Democracy dangerous in Rwanda?

Your Feb. 22 editorial "US role in Africa's big war" called for increased democracy in Rwanda as a way to stabilize the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This doesn't take into account history. Rwanda suffered through 35 years of Hutu extremist domination of the government at the expense of Tutsis.

This persecution culminated with the 1994 genocide. After they were defeated militarily, the genocidaires fled to the east of what was then Zaire. They continued to launch raids into Rwanda and terrorize the citizens of the country. These genocidal militias are the problem and are not the least bit interested in democracy.

In a democracy, the majority may rule but that does not mean the minority retains no rights at all, as was the case in Rwanda 1959-1994. If "democracy" and "majority rule" means the Hutu extremist militias revert to their old ways, then we are sure to see another catastrophe in Rwanda.

Brian Farenell Glens Falls, N.Y.

Tax refund for married couples no gift

Your Feb. 7 article "Family values come to the tax code" had a jump head that read "Married couples get a gift from Washington." I found the latter headline offensive. It is not a gift when a government penalizes people for marriage and then decides they will no longer fine them, but instead allow them to keep some of their own money.

This is another exercise in futility emphasizing that the government is taking money that rightfully belongs to the people. Washington has repeatedly handed out gifts to the electorate, which means they have taken our money and then generously given some of it back. It is not a gift if it belonged to you in the first place.

Edythe Dean Jennings, Ohio

Your article reporting on Congress's belated efforts to eliminate the marriage penalty was a disappointment. This would not be a "gift," as your jump headline blares, but the righting of an old wrong. And the bonus which one-earner families enjoy makes plenty of sense, since in those families one salary supports at least two people. Your article did not point that out. Although opinions were quoted on both sides of the issue, your bias came through loud and clear.

Eleanor Hodge Petaluma, Calif.

The university's humble origins

Your article "A thousand years" (Feb. 15) misses the origin of Western civilization's education system by 500 years. During fifth-century Europe, solitary monks in remote Irish hermitages preserved the literature of western Christianity as well as its Greek and Latin pre-Christian forebears.

From those humble beginnings, their reputation drew the young of both commoners and noblemen seeking scholarly fellowship and classical education. By late sixth century, wandering Irish monks began spreading throughout Europe founding similar monastic centers of learning. Many of these centers became Western civilization's university tradition.

Euguene Mullaly San Diego, Calif.

Morality should not be dictated by law

Rod Dreher's opinion piece " 'Cider House's' abortion: right vs. what works" (Feb. 7) fails to distinguish between legality and morality. It should not be the government's job to legislate morality. Moral issues are the churches' purview. Individuals certainly need guidance and an absolute moral code.

The law's job, however, should not dictate one group's morality to another, but should simply provide for the safety of its constituents.

Mary Ghislin Bartlett, Ill.

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