City's editorial staff seems compelled to spout the party line of the extreme left, even when events point to warfare as the only reasonable solution to the problem of Iraq and the Middle East in general ("The State We're In," February 5). Like the song says, must be a virus of the mind.
Your most obvious problem is the failure to see that the Middle East is in a degenerate state and will continue to slip as long as religion plays a significant role in government. Sort of like the slippage we see in Rochester, when you have people in government guided by religious principles instead of a sound understanding of humanity.
Which brings us to Bush: While he understands the need to take care of business in Iraq as soon as possible, he also is allowing religious convictions to control what needs to be done in the Middle East.
Frankly, what is needed is the complete and utter destruction of the degenerate culture of many of the states making up the Middle East. Without a doubt, there is no way to do that without targeting the civilian population. So if City's editorial staff gets upset over a few body parts scattered over the battlefield, I imagine it would really upset you to see a whole city's worth piled in a heap.
The choices we have are extremely limited, and when the enemy is as much a culture as it is a state or individual, we will have to learn to deal with the horrific results of war if we expect to ever have peace on this earth.
Finally, the extreme left seems to be ignoring the one thing that makes Iraq particularly dangerous: the technology of biological weapons. The possibilities are far more dangerous than anything the world has faced in the past. Even though people would like to believe that we have the nuclear arms to destroy the world 10 times over, that is really not the case. Nuclear events would likely be limited to the combatant states; biological weapons, on the other hand, would not respect borders. It's a scary thought indeed that some dumb Arab, with no moral control over his actions, is sitting in a lab developing biological agents.
David A. Frantz, Bayway Drive, Webster
Jack Spula's "Peacemaking: Pick Your Role" (February 5) made it clear that the peace movement is growing around the world.
President Bush seems to view the US demonstrations as harmless mosquitoes, but he might better think "West Nile Virus": effects delayed, but noticeable.
The administration has definitely been affected by enlightened masses convening, and may be pushing to attack Iraq before more people get the true picture. At present, mainly uninformed or misinformed citizens want a preemptive strike.
The discrepancies among reported total participants in demonstrations are annoying. The January 18 Washington march total was somewhere between 100,000 and 500,000. The October Washington march was initially given as 100,000 and later, in the Washington Post and on NPR, as 200,000. Those who attended both said that the second one was much bigger, probably 350,000 or 400,000.
On a small scale, rallies across the country often represent a significant percentage of a town's population. For instance, in Lubec, Maine, 60 of the 1600 population demonstrated on January 18.
Whatever the numbers, those with the guts to march represent many more: friends, family, and other members of their groups, such as MetroJustice, labor unions, religious congregations, and political parties.
Marches, rallies, letters, meetings, and phone calls can all be effective in exposing those who present deceptive "evidence" favoring war.
Even mosquitoes could affect the "killer bees" in Washington.
Byrna Weir, Chelmsford Road, Brighton
On billboards across western New York, their gargantuan heads loom, and they taunt you from the spine of your telephone book. Perhaps you've seen their television commercials, or even had nightmares where their bodiless noggins chase you down a dark, dead-end alley. You know who I'm talking about: Cellino and Barnes.
I understand they have a right to advertise wherever and whenever they choose. But what about our right not to suffer the incessant visual onslaught of their ads? What recourse do we have? Organizing a boycott? Pooling our funds to purchase any media they threaten to permeate? Writing them letters pleading for clemency? Or maybe creating a cleverly named organization like RACAB: Rochesterians Against Cellino and Barnes?
I don't know what the most appropriate course of action is, but I do know this: Cellino and Barnes must be stopped!
Amanda Dye, Birch Crescent, Rochester
Good people with guns
In "Crime: the Means and the Ends" (January 15), Jack Bradigan Spula shows that like other proponents of strict handgun control, he's been sucked into a black hole in terms of logic. He points out incidents like the Columbine shootings as a reason for tighter gun control. He implies that although millions of Americans own guns in a safe, responsible manner, this should end because a minority of parents are too lazy, stupid, or busy to teach their children to respect life and settle disagreements in nonviolent ways. Based on this, are we to believe that because road rage is common state of mind for some drivers, none of us should have cars?
Thirteen percent of home burglaries in America are committed while the occupants are home. In countries where it's difficult or impossible for citizens to own handguns, the rates are far higher. In Canada, the rate of "hot" burglaries is four times higher. In Holland, the rate is 48 percent, and 59 percent in England.
In an article for Arizona Law Revue, author David Kopel makes the reason clear. He quotes the results of interviews with apprehended burglars, who explain that their greatest fear was coming face to face with an armed homeowner who's got the legal right to do whatever's necessary to maintain the safety of his or her home. See www.davekopel.org.
Jack, talk to some of your best friends, your favorite people. Some of them own guns. But, they're loving people who own guns quietly, safely, and responsibly. They are not part of some mythical "gun culture." They don't put on camouflage outfits when they go to the corner convenience store for milk and a newspaper. And if you think about it, they may be the reason you have the freedom to write whatever you want.
Can you say with any certainty that given a couple of more years in office, Richard Nixon might not have become the next Pol Pot or Idi Amin? Accounts of his behavior in office indicate that the "madman theory" was more than a description of his threats against North Vietnam. It described his hostility toward domestic opponents. Had Nixon gone over the edge and decided to make Kent State massacres into regular practice, do you suppose an armed citizenry would've been a good thing or a bad thing?
The typical spew is that human nature being what it is, citizens cannot be trusted to own guns. You might lose your job or your significant other, go bonkers, buy a gun, and start killing people. The spew neglects to mention that our leaders are human, and are as untrustworthy as the rest of us. This isn't paranoid conspiracy theory. This is an honest assessment of human nature, so popular with the anti-gun lobby.
To answer the article's final question, "So which will come first, America's response or the next Columbine?," I say "Teach your children well." Teach them to love hard, but at the same time, to understand that sometimes we have to do what's necessary.
Doug Kanter, Irondequoit
Jack Bradigan Spula responds: Kopel, associated with National Review and the libertarian Independence Institute, makes it clear in one essay that his at-home burglary figure for Canada (48 percent) comes from a Toronto, not a nationwide survey. His geographic and ideological opposite, Australian computer scientist and gun control advocate Tim Lambert, says Canada's nationwide rate is actually 10 percent, lower than in the US.
In any case, Canadians seem to be less amorous toward weapons as security blankets. A 1998 Canada Department of Justice report said less than 5 percent of respondents kept a gun for protection, while nearly 40 percent did so in the US. And as we've seen, rates of gun violence and victimization are considerably higher in the US than in Canada and other "advanced nations" (if we still belong to that club).
A parting shot: I suffered through the Watergate era, and neither I nor anyone I knew took refuge in gun ownership as protection against Nixon. The civilized approach --- early impeachment --- would have done nicely and would have saved a lot of Vietnamese lives, too.
Learning to forgive
Regarding the letters critiquing Frank Howard's letter to City (The Mail, January 8; "Thou Shalt Not Kill," December 24):
Although there are similarities, the practices, rituals, and deities of Tibetan and Zen Buddhism differ. Both do, however, I believe, understand the idea of a "bodhisattva," and the importance of compassionate forgiveness.
When Mr. Howard speaks of his teacher, His Eminence Garchen Rinpoche, referring to President Bush as a "bodhisattva," the reader must understand the heart through which these teachings come. The idea of President Bush being a bodhisattva may seem outrageous, but when viewed through the heart of a person with Rinpoche's background and incredible real-life training, it takes on a new meaning.
Visit China or Tibet some time. You will see that we have an abundance of luxuries here in the US. In China and many other countries, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the self.
Mr. Howard referenced Rinpoche in talking about one of the highest and greatest teachings one can master in this life: unconditional forgiveness and love. Rinpoche's reference to President Bush as a bodhisattva is reflective of his own personal practice of overcoming fear, anger, and bitterness at the hands of horror. He has mastered these teachings well enough in his own life to view another person as a holy being of peace.
I have attended many of the wonderful talks that the Amitahba Foundation has brought here to Rochester, and have been amazed by the peaceful spirits of the teachers. These teachers have seen suffering, and they have overcome it. Now, they can speak of forgiveness and great strength.
I am not a practicing Buddhist, but I learn from all spiritual teachings, especially Buddhism and Taoism. I have a teacher in China who has a lifetime of practice in both traditions. A few months ago, he said: "You must be able to forgive everyone, even a person who has done a very bad thing. This is power."
Not a popular teaching in a world that embraces selfishness.
Blessings and thanks to both Mr. Howard and Mr. Kholhede and to the people of both Buddhist centers. The teachings are not always easy or convenient, but they are of the heart, and that is what matters most.
Charlene Bush, Upton Park, Rochester
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