Gift-Giving Doesn't Equal Materialism

Every year, during the pre-holiday season, we are barraged with articles screaming "materialism, materialism" - too much spending and giving of gifts ("Christmas Without Shopping," Dec. 11). While I respect each individual's rights to find the best way to observe the holidays, I, as a happy gift-giving individual, do not appreciate the inference that there is something holy about not giving gifts, or that those of us who do are immersed in crass materialism.

Overspending and accumulating debt is not good, no argument about that. But why is holiday gift-giving the scapegoat for accusations of materialism? There is truth to the argument of losing the significance of the holiday. But selfish materialism flourishes throughout the year for some, and gift-giving at least takes the focus off buying for one's self - demanding some measure of thought, energy, and money devoted to friends and family members.

To me, motive and moderation are key. Honest, inspired expressions of love and affection, expressed year round in the way that seems best for each of us, is the answer. Holiness and peace and the true meaning of the holidays lie not in what gifts we give or what gifts we don't give, but abide in our hearts.

Bud Heidebur

Brewster, Mass.

A language that bridges divides

"Language Becomes War by Other Means" (Global Report, Dec. 10) provides insight into issues that will become more important to all of us in a world where communication is the key to security, well-being, and successful living. In the United States, we are typically insulated from the problems of language conflict, but globally they cannot be ignored.

I noted with interest that Esperanto is mentioned positively, though briefly, in the article. This language, developed at the end of the 19th century, is a living, functional tool for communication among speakers of different languages, a "second language for all." Esperanto enables people around the globe to speak to one another without dominance of a single language (and the consequent reduction in status of others), and without cumbersome translation.

The public knows little about Esperanto, and linguists have ridiculed it as "artificial" or a linguistic game. But, in fact, there is a worldwide community of Esperanto speakers, a large body of original and translated literature, and most recently, a burgeoning presence on the Web. Esperanto was the creation of a brilliant individual, but the language has developed and grown naturally for over a century.

There have been hundreds of other international language projects, spanning centuries, but only Esperanto has succeeded. The reason? It was conceived and created scientifically on clear linguistic principles, and it is far simpler to learn than any national language. But it was also created with emotion and expressiveness, perhaps with soul and passion.

At the end of the 20th century, are we now approaching readiness to use this language to avoid the wars your article described? Can we really afford for much longer not to do so?

Lee A. Miller

Columbia, Mo.

Voters of third-party mind

In repeating the tired old drone of "spoilers," the opinion article "Here Come Third-Party Candidates" (Dec. 15) fails to consider the role of growing third parties in attracting over half of America's eligible voters that never have, or no longer bother, to vote for either conventional party.

Green Party candidates mostly attract individuals who have already given up on the major parties, not those that still favor one party over the other.

To claim that votes attracted to third parties belong to a major party is both incredulous and insulting to voters, especially coming from individuals who represent a nonpartisan organization.

Jim Nordgaard

St. Louis Park, Minn.

member, Green Party of Minnesota

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