A Lesson in Civility

I am impressed with the message in the Dec. 20 Page 1 story, "The quest to Restore Common Decency." However, I do not accept the view that we should create an institution to accomplish this great social objective.

Instead, I believe our concerns will be met with dogged persistence of the aims of personal responsibility and parental responsibility. We all remember in our youth how we looked up to someone - whether it was a statesman, religious figure, or sports performer - as our hero. These were people we admired because of certain personal credentials. With respect to civility, we should all have an image of what the ideal citizen is, and accept our own personal responsibility for governing our own behavior so that we measure up to that image.

Such discipline is the product of a good education. A good education begins in the home. This is where parental responsibility enters in. If all parents would accept the responsibility to teach their children by precept and example the need for civility in the home, this discipline would be established during the formative years.

I propose that we pursue a course which acknowledges that civility can be maintained as a by-product of personal and parental responsibility, and publicly proclaim that our society cannot improve until each one of us accepts these responsibilities and governs our lives accordingly. Who is willing to be an example of civility? The answer should be, "Each one of us."

James R. Duggan

Riverside, Calif.

A closer look at Peru

Reviewing news media coverage of the hostage situation at the Japanese ambassador's residence in Lima, Peru, one is struck by the near universal description of the hostage-takers as "extremists" - as in your Dec. 20 Page 1 article "Rebel Groups Like Peru's Still Pester Latin America."

One is also struck by the absence of any background or information on the criminal nature of the Fujimori military dictatorship and its rampant alliance to Peru's annual production of 500,000 kilos of cocaine, most destined for the US.

Joe Horman

Kingwood, Texas

French disrespect? Mais non!

I read the Dec. 20 Letter from Paris, "US-France 'Toast-Flap': Whodunit?" with much amusement. In it the author laboriously gives the reader a detailed, tabloid-like account of a US-alleged snub by the French Foreign Minister Herve de Charette at a recent luncheon honoring Secretary of State Warren Christopher. (According to the Americans but denied by the French, Mr. de Charette walked out of the room during an important toast to the secretary.)

The author's laundry list of French shortcomings seems to indicate she may have just encountered an especially rude Parisian waiter and is carrying a bad chip on her shoulder. I'd like to remind readers of "kindnesses" that our country has bestowed upon the French. In the spring of 1994, we stole a very important and lucrative telecommunications contract from them through economic espionage and a "new and improved" post-cold-war CIA - and the French did not send a thank you note in response!

Our president denied their request to attend the October summit in Washington which brought Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat together to resolve differences - a process the French and other European nations have an economic stake in, and want to be a part of, but have been repeatedly shoved aside by our "national interest."

It seems peace efforts in the Middle East could use another party to give a much- needed balance, and an invitation extended by President Clinton to join would probably inspire a degree of civility from the French of which the author would approve - a toast and a thank you note!

Marcia Truesdell Smith

Williamsburg, Va.

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