Readers respond: How far do we go with empathy?

Letters to the editor published in the Nov. 28, 2022, weekly magazine. Readers note the value of "serious consideration" where due and wonder about student debt relief.

The attention he deserves 

I was pleasantly surprised when I opened the Oct. 31 Weekly magazine to see “How this poet stands up to misunderstanding,” describing the work of Raymond Antrobus. Too often the work of talented disabled poets is either ignored in mainstream publications or relegated to some “inspirational corner” rather than being given the serious consideration it deserves. I genuinely appreciate the writer’s attempt to provide readers with a detailed introduction to his poetry, background, and accomplishments.

Michael Northen
Pennsauken, New Jersey

Advice well taken

Thank you for your lovely tribute to John Gould in the Oct. 17 Weekly magazine. I enjoyed Mr. Gould’s warm, witty, and engaging writing for many years. As a teenager and aspiring writer, I wrote Mr. Gould a letter expressing appreciation for his writing and asking some questions about writing and publishing. I received his response in a business reply envelope he had recycled by covering the business address with magazine subscription stamps. His type-written note was as humorous and practical as the envelope that contained it. For example, he advised that if I were to write an article on how to diaper a baby, I shouldn’t submit it to “Popular Mechanics.” In other words: Know your audience. I followed his advice, and it wasn’t long afterward that I did get my first piece published – a story about neighborhood baseball games when I was a kid – in a magazine devoted to tales of nostalgia. I’ll always cherish Mr. Gould’s writing as well as his personal note of encouragement, which I have kept. 

Heidi Kleinsmith Salter
Petoskey, Michigan

Limits to empathy?

The Oct. 24 commentary, “Student debt: Where does empathy fit in?” by Ken Makin, makes me want to jump into the fray of this difficult issue. Debt is a companion that has many faces, and everyone who has it would welcome relief.  

Empathy could be painted with broad strokes over many circumstances that burden mankind. What about homelessness? Drug addiction? Whose issue, whose need, is most important? Society will always have to make difficult decisions on division of spending to help its citizens. What is a right and what is aspirational?

It seems to me no coincidence that the Oct. 24 issue, with its focus on “Teaching moral integrity in fractured times,” also includes helping maligned widows in India, understanding marginalized groups in Jerusalem, helping devastated Floridians after Hurricane Ian, and seeking equitable sustainability of water rights. Humanity is hungry for fairness, for answers to broad inequities. Moral integrity is learned behavior.

I would disagree with the commentary’s view that “the essence of why people attend college” is “economic advancement.” My parents believed an education was to nurture and develop a whole person, a thoughtful contributor to society. We were encouraged to take classes from professors who were exceptional rather than just class titles. Education was training to expand the mind, not a means to a paycheck. 

My view is that those who have struggled to pay their college debt are about to be punished. Let’s level the playing field and instead offer an accommodation. Make college loans interest-free. Reimburse paid interest. Loans not repaid after 15 years should be taxed by the IRS, a simpler way to avoid having to track income and refigure interest rates. The commentary’s interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer on forgiving our debts for financial rescue would create quite a queue!

Ann Hymes
Laguna Woods, California

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