09/19/04 — Letters: Thoughts on some that didn’t make the forum

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Letters: Thoughts on some that didn’t make the forum

A newspaper can’t print every single letter that comes to its forum. The News-Argus prints as many as possible — all that are submitted, provided they are not too long and they follow other rules for publication.

The ones that have to be rejected sometimes raise interesting issues.

ONE, FOR EXAMPLE, comes from a high school senior who is concerned that Wayne County schools won’t allow pupils to wear clothes bearing the image of a Confederate battle flag.

Her letter makes the case that the flag is a symbol of our heritage, and the prohibition suppresses free speech. The content of her letter was not what kept it from publication; it was too long. In fact, her points are well taken.

But she did not address the reason that the school system implemented its policy — rightly or wrongly — in the first place. Some people are so offended by the Rebel flag that they consider flaunting it to be inflammatory.

They shouldn’t be offended, but they are. To some of us, the flag represents the courage and patriotism of not-too-distant ancestors. To others, it represents slavery and hatred.

Our letter-writer should be demonstrating that people who respect the flag can be as inoffensive, as kind and as gentle as those who despise it. In time, perhaps, the anger and indignation that it evokes will subside.

ANOTHER LETTER came from an inmate at Central Prison. Newspapers get many letters from prisons and jails. Some of the correspondents are proclaiming their innocence, but most are complaining about conditions. This particular man complained about a practice that he said might help spread the HIV virus.

He wrote that prisoners are allowed to use a razor for one hour, and then the razors, the disposable type, are collected, and all are placed together in a box. The writer is concerned that someone might leave a bit of blood on a razor to infect the next person who uses it.

It would seem, based solely on the information that the prisoner provided, that he has a point. Couldn’t the razors be kept in a disinfecting solution?

People who choose criminal behavior run the risk of being condemned to a prison to take their chances with other criminals; still, we are enjoined to comfort the lowly and, specifically, to act kindly toward prisoners.

Besides, any prisoners who contract infectious diseases will someday bring them to the outside world.

EVERY INSTITUTION, prison, school or whatever, needs rules to maintain order. Some of the rules may be unfair, some even unwise. Usually they are established with good intentions, but someone will always feel cheated by them, and reviewing them from time to time is a not a bad idea.

LEST YOU BELIEVE that all is bitterness and strife in our community, read this:

Many letters accuse businesses of unfair practices. One came the other day from the parents of a teen-ager who had been involved in an auto accident.

They felt that the wrecker company’s charge for removing their car was excessive, so the father called the company. In the course of the conversation, the employee who answered the telephone told him he wouldn’t have this problem if he would teach his son not to drive drunk.

That was the wrong response. The boy doesn’t drink, and he happens to be quite an achiever — working, attending school, spending time with his family. His accident occurred while he was driving home from a birthday party for his 2-year-old niece.

Printing that letter would have maligned the towing company. But this dilemma solved itself. Soon another envelope came from the parents, and enclosed was a letter that they had received from the towing company’s owners.

They wrote that they agreed that the person who referred to drunk driving had made a mistake; they apologized for the offense; they wished the teen-ager well; they explained the amount of the fee, and — to prove their sincerity — they refunded the charge.

The letter to the editor was withdrawn.

Published in Editorials on September 19, 2004 12:13 AM