- The Washington Times - Friday, June 30, 2000

'Pointless, divisive and counterproductive'

Clarence Page advocates reparations, essentially for blacks, although the form of the reparations is not discussed ("Why apologies still matter," Commentary, June 28). Also not discussed is how to determine them on an individual or communal basis.

I think the idea is foolish. In a heterogeneous society such as ours, there is almost no group that cannot claim to be aggrieved at some time or another.

As Mr. Page points out, people of Italian descent may have claims, so might the Irish. Certainly if they do, those of Chinese descent can make claims, as can those of Jewish descent. All of these groups, not to mention the disabled, have grounds to claim reparations if blacks do. It may just be a matter of degree.

Further, would we cumulate them? Would a disabled black person get double reparations? How about a disabled person of Chinese descent?

We'll all be providing reparations to each other, perhaps without end. Think of all the lawsuits that will be generated. The proposal is not what society needs: It is just more grounds for divisiveness.

Why does Mr. Page think the Civil War and all the blood spilled in it, together with the Emancipation Proclamation, the 13th Amendment, Brown vs. Board of Education, the civil rights acts, and so forth, as well as the efforts to enforce them, which are ongoing, are insufficient?

Yes, in my view, the Civil War was about slavery, and it would almost certainly not have been fought if slavery was not an issue, despite what some defenders of the Confederate cause have said.

I think it is nonsense to say that this country hasn't faced up to the wrongs done to blacks. I think there comes a time when you do have to move on, and individuals must take responsibility for achieving success. Blaming the past is getting to be old hat and, I think, counterproductive. Blacks are just as competent as any other group in our society.

Making certain that groups are not subjected to institutional bias is what the country needs to keep doing, but to do more than that would be wrong.

ROBERT A. DUBLIN

Annandale

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Clarence Page is wrong to suggest that Americans need to investigate painstakingly every possible instance in our past of discrimination "against a people because of race, creed, gender or ethnicity." Such self-flagellation is pointless, divisive and counterproductive.

We know all we need to know. Yes, there is discrimination in America's past. It was wrong. But sometimes it was committed by the federal government, and sometimes by states, and other times by individuals. So what are "we" supposed to do about it?

Besides, in most instances, the individuals involved villain and victim are now dead. And it is impossible to untangle the past and determine what would have happened to someone living today had an individual generations ago been treated differently.

Focusing on past wrongs done to someone's ancestors inevitably distracts individuals from taking responsibility for their futures. And it misses the forest for the trees. Yes, America has made mistakes, but its history remains an inspiring march in which it has led the world to unrivaled freedom and opportunity for all its people.

ROGER CLEGG

General counsel

Center for Equal Opportunity

Washington

Columnist needs some 'parental advice'

I don't know where the Cato Institute's Darcy Ann Olsen is coming from, but it sounds more like an ivory tower than the real world of working parents that I inhabit ("Canceling summer vacation," Commentary, June 20).

Ms. Olsen suggests that government could do more for families by doing less to support after-school programs. Is she kidding?

My child was on a waiting list for months on end for an after-school program. I was lucky enough to be able to take my lunch hour late, get him when the school day ended and leave him in my office's conference room until I finished work.

I had a job relatively close to my son's school and an understanding supervisor. Most working moms aren't so lucky and have to worry about their children being unsupervised and looking for excitement.

Like Ms. Olsen, I believe it helps children to sit down to dinner with parents. I ate dinner with my son every night, but I could have done that too if he had spent the afternoon engaged in enriching activities in an affordable, quality after-school program, rather than alone in a conference room.

If The Washington Times is going to run columns about child care, try to understand what parents like me are going through to care for our children.

JENA CARTWRIGHT

Arlington

The Supreme Court of postmodernism

Paul Greenberg got it wrong when he expressed the hope that the Supreme Court, in future cases, "will yet show greater tolerance for religion" ("Schools as prayer-free zones," Commentary, June 25).

The members of the court who voted down student-led prayers before Texas high school football games are doctrinaire postmodernists who want to employ the police power of the state to coerce fundamental changes on the moral values of our society. Their hostility toward public expressions of religious faith is a core philosophical belief, which none of us should imagine these life-tenured jurists are likely to abandon during their remaining time on the court.

Ironically, this decision probably will do more to hasten the demise of public schools than public prayer. America's parents understand, even if a majority of the court does not, that faith is the principal wellspring of wholesome values and that "value-free education" is an oxymoron.

Please note that three of the top five finalists in the recent national spelling bee were children who are being home-schooled.

THOMAS E. WILSON

Washington

D.C. curfew law is a childish measure

Some police officers apparently know what government officials will never understand: Many laws are better left unenforced.

Such is the case with the curfew law, which "D.C. police have virtually stopped enforcing" ("Curfew violation reports decline," June 26).

We might account for the decline in arrests of young people who go outside after curfew by considering that police officers may justifiably resent being baby sitters for the District's irresponsible parents, when the police department could be using its resources (i.e., our tax dollars) in more important ways.

The separation of powers between the branches of government must be frustrating for curfew supporters in the legislative branch. They stamp their feet as police officers ignore the "problem" of young people staying up past their government-mandated bedtimes.

These lawmakers should consider the situation from a different perspective. If average D.C. residents were to witness crimes such as rape, murder or theft, their first impulse would be to stop the offenders or notify authorities. If these same residents were to witness a game of roller hockey between teen-agers who are out past 11 p.m., however, they would not see the activity as a horrible atrocity but as a laudable example of young people who actively strive to enjoy life.

Why should police officers react any differently?

Instead of spending more taxpayer money on police enforcement of the curfew and upwards of $15 million on rigid recreational services and after-school programs to prevent youth from "hanging around on the streets," officials such as Mayor Anthony A. Williams should allow young people to experience the world in freedom so they can devise their own constructive ways to pass the time.

If we decriminalize free time for teen-agers, the police can begin to use our money to protect rights rather than infringe on them.

RHYS SOUTHAN

Associate policy analyst

National Taxpayers Union Foundation

Alexandria

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