Haiti's Tragedy: More Than Political

Regarding the Opinion page article "Refugees: Punishing the Victims," Dec. 31: Haiti's tragedy is more than political; it is overpopulation and resource degradation so severe that a decent quality of life is not possible for most of Haiti's inhabitants. Even if it were possible to restore democracy to the island, who thinks that the refugee problem will go away?

In the long run, the United States is not helping countries such as Haiti or ourselves by continuing to act as a population safety valve. We can do better by aiding them in resource management, and above all, by helping them to bring down their birth rates - without which nothing much can be achieved. Nancy Duersten, Racine, Wis. America the `melting pot'

Regarding the Media page article "Hispanic Newspaper Fills a Gap," Jan. 5: The producer of El Carillon, a Spanish-language newspaper, believes that "the concept of the American `melting pot' failed because it advocated immigrants' assimilation into American culture without valuing cultural differences." But this is exactly why the "melting pot" concept was and is so enormously successful and progressive. The United States, while not perfect, is still the most successful social experiment that ever was. Linda Kane, Brooklyn, N.Y.

I take strong exception to the statement that the " `melting pot' failed because it advocated the immigrants' assimilation into American culture."

On the contrary, the melting pot was phenomenally successful for more than 200 years. Each immigrant, realizing that America offered a better life than the one he left behind, contributed to the American culture but did not seek to differentiate himself from it.

Now, however, we are facing the politics of difference - multiculturalism - whereby each group seeks to establish its own identity separate from the culture of the land. This is a recipe for disaster. One has only to look at Yugoslavia, the Middle East, and the former Soviet Republics to see the devastating effects if America allows itself to be fragmented into competing cultures. As Woodrow Wilson stated in 1915, "America does not consist of groups." Ruth Brierley, Gladwyne, Pa. Helping the homeless

Regarding the article "Homeless Problem Tests Public Sympathy," Dec. 23: Having lost my home several years ago, but having many wonderful friends and family members to help take care of me and my son, I know how it must feel. The article, wonderfully written, does not get at the problem. The hope, the foresight, and a promised solution are missing.

Church groups, individuals, clubs, and organizations can build all of the houses, serve in all of the soup lines, and donate all of the clothes possible, but none of these solutions is helpful or gets at the core of the problem. Welfare and social workers are not the solutions either.

How do people get to be homeless? They couldn't all be overextended farmers who had to sell their farms; they couldn't all have made bad investments and lost everything; they couldn't all be in mental turmoil; and to say that there are no jobs available is a lie. If good is really permanent and is what counts in life, surely these people have some good in their lives that can be touched upon and restored. Gemariah Borough, Columbus, Ohio

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