National sovereignty a privilege, not a right I read with interest your Sept. 29 report"Few sacred borders to new UN." I believe it would be very instructive for the Monitor (and other thoughtful observers) to find ways to emphasize repeatedly that, as a matter of current international law, governments must live up to some very important standards in order to legitimately claim the privileges of national sovereignty.

According to Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), a government cannot legally claim under current international law that non-interference in its internal matters is an absolute right, contrary to what some of the rulers quoted in your fine piece, such as Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and Chinese foreign minister Tang Jiaxuan, insist. Instead, the privileges of national sovereignty are better thought of as a limited, contingent right of governments.

A fundamental document of the United Nations approved unanimously over 50 years ago by UN voting members including the United States, the UDHR, through Article 21, established as a fundamental human right, everywhere, that "the will of the people in a nation-state shall be the basis of the authority of government...."

Specifically, this document implies - very clearly - that governments that are not founded upon this basis do not have any legal standing whatsoever as authoritative institutions of national sovereignty. Note that Article 21 does not say that the will of the people shall be a basis of the authority; it says that the will of the people shall be the basis.

Is Article 21 more than just a musty old piece of paper? I certainly hope so, for it seems to me to go to the heart of values that Americans and many others around the world share, far more than merely on paper. James S. Thomason, Fairfax, Va.

Sensation censorship I am outraged at New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's threats to cut off funding to the Brooklyn Museum of Art in retaliation for hosting a controversial display. ("Art fiasco reveals a changing New York," Oct. 1). Mayor Giuliani may describe the "Sensation" show as "disgusting," but his personal feelings do not override the First Amendment rights of the museum's directors.

If Mayor Giuliani is so offended by the "Sensation" collection, he is free to refuse to see it. He is free to publicly criticize the artists and their work on television, in print, or on the Internet. Moreover, he is free to sponsor an art exhibition that is more to his liking, or even to create his own artwork and put it on display.

The First Amendment guarantees Mayor Giuliani the right to exercise all these, and many more options. I suggest he exercise these freedoms, and similarly respect the freedom of the Brooklyn Museum of Art. His attempt to use economics as a means of circumventing the Constitution is a tactic unworthy of a public official. Michael J. Mazza, Pittsburgh

Keyed up I enjoyed Marti Attoun's article on "major key buildup." ("Lock the door, but don't throw away that key," Oct. 1.) However, there are ways to recycle old keys. In my work at the local hardware store, I end up with about 20 to 30 rejected key cuts a week. These rejects used to end up in the trash.

But I've discovered that dangling from fishing line, they can make wonderful wind chimes. A few months ago, one of my neighbors came by the store specifically looking for rejected keys he could use in his metal sculptures. I haven't tossed an old or rejected key in the trash since! Steve Sherman, Wimberley, Texas

The Monitor welcomes your letters and opinion articles. Due to the volume of mail we receive, we can neither acknowledge nor return unused manuscripts. All submissions are subject to editing. Letters must be signed and include your mailing address and telephone number.

Mail letters to 'Readers Write,' and opinion articles to Opinion Page, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, or fax to 617-450-2317, or e-mail to

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.