Playing a Brutal Game of Politics

The editorial ``The Politics of Meanness,'' Sept. 26, brought to light a pivotal issue in the strength and direction of our nation. Spiteful and petty campaign ads undermine our perception of government and the worth of our strong nation. I am not saying that shortcomings and illegal activities or voting records are not fair issues in a campaign. However, factors in the life of an opponent which are not of his action or choosing are moot points as to the opponent's fitness for office.

Looking at the presidential campaign of 1992, I believe President Bush lost the swing vote and reelection with his brutal attacks against then-Gov. Bill Clinton and Sen. Al Gore Jr. in his statements such as, ``My dog Millie knows more about foreign policy than those two bozos.''

If the president of the United States does not show respect toward his fellow man, why should citizens respect one another or children respect each other or their elders? Is this not the basis of crime in this nation? Respect for one another protects members of society from verbal and physical abuse. Our politicians must tighten their latitudes in competing for office. Without this, the value of the office and, by extension, the value of governments are lost.

Democracy is government by the people. With the primary election turnout of under 50 percent, except for the reelection of Mayor Marion Barry in Washington, D.C., one sees the apathy, the disregard for the election process on the part of US citizenry. Denyse DuBrucq, Arlington, Va.

Get to the root of crime

I appreciate the stress you put on the folly of our present ``prison reform'' programs in the editorial ``False Toughness,'' Sept. 20.

As with most major issues today, as a society we seem content to attack crime and punishment starting from its results rather than in its causes. We seem unable to think up any solutions to curb crime so we vent our anger on those already convicted.

This is as nonsensical as our approach to teen pregnancy: We can give a condom to control the aftereffect, but not the concern or example to avoid the situation.

It seems we prefer to canonize the process of ``coverup.'' Mary Lea Hill, Boston

Get to the root of crime

It is refreshing to read a few sane and humane opinions on the subject of crime in ``False Toughness'' and the opinion-page article ``Lock 'Em Up Legislation Means Prisons Gain Clout,'' Sept. 20. As the authors point out, the excessively punitive policies being signed into law on both federal and state levels are driven by political expediency. The assumption on the part of politicians is that ``tough on crime'' is what the public wants. These policies also assume that there are no limits on ``toughness'' and that the more prisoners can be made to suffer the better.

In the midst of the hysteria, perhaps it would be wise to ask ourselves a few questions. Who are these criminals being fed into the maws of our rapidly growing number of prison cells? Are they all the same? Do we want to keep all of them in for life? Or, if we recognize that some of them will eventually return to the community, do we want to render them helpless or hopelessly scarred by abusive treatment?

Although I myself have been a victim of crime, I find the tilt of our present policies to be foolish and destructive. And on a moral plane, I never thought I would live to see the day - in the contemporary US - when cruelty could be regarded as virtuous. I hope we will be able to rein in the present excesses of criminal-justice policy before it is too late. Madeleine M. Goodrich, Concord, Mass.

Making room for others

The opinion-page article ``Cairo's Faulty Assumption,'' Sept. 23, states that since population growth has always mirrored progress then it is wrong to assume that ``accelerated population increase is a problem.'' Where does this lead us? Should we stop ``progressing'' completely to leave room for ourselves? Or should we continue ``progressing'' and nudge, poke, pull each other and develop into an amorphous glob? How would we continue to make ``improvement in human well-being'' from that point? Emily Ranseen, Brooklyn, N.Y.

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