Regarding Godfrey Sperling's May 6 Opinion column "A second term is Bush's to lose": Mr. Sperling is an experienced political writer, and within the limits of his analysis his conclusions may well be correct, but he fails to address the more important question.
The stakes are high in the coming election. Mr. Bush represents a vision of America that has embedded within it the seeds of self-destruction: a nation with policies based on overwhelming military power and the use of that power for preemptive, virtually unilateral, action; but also a self-indulgent nation that maintains its way of life by sale of its assets, through budget and trade deficits.
The question is: Is there a candidate who effectively enunciates an alternative vision, one embodying international cooperation, fiscal responsibility, and humane concern? And if there is, will his message be heard?
J. Hilton Turner
New Wilmington, Pa.
Regarding the May 6 article "Textbook publishers do back flips to avoid offense": The real reason that school textbooks are sanitized is to make them acceptable to the very traditional majorities that are represented by America's local school boards. No local superintendent can expect to have his contract renewed if he allows unconventional ideas to trouble the minds of his constituents. Publishers understandably censor their texts to gain and retain this vast market.
The solution is to assemble state or national syllabuses backed by external testing to make sure that the material has actually been mastered. The current nationally funded educational reforms in place in the states are a basic step in this direction.
I read with amusement the May 8 article "Just one look" about plastic surgery becoming as common as braces. What I find amusing is that this piece is so totally caught up in a synthetically generated culture that it doesn't realize it's not normal. Instead of questioning how casual mainstream vanity surgery might be a cause for concern, the biggest problem the article sees in this future is how we will be able to tell who is more beautiful once everyone has had surgery.
I find this more amusing than alarming because, fortunately, I don't live in anything close to this world. In my world, nobody frets about keeping up with Joan Rivers's surgical upgrades, because nobody I know would seriously consider a life-risking surgical procedure merely for the sake rearranging facial features.
And no one I know has trouble finding good jobs because bosses don't find them "attractive" enough, or trouble finding loving partners because they have some uncorrected cosmetic "flaws."
Prof. Sander Gilman is quoted as saying that soon cosmetic surgery will be a social requirement in some countries, including Brazil. Most Brazilians are much too poor to consider cosmetic surgery.
It is true that many wealthy subcultures regard certain superfluous consumption items as essentials, even while others are suffering a lack of basic food, water, shelter, and healthcare.
Simple justice requires that mature human beings of every nationality and income level learn to disregard social pressure to consume more than they truly need, and learn to live in comfort and satisfaction on a modest share of the world's economic resources.
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