- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 15, 2004

An engaged debate

Syndicatedcolumnist William Murchison implies in his column “Disunited we stand” (Commentary, Saturday) that the American people are being pulled apart and our nation divided by the presidential campaign process, a process that is essential to democracy.

Except through such a process, how else would the people or the electorate know which of the good men or women vying to lead our country should be our choice? The disagreement and debate about issues related to the war is about our country doing better and what’s right in the future. It is not supposed to bring about national disintegration, and it will not.

The article also implies that potential suicide bombers or al Qaeda operatives, due to our political disagreement and very public discussions on the war, might be emboldened against us. Lacking any historical or other form of corroboration, such fears seem unfounded. There was no argument more vocal, public and divisive in our modern history than the argument over the Vietnam War. And never did a foreign enemy attack our country violently under the assumption that we had been significantly weakened at home by such debate.

We are a nation that survived an experience with slavery and civil war. We survived the women’s rights movement, civil rights movement, voting rights, segregation, the labor movement and other controversial and difficult eras. Our national record suggests that, in times of conflict, we ultimately make the right moral choice — but only because our Bill of Rights makes public dissent and discussion possible and our Declaration of Independence makes it an obligation.

God willing, we will also win the war on terrorism and the war against religious hatred and other forms of bigotry that fuel tensions between people of differing religions or cultural beliefs in America and the world. Other wars — against racism, poverty, ignorance, disease and so on — will also hopefully be won in this century.

But we can’t fight these conflicts as a united people unless we can discuss the issues, debate the options, choose the best strategy for future action and select who will lead us. Enthusiastic campaigns facilitate such judgment and selection.

If there are enemies skulking about, waiting to pounce, as Mr. Murchison seems to suggest, and if those enemies judge us by our political debates, there is a good chance they might come to understand us better. They might see that “we, the people” are not an evil people, acting against them out of lust for revenge or greed for oil, or compelled by religious hatred or ideology. When you think about it, our enemies might rather wish that we would adopt an opposite view. After all, that is the point of terrorism, isn’t it? — to achieve political objectives by frightening innocent people into adopting an extreme political view or doing something against their inclination.

The challenge to the nation caused by the war on terrorism was perhaps stated perfectly by an anonymous writer who said, “The challenge in the war on terror is for the United States to remain the home of the free and the brave.”

Most Americans, particularly our young people who are about to enjoy their first opportunity to vote, might be thankful that we have stood historically as the free and the brave against many enemies, in defense of our rights to campaign on the issues and to vote. As a result, the imperfect republic still stands as one nation under God and indivisible, even though we might still be working on liberty and justice for all.

This is in part due to the debates and discussions presented by public servants like President Bush and his impressive opponents. We are indebted to Sens. John Kerry and John Edwards, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, the Rev. Al Sharpton and even Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. Whether or not we agree with them on issues such as the war, we must recognize the important role they play. Theirs is the difficult and sometimes unpopular task to make this a more perfect union by creating the tensions and providing the choices that cause people to think and so advance their society.

ANISA ABD EL FATTAH

Columbus, Ohio

Weighing Dr. Atkins

It is quite disturbing to see articles, such as the one written by Michael Fumento, that ignore the truth (“Low-carb lunacy,” Commentary, Saturday).

Mr. Fumento, like many others in the media, reported the weight of Dr. Robert Atkins at the time of his death. Yes, 258 pounds for a man 6 feet tall is obese, but what Mr. Fumento ignores is that Dr. Atkins’ weight uponadmissionwas195 pounds. The increase in his weight was most likely caused by the intake of IV fluids and the lack of renal function due to the injury to his brain. A patient in a coma, with new-onset decreased cerebral function, will be receiving many medications via IV to try to restore the brain’s ability to run the body.

I must ask: If the kidneys are not working well, or at all, where is the IV fluid to go?

D.J. SULLIVAN, RN

Annapolis.

Transportation talks

In “Paying for Metro” (Editorial, Thursday), you state that it is unfair to ask taxpayers who rarely or never use Metro to pay for its support. But drivers who never take Metro still benefit from it. Every rider on the train isn’t in a car in front of you in traffic. Further, drivers benefit from the reduced pollution that Metro provides.

It isn’t like roads aren’t subsidized. Yes, the gas tax pays for most highway construction. But the gas tax doesn’t pay for local road construction and maintenance, snow removal, police protection to keep the roads safe or ambulance and hospital services needed because the roads aren’t safe. The gas tax doesn’t pay for the damage that car exhaust does to our lungs, forests, farms or the Chesapeake Bay.

Both roads and transit are subsidized. It is important to consider the effect of these subsidies. Road subsidies result in more road use, more sprawl, more use of imported oil and more pollution. Transit subsidies result in more transit use, less sprawl, less oil consumption and less pollution.

CARL HENN

Rockville

There’s no crying in football?

Regarding “Clarett allowed into NFL draft,” (Sports, Feb. 6), U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin had no reason to rule that teenage players have eligibility rights to play in the NFL. There is good reason for the rule that bars a player from entering the league until three years after high school. The NFL does not want youngsters playing football with seasoned 30-year-old veterans who weigh as much as 375 pounds. Imagine the injuries one of those giants could inflict on a kid in a bone-crushing, neck-high arm tackle, especially from the blind side: a broken neck; a broken back; or a spinal cord disconnect, leaving the young player quadriplegic for the rest of his life.

It’s a matter of safety as part of common sense to protect the health of these young players. The musculature and bone structures of these youngsters are not yet developed to the point to take the severity of this physical punishment. Can’t the legal geniuses understand this basic tenet? Apparently not. What’s next, women playing in the NFL?

EARL BEAL

Terre Haute, Ind.

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