Americans can't afford to tolerate trash talk

Lisa Suhay's Aug. 26 Opinion piece, "The South's 'trash-talk' factor," is an unfortunate effort to exculpate Pat Robertson's inexcusable tirade about Venezuela's Hugo Chávez. [Editor's note: Mr. Robertson has since apologized for his remark.] She dismisses his fulmination as "trash talk," familiar to Southerners as harmless gabble by an otherwise good ole boy.

She assures us that local folks cheerfully ignore such talk and care more about surfing and military base closings. If this is true, shame on them.

The point about Mr. Robertson's reckless musings is not that they are ignored by some of his countrymen but rather that they are taken seriously by people in other nations and cultures. We are perceived in many parts of the world as, at best, ignorant and insensitive meddlers in the internal affairs of other nations and, at worst, as ruthless invaders and colonial occupiers.

More damaging to our reputation is that Pat Robertson is billed as a leading Christian and as a former presidential candidate who captured a significant number of votes in the 1988 primaries. Mr. Chávez reacted to Robertson's attack by saying he had never heard of him and cared little for his opinions, but he did indicate that this confirmed his suspicion that the United States was trying to have him ousted or killed.
Norman Anderson
Mercer Island, Wash.

I, like Ms. Suhay, also live within a stone's throw of Virginia Beach, but it is obvious that she and I might as well be living on different planets.

My social circle is horrified by Pat Robertson's comments. We feel that not only is it irresponsible of a man who is supposedly a "moral leader," but it is very un-Christian for a supposed man of God to want to break the commandment "Thou shalt not kill."

Concerning trash talk as a whole, again the people in my life (including some 'true' Southern ladies and gentlemen) feel that such a thing is far too rude and impolite for a Southerner to indulge in.

"Trash talk" is rudeness, pure and simple. It is not an expected "virtue" for those in the South; it is the same thing as everywhere else, a few people wanting to be mean and hoping to convince other people that being mean is good.

After reading Ms. Suhay's article, I am embarrassed to be living in this geographical area. I simply hope that other people can see that she is not representing the people of this region as a whole when she says that trash-talking and other forms of rudeness are common here and that it's looked on as OK and normal for a minister to publicly ask for murder.
Christine Hunnicutt
Newport News, Va.

Strike up a conversation

I loved Jeffrey Shaffer's Aug. 26 column, "Nothing a good name tag can't fix." Believe it or not, I have been wearing a name tag 24/7 for the last 1,759 days straight, simply to encourage friendliness and approachability. It's changed my life and the lives of thousands of people I've met over the past five years. Keep name-tagging!
Scott Ginsberg
St. Louis

Mr. Shaffer's article took me back to Hawaii, where we were living when my husband's Uncle Ward came to visit. Ward didn't need a name tag. He talked to everyone he met on the beach of Waikiki. But we noticed, everyone he engaged in conversation soon began to argue with him. Off the beach we asked him why. His reply: "If I agree with them, the conversation is over." Ward was a one-room-school teacher turned businessman in McCook, Neb. He retired to Riverside, Calif. - you may have met him.
June Shores
Houston, Texas

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