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    Letters to the Editors

    Tyranny begins when freedom erodes

    © St. Petersburg Times, published October 8, 2000


    Re: Resist insidious searches, by Robyn Blumner, Oct. 1.

    What an eerie feeling I had after reading this and then reading Bill Maxwell's column about his trip to Eastern Europe and Auschwitz-Birkenau.

    If you study czars and dictators both past and present, you may see one constant theme or method of operation. One of the first things that happens is citizens lose all rights and freedoms. I do not consider myself an extremist, nor am I totally anti-government, but if anyone assumes that this could not happen in the United States, they are fooling themselves. Look at Haiti, Libya, North Korea, Yugoslavia, not to mention the countless other nations where human rights have, for the most part evaporated. Do I think this could happen in my lifetime, no I do not. It is a very slow and deliberate process. But it does happen.

    The slow but sure loss of constitutional rights we have witnessed in the name of law and order may surely come back to haunt this nation. Remember that when criminals lose these rights and freedoms, so do you, "Joe Upstanding."
    -- Don Mott, Largo

    We should all be wary

    Re: Resist insidious searches.

    It is not ironic that in the same Times issue that Robyn Blumner brings to our consciousness the erosion of the Fourth Amendment through "special needs" exceptions, Bill Maxwell offers his thoughtful description of his visit to the Auschwitz concentration camp.

    I am writing to head off the inevitable letter challenging Blumner's caution on the erosion of the Fourth Amendment's right to privacy and freedom from search without cause.

    The inevitable argument casually dismisses the freedom from search by any authority with the blind assertion that "if you have nothing to hide then you have nothing to fear."

    That argument in favor of such invasions is obtuse and irrelevant. Those Jews deported and murdered in the camps were often pointed out by "innocent" neighbors who felt secure that their Aryan ancestry protected them and that they themselves had nothing to fear.

    When your neighbor is subject to a witch-hunt search and detention, who is to say who will be searched next? Do you have a "pornographic" magazine in your closet? Did your child leave a marijuana cigarette in your car, or was it one of his friends? And will you be arrested for the find?

    In effect, you will now have to wear a yellow Star of David on your lapel, indicating that you are now subject to search and seizure at any time or any place. In effect there will be no Fourth Amendment privilege and you must take care and always check your rear-view mirror.

    That is what our founding fathers wanted Americans to be protected from: a tyranny of government in the name of "security." Even the privileged will take their turn in the defendant's box! Let us all be wary.
    -- Joel Hersch, Clearwater

    To better understand

    Re: Humanity's evil haunts grounds at Auschwitz, by Bill Maxwell, Oct. 1.

    After reading Bill Maxwell's heartfelt, poignant account of his experience at Auschwitz-Birkenau, the most infamous of the Holocaust death camps, can anyone believe he is an anti-Semite? Some in our Jewish community have pinned that label on him for an occasional column harshly criticizing Israelis.

    Perhaps now, Maxwell's Jewish detractors will view him more sympathetically, and perhaps now, Maxwell's judgment of Israelis will be tempered by his having seen firsthand the "... ultimate evil and insanity" visited upon Jews in his lifetime.

    At the heart of Israel's current travail lies the same mindless, implacable hatred of Jews to which the civilized world's response must be "Never again."
    -- Joseph H. Francis, St. Petersburg

    Missing Nader's message

    Re: What to make of Ralph Nader, Oct. 1.

    It's unfortunate that the Times devoted so much ink to painting a portrait of Ralph Nader as an eccentric fringe candidate with a following of loopy leftists, rather than discussing the man's ideas. He raises legitimate points about the nature of American politics and the role of corporate money in shaping the choices our government makes.

    Ironically, the article's point is that Nader is struggling to find a forum, and then it proceeds to deny him one. It completely ignores his message, which is important and addresses the concerns of many mainstream Americans -- perhaps even a majority of Americans, since 51 percent are so disenchanted with politics that they don't even bother to vote.

    I hope that Nader takes a significant share of votes away from the major parties. Perhaps it will prod them to start listening to individual taxpayers, instead of pandering to their traditional constituencies in their rhetoric and then, once elected, enacting policies to reward the fat cats who backed their campaigns with soft money.
    -- Jan Allyn, Largo

    Informing the voters

    Re: What to make of Ralph Nader.

    Thanks, St. Petersburg Times! Believe it or not, there are still a good number of folks not familiar with Nader's past work or current candidacy. (This I know from working with the Pinellas Greens -- at 908 First St. S, phone (727) 822-1978 -- to get the word out.)

    Your Oct. 1 front-page story on him shows that it is the press that still creates an informed electorate. (This is the foundation of maintaining a democracy, for, of and by the people.) That responsibility cannot be overly emphasized and is the reason freedom of the press was put in the Constitution. Kudos from this citizen and new subscriber.
    -- John Howes, St. Petersburg

    A passionate man

    Re: What to make of Ralph Nader.

    It was great to see extensive coverage of a third-party candidate in your newspaper. Although the author may describe Nader as "angry," I would prefer the term "passionate." Would great men such as Martin Luther King Jr. or Mahatma Gandhi be better labeled as passionate or angry?

    Nader shows a sense of compassion and connection that is lacking from the other candidates. His ability to draw such large crowds confirms this. His positions on universal health care, fair trade over free trade and "corporations out of politics" are much needed.

    People are beginning to see that there can be more than the doldrums of our two-party system. It would great to see him in the debates with the other two. Check out www.debatethis.org to make your voice heard on this issue.

    In November, keep in mind there is an alternative. Things can be better. Vote Green.
    -- Ronald Worker, New Port Richey

    Unintended results

    Those who support Ralph Nader do so for principled reasons. However, it is reasonable to presume that in the absence of a Nader candidacy, they would probably vote for Al Gore. In many important states, including Florida, the race between Al Gore and George W. Bush is so close that votes for Nader, by drawing away votes for Al Gore, could cause a Bush victory. That is an unintended result that most Nader supporters would not consciously support.

    If Nader had any chance to be elected president, those who contemplate voting for him would never be persuaded to do otherwise. But the polls show that his support is negligible. So Nader supporters face the reality that a vote for Nader may unintentionally result in giving a state to Bush. Nader supporters should give this serious consideration as they approach Election Day.
    -- Tony Connole, Homosassa

    Personal choices

    Re: When abortion is the issue, reason is a victim, by Philip Gailey, Oct. 1.

    Gailey just doesn't "get it." As usual, he talks all around Robin Hood's barn but can't seem to focus on the real issues.

    The issue has been and always will be the person's right to choose what happens with her own body. Whether it be a woman making a difficult abortion decision or a senior citizen choosing not to extend life during a painful terminal illness, it is the human's basic right to decide what to do with his or her own body.

    For any group, whether religious or governmental, to be arbitrarily deciding to force its medical view onto everyone screams of "Big Brother" and totally alienates anybody who understands what America's founders tried to establish.

    Enlightened people want these decisions to be made personally by themselves, for themselves. I have never heard a pro-choice person or a right-to-die advocate say that another person "must" do it this way. It's strange that the other side of these issues has only one point of view.
    -- Richard K. Hainisch, Seminole

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