Manly men: their importance to society

Your May 26 article "The return of the manly man" leaves the reader believing that anything masculine is a social illness that needs to be cured. Men have been tragically left out of the gender evolution during the past 30 years. Perhaps the growing popularity of football is an escape from rampant feminism and its not always subtle message that anything masculine is evil.

We are going through a crisis with boys in our country. Their education is lagging behind girls, and their likelihood of getting into trouble is higher.

However, further erosion of the masculine identity by educating us to be sensitive like Alan Alda is not going to make anyone happy with the outcome. The real irony seems lost. Alan Alda and many sensitive men were raised before feminism was dominant. I can only guess what comes next.

Richard Kroeger Bowie, Md.

Let inmates into labor force

Thank you for your balanced May 25 article "Boom economy taps prison labor." Unfortunately, the debate on prison labor overlooks at least four key facts:

First, banning inmates is still economic discrimination, a practice historically damaging to the economy and the social fabric. Second, discrimination against legal participation leaves only the negative alternatives of crime (illegal participation), dependency, or starvation. Third, inmate unemployment is a significant contributor to US child and single-female household poverty, affecting more unsupported minor children of inmates (about 2.2 million) than inmates (about 2 million). All told, about 2 percent of the US population is affected.

Finally, most objections apply to prison industries, not inmates. For these and other reasons, America's best option for the economy, as well as for reducing poverty and crime, may be reform of the prison industries system - first by welcoming inmates to full and responsible participation in the labor force, and second by requiring prison industries to operate by the same rules as other businesses.

Thomas Petersik Burke, Va.

Saying 'no' to children's demands

It seems to me that Barbara Whittington's May 24 parenting essay "Marrying off the 'baby' of the family" was more a vivid description of a problem than a solution to a parenting quandary.

This generation of parents hasn't had the courage to say "no" to its children with much frequency. "Yes" is so much better received - no matter how out of proportion or excessive or ostentatious the want or desire. High school proms and graduations often have the price tags of small weddings, and weddings have the trappings of coronations. Whatever happened to modesty and taste without showy excess?

D. Kenyon Bellevue, Neb.

Resisting the consumer culture

Regarding Joan Silverman's May 25 opinion piece on our virtually unlimited access to commerce ("Shopping 24/7 needs its boundaries"):

It doesn't end with toner, post-it notes, or groceries. So-called news, entertainment, and information are also, for most of us, just a click away. But I'm not sure that the ability to get any of this stuff immediately makes us smarter, happier, or more productive. Maybe it just makes us busier.

Indeed, I resent being thought of only as "a consumer" by anyone who has a product or a message to sell, because I know that if I don't resist the continual barrage of consumables being thrown at me, I will soon forget that being human means more than just shopping.

Linwood Rich Salt Lake City

The Monitor welcomes your letters and opinion articles. Due to the volume of mail, only a selection can be published, and we can neither acknowledge nor return unpublished submissions. All submissions are subject to editing. Letters must be signed and include your mailing address and telephone number.

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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