Manners during the Depression - not rudeness

Regarding Roger Calip's moral dilemma "Dealing with the deli 'cut' " (March 9): I must rise to defense of those who lived through the Great Depression. I would be interested to know what "well-known columnist" wrote that it "was common for people of the Depression generation, even today, to show impatience awaiting their turn at long lines and grabbing every chance to cheat." How insulting and untrue!

I remember people in those days being much more courteous than what I experience today, and I do not remember particularly long lines. One outstanding thing about the Depression years was the prevalence of good manners and respect for elders, even among children.

The fact is that Mr. Calip's second encounter with an older person should have indicated to him that the previous judgement of "people of the Depression" being rude, uncivilized, and prone to cheating was incorrect and an affront to many of your readers.

Julie C. Blunt Richmond, Va.

Threats won't make China democratic

Regarding your March 8 article "Push begins for free China trade": The current debate about admitting China as a full-fledged WTO member should include an insight into America's foreign policy mind-set. Yes, our political system is an excellent model and I, for one, am grateful to be a citizen of our country. But to insist that it should be adapted by others is naive. We should insist that our leaders publicly declare what is strategically important to our national interest and what is peripheral, and stop all the posturing.

President Bush did just this prior to the Gulf War. President Clinton failed to do this in Bosnia and Kosovo. We are not going to change the mind-set of the Communist leadership in China by verbal threats and futile sanctions.

If they decide to embrace democracy, it will have to be in their own time and on their own terms. If we want to continue trading with them let us do so with a realistic public appraisal of why it is in our national interest. This more-mature approach will do more to win their respect than ineffective criticism.

Paul Sedan Charlotte, N.C.

Community action in world affairs

Your March 1 article "Sitting still for foreign affairs" tackled an important issue. But one factual error stands out. Great Decisions discussion groups are organized nationally by the Foreign Policy Association (FPA) and not by World Affairs Councils of America (WACA). Some are sponsored locally by councils, but just as often by various other nonprofit organizations. That they attract four times as many participants as belong to world affairs councils reemphasizes the need to escape, not only "luncheon-speaker" patterns, but also business-community dominance typical of the councils.

Diverse sponsorship at local levels is central to surmounting the participation problem. Here in Columbus we showed some years ago that it could be achieved through hard work in organizing groups, facilitating discussions, and using resources.

Grant Hilliker Columbus, Ohio

Police corruption

Your March 15 article "Trust in police has slipped" was excellent. I am quite convinced that most police corruption is a direct consequence of the drug war. Police officers have far too much power. They can destroy a person's life by planting minuscule amounts of banned drugs during an arrest. Drug possession is the singular instance of a victimless crime with horrendous prison sentences awaiting those falsely convicted.

Danny Terwey Santa Cruz, Calif.

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Mail letters to 'Readers Write,' and opinion articles to Opinion Page, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, or fax to 617-450-2317, or e-mail to oped@csps.com

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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