US Government Should Act With Empathy

The article, "Loss of an ID Brings Out Chechen Best," Feb. 5, is a cautionary tale. Such responsiveness on the part of the Chechens and their system!

Do Americans have comparable empathy? Yes. Not because we have suffered greatly as a people, as the Chechens have, but because our own emotional memories help us recognize and respond to those in need.

But do we live in a society where authority and governance can be called flexible and responsive? No. Hundreds of thousands of people are in critical need in the Great Lakes region of Central Africa, for example, yet none of our mild, often contradictory, motion adds up to much.

The American people, like the Chechens, are eager to do the right thing. But there seems to be a communication breakdown between us and those who represent us in Washington. How do we go about repairing it?

Catherine Menninger

Franconia, N.H.

Don't arm a sponsor of terrorism

Regarding the Jan. 22 article, "US to S. Africa: Halt Weapons Deal to Syria," I wish to thank the Monitor for its willingness to speak up about Syrian violations. I am often aghast at atrocities that are rarely reported.

As a non-Jew living most of the time in Israel, I am aware of the threat from Syria. Before the Grapes of Wrath retaliation last year, I visited Kiryat Schmona, a northern Israeli town. Syrian Katuchut rocket damage was everywhere. The town had been constantly bombarded. Many in the news media screamed "foul," and the howls of Israel's Arab neighbors were heard worldwide.

But what about the suffering of Israelis? I witnessed the devastation of three bombings and watched Palestinians as they danced in the streets over the killing of Israelis - all with Syria's sanction. Offering arms to Syria will only fuel terrorist activities, causing the loss of more lives.

Marilynn Ahlin


Include technology in reforms

"When the Price of American Elections is Mixed With Yogurt," Feb. 19, gives short shrift to campaign-finance reform. The author considers reform to be "rooted in the idea that elections are becoming prohibitively expensive." I believe the unease over money in campaigns has deeper roots.

The author recalls "vast fortunes and political influence-buying" in the 19th century. Yet there are radical differences in society today. The nature and distribution of fortunes now have a far more serious significance.

The most striking phenomena that call for reform are technologies of electronic communications, with their kaleidoscopic, fragmenting way of mixing sound, information, and pictures. The result is a huge increase in the velocity and variety of communications. The wealthy control satellites and the electronic spectrum, limiting civil discourse and distorting political campaigns.

Meaningful reform must go on - but we should take into account today's technology, the gap between rich and poor, and financier George Soros's sad observation that "unsure of what they stand for, people increasingly rely on money as the criterion of value."

John E. Fobes

Asheville, N.C.

Power in Central Africa

The opinion-page article, "Don't Redraw Africa's Borders," Jan. 29, seems anti-Tutsi and biased by omissions. "The three Tutsi-led governments [of Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi] all came to power through military coups and are now ambitiously expanding Tutsi influence," the author says.

Yet in Uganda, Yoweri Museveni ended a series of appalling regimes. He is generally considered the best thing to happen to Uganda since independence. In Rwanda, Tutsis who had been driven into exile returned to intervene in the genocide, in which at least a million more of their minority died. And Tutsis who had been living in eastern Zaire for generations were ordered to leave. Fighting is their only alternative. They are led by a man who has been trying for 20 years not to change borders but to end the corrupt regime of President Mobutu Sese Seko.

Guy Ottewell

Greenville, S.C.

Your letters are welcome. Letters should be mailed to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, faxed to 617-450-2317, or e-mailed (200 words maximum) to oped@csps.com

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