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Thursday, March 10, 2005 07:15 am

letters 3-10-05

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Send letters to: Letters, Illinois Times. P.O. Box 5256. Springfield, Illinois 62705. Fax: (217) 753-3958. E-mail: editor@illinoistimes.com

DON’T IGNORE PRIVACY RIGHT

Thank you, Fletcher Farrar, for your editorial [“On abortion, the new search for common ground,” Feb. 24]. I can only hope that any new framing by the Democratic Party of the abortion discussion will not overlook the key constitutional issue, that of the right to privacy.

The struggle to legalize contraception dragged on for many years long before the Roe v. Wade court decision to legalize abortion in 1973. Both decisions put their emphases on the right to privacy with regard to sexuality and reproduction. Many women and men today may not be aware of the long and rough road to these freedoms and may take for granted this core value in the U.S. Constitution.

The United States government is not a theocracy. I, for one, cherish the freedom I have to decide these matters according to the ethical convictions of my own religious tradition.

LuAnn Atkins
Rochester

SPD’S “PROGRESS” IS A MARVEL

“Bad boys” is a revealing and thought-provoking article [Dusty Rhodes, March 3]. I can only marvel at the great progress the Springfield Police Department and Policemen’s Benevolent and Protective Agency Unit 5 are making.

It appears the well-known Confederate Quota for Profound Stupidity and Undistinguished Asininity, formerly reserved for the sole benefit of the Good ol’ Boys and Gals in Blue, is now available to all of their colleagues.

Only in America and here in Springfield, Ill., is this sort of progress possible. Is that great or what?

Keep up the good work.

Joseph Washington
Springfield

DISTRICT 5 BANS POPULAR TEEN BOOK

Should the local school district’s choices in curriculum, materials, and activities reflect the values of the community? Should board members, as elected representatives, make the final decisions regarding the acceptable content of school materials? Should there be established policies to guide these elected officials when a materials challenge arises?

District 5 had a board-approved policy regarding the removal of materials from the district’s libraries. The policy had been established to provide a balanced decision-making procedure regarding challenged materials, with community, teacher, principal, and librarian input, and with the final decision about any censorship resting with the school board. This was seen as a fair and balanced policy that had been in effect for more than 20 years in District 5.

Sadly, this policy no longer exists.

Without input from the district’s librarians or the public, the policy has been eliminated [by] one district employee, behind closed doors, making censorship decisions for the community. In February, this employee banned a teen novel, Aimee, from the Glenwood Middle School library (grades 6-8) because he felt it did not represent community values. Aimee, by Mary Beth Miller, is a 2002 American Library Association “Best Book” award winner, a 2003 Colorado state exceptional book winner, and a Barnes & Nobel “Best Teen Book” winner. It was removed from the GMS collection just two weeks ago. An employee at the district office decided that this book, aimed at helping teens “cope with peer pressure, decision making, and coping skills,” did not represent community values.

It is ironic that the school district, which eliminated an award-winning book, at the same time embraces Chicago, an award-winning musical that glamorizes adultery, murder, and exploitation. What kind of mixed signals does this contradiction relay to District 5 students?

As a former librarian at Glenwood High School, I have defended teens’ freedom to read, and for 16 years spoke to students, teachers, parents and administrators about book-banning issues and the value of District 5’s policy. In my professional opinion it is unconscionable that District 5 has closed the door on community input via committee, and has closed the door on the invaluable knowledge of five library specialists when censorship decisions arise. I implore school board members to review this issue and allow the librarians to provide the experience and expertise necessary to reestablish the invaluable, democratic materials-challenge policy that had served the community so well for so many years.

Karen High
Virginia, Ill.

PETER BENENSON, 1921-2005

The candle flickers. Peter Benenson is dead.

His was a life for humanity. As a result of the profound success of his 1961 Appeal to Amnesty, Mr. Benenson founded Amnesty International, the world’s largest international human-rights organization, responsible for the release of untold thousands of prisoners of conscience in the past 44 years. Irene Khan, secretary general of AI, said, “He brought light into the darkness of prisons, the horror of torture chambers, and the tragedy of death camps around the world.”

Outrage over the arbitrary arrest and imprisonment of two Portuguese students for toasting liberty prompted Mr. Benenson to vent his sense of powerlessness in the face of such injustices. Feeling that surely there must be more people like him, distraught by these daily flagrant violations of human rights but feeling particularly unable to effect change, he launched a one-year campaign for amnesty, beginning with an essay in the British Observer titled “The Forgotten Prisoners.” The response from common citizens around the world embarrassed Portuguese dictator António de Oliveira Salazar, prompting him to stand down in the face of global public opinion and release the men.

Mr. Benenson’s campaign was inspirationally unique, proving that individual citizens, acting in nonviolent concert, can directly affect the liberty and dignity of others on this fragile planet, that the opinions of an Illinoisan can shame a faraway dictator to promote, instead of violate, human rights. Human-rights activism and global civil society were born!

What was fantastic in 1961 — a commitment of conscience — is still fantastic today. With any luck there will be a day when we need no longer stand “against oblivion”; when torture, “disappearances,” rapes and mass murders are absent from our relations; when the great work of justice stands at commanding heights. Until that day, Mr. Benenson’s candle of hope blazes for all humanity’s todays and tomorrows, an enduring symbol of the ordinary’s ability to bring about the extraordinary.

Michael Ziri
Springfield

EXPAND CIRCUIT BREAKER PROGRAM

The state’s Circuit Breaker and Prescription Coverage program helps many seniors. It should be expanded to help many more by not requiring seniors to list their Medicare deductions as income. Only money received is income.

Donald E. Palmer
Springfield

CHRISTIANS WERE PLAYED BY BUSH

It is time for many Christians to realize that they were played by the president in the November election. He played on their fears regarding two issues: abortion and homosexual marriage. By couching his campaign rhetoric around those two hot-button issues, he successfully led well-intentioned conservative voters to avoid the pressing issues of the Iraq war, Medicare and Medicaid funding woes, the budget deficit, and the unjust tax cut for the wealthy.

I truly doubt Jesus would have so casually overlooked the killing of thousands of Iraqis in the name of freedom, the deaths of almost 1,500 American soldiers in an unjust military action, and the plight of many Americans who struggle to make ends meet on a daily basis. Jesus called on the church to take care of widows and orphans and help the poor. He didn’t call for political activism. Some church historians seem to indicate that Judas was the one who got hung up on political activism, and things didn’t work out so well for him. Too many of our churches preach conservative politics, the point being that churches shouldn’t be in the business of preaching politics, period.

Contrary to the teachings in some churches, compassionate conservatism has more to do with helping the less fortunate and caring for poor people than standing on a picket line protesting an abortion doctor, worrying about the effects of gay marriage on traditional marriages, or making sure our retirement plans are maximizing their return potential. The church should be Christians emulating the love and compassion that Jesus modeled 2,000 years ago to a lost, hurting, and despairing world. Over the past several years, our society has been caught up in the “What Would Jesus Do?” phenomena. It is my belief that if Jesus were here today, he would be spending much of his time performing “I” surgery.

Chris Babb
Rochester

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