Letters to the Editors
Censorship is a two-edged sword
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 26, 2002
Re: Community standards: not a shield but a sword, by Robyn E. Blumner, May 19.
"There is nothing either good or bad," said Shakespeare's Hamlet, "but thinking makes it so."
"As he thinketh in his heart, so is he," observed the writer of Proverbs.
"Beauty is altogether in the eye of the beholder," wrote the novelist Lew Wallace in The Prince of India.
All of the above are simply expressions of something we should all remember: Such terms as "good," "bad," "beautiful," and, yes, "obscene," are subjective.
Thus some of us see a nude statue as an attractive work of art. Others would banish it from the public gaze as "dirty." Some of us throw a blue drape over the representation of a woman's breast. Others see such an action unnecessary or even ludicrous.
Robyn Blumner's excellent column exposes the vague concept of "community standards" for what is acceptable for what it is: another effort by those who "know" they are "right" to tell the rest of us what we may view or read. It is an attempt at censorship invidious in the extreme.
Certainly there is a plethora of trashy material constantly put before us. Certainly any serious adult must deplore the sleaze flaunted everywhere. But just as certainly any effort to forbid it leads to the kind of state none of us wants. For if I try to outlaw your films, books, etc., what assurance do I have that some day the tables won't be turned, and you will be in power to outlaw what I enjoy. Never must we forget that censorship is a two-edged sword.
Rarely do you manage to offend so many people with one misguided offering as you did with the Pat Oliphant cartoon on May 19. You managed to offend the Cuban emigres who are here because of the repressive government in Cuba, and who are mostly hard-working, educated, legal, taxpaying members of our state population. You offended the president of our nation, suggesting his opposition to the "Jimmy Carter Claptrap" was in some way a sop to the Cuban population. And you showed disdain for our governor as well. All the people of the United States, elected President Bush, not a select few in South Florida, as this cartoon implies. And Carter has successfully offended every ex-president since he left office by his socialist leanings.
If you are so fond of Cuba and Fidel Castro, move your editorial offices to Havana, enjoy the restricted life there, and change the name of the paper to the Havana Free Times -- at least then you will have credibility as a liberal newspaper.
Re: Pat Oliphant's cartoon, May 19.
This is the second time in the last few months that the Times has carried a cartoon by Pat Oliphant poking fun at minorities. Perhaps this newspaper endorses his views or else it would not publish them.
While I do not agree with the Cuban-Americans' policies and strong-arm tactics at the state and national levels, I am a Hispanic and as such I am deeply offended by this cartoonist's portrayal of us and how we sound to your, and his, refined ears. We don't have a sense of humor, you say? Neither did you when the Ay-rabs did a number on the World Trade Center.
Whites in this country have the strange notion that they belong anywhere they go, that they are the master race and kings of the universe and that they have the God-given right to lord it over the unfortunate pigmented minorities or those who speak with an accent. Perhaps the Times is masquerading as a liberal newspaper while in fact it harbors an extreme right-wing tendency.
To keep children safe
Re: Why? 35 questions and answers about the crisis in the Catholic Church, April 28.
I read your article and found it interesting. I am sure you recognize how important it is to protect our children from sexual abuse not only in churches but also in schools and other organizations such as the YMCA and Scouts. In these matters we cannot risk our children's development, and specifically their long-term mental health, for the sake of political correctness and "new age enlightenment."
Specifically in response to the Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls (item 21 of your article) you state, "Not so fast, say researchers who study sexual offenders. Homosexuals are no more likely than heterosexuals to be pedophiles. Those experts go on to say that few of the abusive priests can be considered genuine pedophiles, those who target young children. Their victims are post-pubescent adolescents, ages 14 to 17."
As a matter of fact the scientific data I find tends strongly to the contrary. And this aspect of the situation is especially important to any organization that provides services to children. To help all of us consider the whole picture, I would like to add into the discussion some first-class scientific data. I ask everyone to review the following articles in these well-established journals:
1) K. Freund, et al., "Pedophilia and Heterosexuality vs. Homosexuality," Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy 10 (fall 1984),
Rising above racism
Re: A friendship that endured in racist time, by Bill Maxwell, May 19.
What a wonderful tribute from one true friend to another. Neither blood related, nor race-related, nor community related and yet these two men were true friends. I, too, was raised in a racist environment (though I do not believe, to this day, that they feel they were/are racists). For some reason this had no effect on me. Raised in a small water town (in the Northeast of Maryland, no less), I did not realize the feelings of my family until a young African-American girl and her family moved to the edge of our neighborhood and she and I became close friends. Not until I had asked my mother if I could bring a new friend home from school one day (and it was she) did I realize that my family showed any of these negative signs. My mother (too polite to make a scene at the time) cut our afternoon short and proceeded to tell me that maybe it was best if I had no friends come home when she was still working; better to return to the habit of going to my other girlfriends' homes where their mothers did not work. (Of course, they were white.)
Still this did not faze me as I continue, to this day, my relationship with my lifelong friend and many others of different backgrounds and heritages. Why did I not pick up the characteristics that were so subtly taught to me? I have no idea. I am just glad that I chose to adopt the kinder and more considerate lessons throughout my life and proud that I have shown (by example) those traits to my own daughter.
Spreading good news
Re: Something to write home about, May 19.
Kudos to Jeff Klinkenberg for finding such a beautiful story about a generous woman -- Laura Carmichael! I hope she gets a copy of the article sent to her. This world is full of angels and I'm sure she has been rewarded with good health and a long life to complete her purpose on this earth.
Thank you for sharing this with us. It's wonderful to read good, heartwarming stories like this.
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