- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 28, 2001

Disabled are not necessarily 'unhealthy'

Your June 21 article "Light shed on disabilities" generally does a good job of calling attention to a fine book, Doris Zames Fleischer and Frieda Zames' "The Disability Rights Movement: From Charity to Confrontation."
My one quibble is with the following sentence: "It has been said that the only thing that lies between a healthy person and a disabled one is a banana peel, and the authors say anyone can become disabled at any time."
Millions of non-disabled people aren't healthy, and many disabled people rank highly on most indicators of excellent health.
As co-author Zames explains in the article, "Many people think disability is only a health issue, not a civil rights issue." Your point generally is a good one, but if it's necessary to be unhealthy to be a disabled person, I must have slept through that part of the recruiting session.

ARTHUR BLASER
Professor of political science
Chapman University
Orange, Calif.

Protect the flag from desecration

In mustering support for his anti-flag protection position, Nat Hentoff quoted several of the nation's legal elite in his June 25 Op-Ed article "Freedom to burn shows freedom to live." The statements by U.S. Supreme Court Justices William Brennan, Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy are sincere in thought and eloquent in construction, and may therefore be authoritatively overwhelming if you've not heard the other side.
Mr. Brennan's words, "We can imagine no more appropriate response to burning a flag than waving one's own," beg balance from those of Chief Justice William Rehnquist. In his minority opinion supporting flag protection laws, Mr. Rehnquist said, "One of the high purposes of a democratic society is to legislate against conduct that is regarded as evil and profoundly offensive to the majority of people whether it be murder, embezzlement, pollution or flag burning."
And yes, both Mr. Brennan and Mr. Rehnquist offer noble thoughts, with the difference being that the vast majority of the people disagree with the former and agree with the latter.
Consider, too, the opinion of Justice John Marshall Harlan, who said in 1907, "love of country will diminish in proportion as respect for the flag is weakened. Therefore a state will be wanting in care for the well-being of its people if it ignores the fact that they regard the flag as a symbol of their country's power and prestige, and will be impatient if any open disrespect is shown toward it."
Flag burning is not an integral part of the First Amendment, as Mr. Hentoff asserts. The freedom to desecrate our flag is not a fundamental freedom deeply rooted in our nation's culture, tradition, or our Constitution. In fact, prior to 1989, when the Supreme Court overturned anti-flag desecration laws, no one thought such a freedom existed. Flag desecration is wrong. There is no argument, no excuse and no law that will ever make flag desecration right.
Most Americans believe, and a good number of prominent American jurists agree including four members of the U.S. Supreme Court that the flag of the United States can and should have legal protection from acts of desecration.

MARTY JUSTIS
Executive Director
Citizens Flag Alliance
Indianapolis

Research proves raising drinking age has saved lives

In her June 21 Op-Ed column, "Girls just want to have fun," Elizabeth Whelan, president of the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH), argues the merits of lowering America's legal drinking age to18. According to its Web site, the ACSH was founded "to add reason and balance to debates about public health issues" because "important public policies related to health and the environment did not have a sound scientific basis." In discussing this topic, Ms. Whelan shares an anecdote about preparing her daughter for college life and "the inevitable partying." This tone becomes thematic of her piece. As a parent, she clearly cares for the safety of her child. As a professional, however, she overlooks the critical research that justified creating the current law and justifies maintaining it.
For example, she does not cite the number of lives saved by this legislation more than 19,000 according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. She also mentions that "American teens, unlike their European peers, don't learn to drink gradually, safely and in moderation." Unfortunately, this is a common misperception. According to U.S. Department of Justice, teens from almost every European country drink and binge drink at higher levels than young Americans.
I applaud Ms. Whelan's interest in this important issue, but I am discouraged by her casual and even misinformed approach. Not only are her arguments inconsistent with available research data, but they also seem to misrepresent the mission of her organization.

JOHN P. LIBRE
Bethesda

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