accepting the pain and loss of minorities as our own, I challenge the Senate to act again.
Lynchings still take place - only the victims are not African-Americans but homosexual persons, who are murdered in cold blood by people whose actions are sometimes defended by unscrupulous lawyers who use the "gay panic" defense.
This defense argues that since the victim "came onto" the murderer, or in some other way made the murderer uncomfortable in his sexual identity, the murderer was justified in acting out violently, often beating, stabbing or strangling his victim.
It merely takes a Google search on "gay panic" to see the toll this defense has taken on our country.
If the Senate is sincere in its remorse, let it take a lesson from history.
Let it outlaw the "gay panic" defense and pass stronger laws against hate crimes against homosexual persons.
Let judges decide criminal verdicts
I am against trial by jury. Watching the outcome of the Michael Jackson trial and thinking of my experiences in the jury box have convinced me that there is nothing that a jury can produce by its presence in a courtroom that is better then the decision of a judge ("Weighing celebrity justice," June 15).
A judge is better qualified to call on his or her experiences as a professional and has much more understanding of a case than a lay person does.
The current jury system cannot be justified because a judge is already in the courtroom for the same job.
More cases could be resolved by the courts more quickly and efficiently if we discontinued the awesome burden of corralling regular citizens to carry out an antiquated duty.
When will we hold Bush accountable?
It is a milestone that The Sun has printed a column in which the word "impeachment" is used in conjunction with President Bush ("Damning evidence can't be ignored," Opinion * Commentary, June 15). It is about time.
The authors are, of course, referring to the Downing Street memo, in which it is stated that "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy" of removing Saddam Hussein through military action months before congressional authorization to attack Iraq.
As the bumper sticker says, "No one died when Clinton lied."
We have gone to war, and the war in Iraq has killed more than 1,700 U.S. troops, injured thousands more physically and psychologically and killed tens of thousands of Iraqis, injuring at least as many. And it was all based on lies.
What will it take for this country to hold our highest leaders accountable?
Public's will ignored on medical marijuana
Clarence Page argued that the public needs to make itself heard on the medical cannabis situation ("Supreme Court overreaches with medical marijuana ruling," Opinion * Commentary, June 10).
But the public has made itself heard - some surveys have found that 80 percent of the public believes using cannabis for medicinal purposes should be legal.
The problem is that federal officials - elected and unelected - aren't listening. And unfortunately, there are so many issues on the table that no elected official is likely to lose an election based on this one small issue. Also, most people aren't directly affected by this issue, and it does not have the visceral appeal of abortion or gay marriage.
But considering the absolutely slavish devotion to polls practiced by most of Washington's power elite, it's difficult to imagine another issue on which public opinion is so lopsided that isn't being addressed.
Obviously, some very powerful special interests are at work.
Fine the litterbugs trashing the city
The writer of the letter "Train city dwellers to use trash cans" (June 15) was right on target.
Baltimore may be "The City that Reads," but apparently many city dwellers have no concept of what a trash can is, how to identify one or what it is used for. I see this each and every day, and it just shows a complete lack of care by a growing number of citizens.
They don't care about themselves, much less the city. It's just a shame that someone - i.e., the employees of the Downtown Partnership - must follow these slovenly individuals and pick up after them.
Maybe it's time to take this situation seriously and begin issuing $25 citations for littering the streets and sidewalks of Baltimore.
Tall buildings alter an area's character
Tall buildings cast long shadows ("Height rules will help renew Mount Vernon," letters, June 16). Erected in a closely built area, they change the light patterns and also wind patterns, and alter the whole neighborhood atmosphere.
Mary O. Styrt