When is an American not an American?
Regarding "A new nationalism on the rise" (June 11): I was distressed to read that more Americans are now emphasizing what they think is their "commonality" rather than using terms like Irish-American to denote ethnic background. Oh, for a sense of roots!
People who are not proud of the "hyphens culture" in their patriotic lineage are, in my view, dangerous. They exhibit a sort of introversion in which anything foreign even inside US culture itself is made a pejorative object of derision. I recently came across a 1940 Monitor interview with the great Anglo-American poet W. H. Auden, in which he said that on his way to becoming a US citizen he nevertheless feared Americans who artificially tried to find a specific "American" identity.
People rightly fear jingoistic insularity. But you are admired for your hyphens, not your conformity!
Regarding "The politics of fear" (June 17, Opinion): I am not a fan of the attorney general, but it does seem appropriate to apply proportionate justice to those "Americans" who are involved against the US in the war of terror.
Those who have allied themselves with our enemy can no longer, as a practical matter, be considered American citizens. Instead of acting as if they all have equal rights, we should consider "degrees of involvement" in deciding how to treat such individuals. Is John Walker Lindh's involvement with the Taliban really as dangerous to America as Jose Padilla's alleged attempt to build a dirty bomb?
It is also crucially important to ask: What do they know? Can they provide information which will safeguard Americans?
The United States practices a humanity almost unparalleled in modern warfare. I ask: How many enlisted personnel were returned by North Vietnam at the end of the war? They brutalized and killed virtually every enlisted soldier and returned officers. How about Japan and Germany in World War II?
We live in a difficult world. We must think about the consequences of our choices in prosecuting this challenging war while protecting the liberties that we value so highly.
Joseph A. Kinney
Regarding "Battling Child Labor Wisely" (June 13, Editorial): In 1949, when I was 14 years of age, I had an agricultural job that was hard work, loading boxes of shelled peas onto flatbed semi-trailers in Walla Walla, Washington. Although my family was independently wealthy, I was very happy to work 12 hours per day, seven days per week. I was disappointed when the child labor people caught up with my employer and I lost my job.
I am now 66 years of age, and I have four children and six grandchildren. Although I hold two college degrees in engineering from Stanford University, I live on my modest organic farm and I often work more than 12 hour days and usually seven days a week!
I strongly believe that hard physical work improves one's intellectual accomplishments in several ways. I believe it makes me healthier, and I believe that the practical things I come into contact with in my physical work add a practical base to my intellectual work.
I know that there is child labor that involves dangerous materials such as lead and other toxic materials. I believe that this kind of child labor should be stopped. On the other hand, there is also child labor that benefits the child and his family.
A distinction must be made as to the kind of work being done and the net effect on the child, his family, and his country.
Peter T. Robinson
Camp Verde, Ariz.
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