Our Readers Speak Out on a Cartoon and the US Civil War

Few things stir readers as much as cartoons, and that was certainly the case with one we printed on Jan. 30 (see letters, left). Meanwhile, the wife of the Mauritanian ambassador to the US praises the Monitor's objectivity toward her country, but complains that some of her fellow countrymen duped our newspaper's correspondent.

I was most interested to read your note in the Jan. 21 issue regarding change in the cartoons.

I was particularly grateful that you will be adhering to the Monitor's mandate to "injure no man, but bless all mankind." To be faithful to that mission will bring blessings to the Monitor, its readers, and the world.

I must say, however, I was quite dismayed to see the Jan. 30 cartoon that included two apparently homosexual men holding hands marching into Noah's ark. I would think such an editorial cartoon is not in keeping with the above-referenced mandate of the Monitor's founder and her written publications and worldwide church.

I look forward to Monitor cartoons that will "bless all mankind" and be the result of prayerful, inspired thought. These healing cartoons will be unique to the Monitor and a fresh beacon of inspiration for all those that enjoy them.

Please express my thanks and appreciation to all your staff who are providing us with the Monitor's unique view of the world's events.

Richard L. McCoy

Newport Beach, Calif.

At first glance the cartoon in the Jan. 30 issue seemed amusing, until I carefully looked at it in detail. Here we see two males entering Noah's ark, hand in hand. This cartoon does not represent Christian Science, is not "funny," and serves no good purpose for either side of the issue.

If this was printed without you noticing, more's the pity. Then you need to be more observant and strive for worthier, higher ideals.

Lucille E. Sholeen

Glenwood, Ill.

[Editor's Note: The cartoon that ran Jan. 30 managed to offend many readers for a variety of reasons. The cartoon should not have run in the Monitor, and we apologize. Since that time, we have changed our internal procedures to prevent a repetition. It will not happen again.]

Heritage of slavery

Regarding "Where African Slavery Still Exists in the Eyes of Many," Feb. 13, congratulations to the author for having the courage to write an objective and balanced article on Mauritania and slavery.

For too long this problem has been presented in simplistic, sure-to-provoke terms designed to meet certain US domestic political agendas as well as to serve as a rice bowl issue for nongovernmental organizations and the human rights industry.

Residual slavery in Mauritania is a fact. But there is a certain irony in that the efforts to condemn Mauritania also serve to keep it underdeveloped with fewer economic alternatives for former slaves. The hypocrisy of condemning Mauritania for its human rights problems while the rest of black Africa gets a free ride is well known but conveniently overlooked by those seeking a cause, especially a cause that pits whites against blacks. (The latter being a favorite stereotype about Mauritania.)

Critics should see for themselves what is happening in Mauritania. They will find, if they can leave their political baggage and racial agendas at home, a desperately poor country trying to solve problems as best it can. The kind of objectivity in the article will go further in helping Mauritania than the rabble-rousing that plays so well in Harlem and on Capitol Hill.

Paul S. Cariker

Dakar, Senegal

I am glad that the Monitor is reporting news from Mauritania, even if it is news about our unfortunate heritage of slavery. I am also pleased that you captured the complexity of the problem. That makes you more objective than others.

I am a native of Boutilimit, particularly of the area you call the "slave section." It is where I was born, went to school, and where I met my husband, the Mauritanian ambassador to the US. Although my husband and I live in the US, we still have a house in Boutilimit.

I know everyone interviewed in the article with the exception of Gargayte Ould Meyessa. Unfortunately, I cannot find any other words to express what they have said other than to flatly state that they lied.

I grew up with Imetha mint Sidaty. She still lives in the house next to ours. She told the Monitor that her master decided whom she should marry, but it is common knowledge in Boutilimit that she willingly married her cousin because she loved him. They are still married.

Gargayte Ould Meyessa is not even from this section of Boutilimit and is in no position to comment on life there. Because no one knows who he is, his credibility is suspect.

Kariya mint Mhamoud lied when she said that after her father died, his master inherited everything. Her father was a free man and divorced her mother when she was very young.

Hanna mint Souleymine was identified as a slave, but she has no master and is just as free as everybody else in this part of town.

Your article was accompanied by a photograph of Neychime mint Baba, with the caption "Slave or Free?" I know her and can answer that she is free and has never had a master. She is poor, white, and has never had slaves.

Imetha, Kariya, and Hanna are militant members of the opposition party in Mauritania, and I suspect that this is why they lied to your journalist. These women were either trying to impress your reporter with tall tales or trying to show their discontent with the Mauritanian government.

Khadijetou Ould Werzeg


[Writer's note: Various opposition groups in Mauritania are indeed creating fictional stories about slavery to undermine the credibility of the government. But vestiges of slavery - such as forced marriages and masters inheriting from their slaves - are still prevalent. The accounts that were reported on Feb. 13 are credible.]

Behind the symbols of the South

Regarding your editorial, "The Old South's Symbols," Feb. 18: Your approach to Civil War history demonstrates 20/20 hindsight, as well as an unfortunate tendency to link the commemoration of that conflict with America's ongoing [racial] problems.

Slavery was one of the causes of the Civil War, but so was the North- South split over tariffs and the increasing lifestyle differences between an industrializing North and a predominantly agricultural South.

As for precipitating causes of the war, the Confederates regarded the presence of a US fort in Charleston harbor as an intolerable provocation to a sovereign nation, and acted to end the problem. In the North, the Confederates' firing on the US flag brought volunteers streaming in to meet President Lincoln's call for 75,000 troops. The same call precipitated the secession of Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Arkansas.

In short, you have oversimplified the facts surrounding a fairly complex set of historical events in support of a poorly thought out manifestation of political correctness. For what it's worth, South Carolina should not be flying a Confederate battleflag over its state house; that banner was for use by military units. The correct banner would be the Confederacy's third national flag.

Dane Hartgrove

Stafford, Va.

Work and family balance

I write regarding the article "How Congress Wants to Balance Work and Family," Feb. 25. My proposal currently before Congress would allow private sector employers to offer employees paid time off as compensation for working overtime.

For American workers, who are increasingly frustrated with the demands of contemporary life, it is an idea whose time has come.

I would like to highlight a very important component of the legislation that was misstated in the article: The Working Families Flexibility Act does not "require" employers to offer a compensatory time program. A refreshing aspect of this proposal is that it does not include any federal mandates!

If employers choose to offer this option, and employees choose to participate, it is their choice, not the government's. Furthermore, the legislation contains important protections for employees to ensure that the choice and use of compensatory time by an employee is truly voluntary and that the payment of overtime compensation and the traditional 40-hour workweek are preserved. Congress is expected to vote on the bill in the very near future.

Rep. Cass Ballenger (R)


North Carolina

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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