Tax Resistance as Civil Disobedience

I was disturbed by the blanket inclusion of "tax protesters" in "New Tactics Rein In Radicals" (March 30) dealing with a crack-down on "militia members," "white separatists," and "anti-government types."

There are many upright people who use tax resistance as a form of civil disobedience. They withhold the same portion of their taxes that are allocated to areas they find immoral. They are honest about it and stand ready to accept the consequences of their actions. These are very ethical people concerned about nonviolent social justice and should not be lumped in with militaristic right-wingers.

Kirsten Rupel

Minneapolis, Minn.

Character does matter

At the moment, President Clinton faces allegations that have not been proven, and which he denies. We can only hope that the truth is revealed soon so that we can move beyond this situation. True or not, it can only diminish us in the eyes of the world.

Certain phrases have been repeated until they are becoming mantras for the cadre of Mr. Clinton's faithful defenders. Some are starting to bug me.

Catch phrase No. 1: "What the president does in his private life is his own business." It's a fact of the human condition: We only have one life. It matters not whether our actions are bathed in the harsh light of public scrutiny, or if we live our days in humble anonymity. Elected members of the government swear to uphold the public trust. They are not endowed with a second, "private" life (unavailable to the common man), wherein they can do whatever they want.

Catch phrase No.2: "Morality is just personal opinion." As situational ethicists would have it, being free of preconceptions about right and wrong makes you ready to move fast in any situation. In the 1992 election campaign, Mr. Clinton held up this flexibility as an advantageous trait. But ethics and morality are most emphatically not dictated by individual circumstances.

Catch phrase No.3: "Everybody does it."

Really? I don't. I'll bet the majority of Americans keep their vows and remain faithful to their spouses. And the president is in the ultimate position of moral leadership. To say that the president - who sends our young men and women to war, who is trusted to speak for us around the globe - need not be held to a higher standard, is irresponsible and contemptible. As trite as it may have sounded during the last election, aren't we chagrined to learn at last: Character does matter after all.

Jim Selleck Redford, Mich.

Panama Canal dry up?

The necessity for constructing an interoceanic, sea-level canal across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Mexico, becomes evident in the article, "Water Woes: Deforestation Could Dry Up the Panama Canal" (Oct. 23).

For 15 years I have campaigned for the construction of a sea-level canal across the alluvial plains of Tehuantepec. It is a project that would employ tens of thousands of idle workers. The shorter Tehuantepec canal route, which has been ignored for over 100 years, would also open the Gulf ports of the US to intercostal trade with our West Coast. Contrary to popular belief, Gulf ports have not economically benefited, nationally or internationally, from the Panama Canal as much as has our East Coast: Gulf Coast shipping transiting the Panama Canal must voyage at least 1,000 miles further.

If the Panama Canal area is determined to destroy itself, then the US and Mexico must now begin to build a sea-level canal across the Tehuantepec and not wait until after the year 2000 when the Panama Canal reverts to the Republic of Panama.

Ray E. Burgess Englewood, Fla.

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