Don't limit freedom to seek sensitivity

There is a dangerous trend, often reinforced by the media and politicians, to "split the difference," to be "fair and balanced" or to "capture the middle." But when an important debate is treated in a fashion designed only to produce compromise, this approach can violate both reason and progress.

For example, those who believe the world is round should not be told to modify their position or to try and find a middle ground because their beliefs are offensive to those who still are convinced the world is flat. Science professors who teach the theory of evolution shouldn't be forced to compromise science because evolution offends believers in creationism and intelligent design.

And no democracy should sacrifice any freedom of expression on the altar of sensitivity to the beliefs of others, including Muslims ("Deep anger, not cartoons, spurred Muslim protests," Feb. 9).

Generations of Americans sacrificed their lives to protect offensive speech. This means Americans, unhappily but peacefully, watch protesters in the United States and around the globe desecrate their flag and make inflammatory statements.

Western governments and their diverse citizenry do not respond to provocative language with death threats and destruction.

Contrast this picture with the recent reaction of much of the Islamic world to an unflattering cartoon of Muhammad published in several European newspapers.

The cartoon provoked some Muslim demonstrators to demand death for anyone involved in the alleged defamation.

Death, destruction of embassies and violent threats are not acceptable responses to a cartoon, and nothing should be said or done by any democratic government that diminishes freedom of expression.

The irony is that the violent Muslim reaction, in the name of religion, confirmed the Danish cartoonist's point.

Roger C. Kostmayer


Violence destroys respect for divine

I can understand the Muslims' anger over the cartoons because I also feel anger when people disparage my faith and the G-d of Israel ("Deep anger, not cartoons, spurred Muslim protests," Feb. 9). But I would never think of doing anything to physically harm people or destroy their property to release my anger.

Why? Because we are all created in the image of G-d and therefore we must embellish our religion and our Lord's image in a positive way through the way we respect each other.

While I certainly understand how the images of the cartoon are offensive to Muslims, it's also blasphemy to promote violence and hate in G-d's name.

There are ways to get our respective prophets' and our Almighty Creator's spiritual message across without violence. And all people of faith have an obligation and responsibility to present the divine image as holy and as one that inspires peace, not hate.

Like the imams who denounce these cartoons, I also denounce the anti-Semitic cartoons that are prevalent in the newspapers of various Muslim nations.

But that does not give me the right to engage in violence or terrorism just because I am offended by their prejudice against me as a person of the Jewish faith.

Instead, my response would be to give my love, respect and kindness to those Muslim leaders who do not promote violence in their prophet's name.

Barbara Ann Bloom

Owings Mills

Giving up privacy won't ensure safety

In the argument over the eavesdropping by the National Security Agency without a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the choice typically presented is over whether we should give up privacy in exchange for security ("Congress gets briefing on secret NSA program," Feb. 9). That, however, is a false choice. Giving up privacy is no guarantee of security.

There is also no guarantee that privacy rights so easily surrendered will ever be restored.

Mark E. Romanoff


Tower on Light Street shows city moving up

Reading of the proposed tower for 414 Light St., I must say I am very excited and I support this development 100 percent ("Harbor may get tallest building," Feb. 1).

Baltimore would benefit greatly from this world-class new building.

Most cities are recognized by their signature skylines.

When you think of New York City, you think about the Empire State Building. When you think of San Francisco, you think of the Transamerica Pyramid or the Golden Gate Bridge.

So many cities have one or two signature structures in their skylines that define the entire city's image.

Now Baltimore has a chance to get a signature tower, which it sorely lacks right now and which would help define its image. That offers a marketing extravaganza, a metaphor for which way Baltimore's future is going: up.

Height should not be an issue. The design shouldn't be one, either. Building very tall and slender towers is a lot better than building towers that are wide, bulky and short.

It's about time that a developer wanted to build a tower worthy of national - no, international - recognition in Baltimore.

I hope the good people of Baltimore will join me in saying "thank you" to ARC Wheeler Group for bringing to Baltimore such an exciting project.

Steve Wyatt

Newberry, S.C.

The writer is a participant in a Web site that focuses on urban architecture.

Legislator is also part of House race

In his column "A year for choosing leaders - and directions" (Opinion * Commentary, Feb. 5), I worry that C. Fraser Smith forgot that state Sen. Paula C. Hollinger is in the House race in Maryland's 3rd District.

It is true that there are so many people in that race that it is hard to keep track, but I was surprised when "legislator" was not included with the list of "doctors, lawyers, former members of Congress, county executives, TV reporters, sons of U.S. senators and others" Mr. Smith reported to be running.

Being a state legislator would seem to carry much more weight than being a TV reporter or being anyone's son.

This is especially true in Maryland's 3rd District, which is now represented by a former state legislator, Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, who is running for the U.S. Senate.

Charles A. Neustadt


Politics demeans King's memorial

The transformation of last week's solemn funeral for Coretta Scott King by several of the speakers into a partisan political rally was disgraceful, disgusting and inappropriate ("A spirited service filled with tears, laughter, politics," Feb. 8)

Their ranting, self-absorbed attacks on the attending president and current administration policy were rude and shameful.

It seems to me that the apparently coordinated effort (with each partisan spokesman addressing a different point regularly advanced by Democratic partisans) only highlights the sad state of the current Democratic Party, and the odd venues it chooses for its constant, partisan rampage.

Paul Belz


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