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Letters: Jul. 28, 2003

8 minute read

The Amazing Adventures of Ben Franklin

“If the U.S. wishes to get out of this century alive, its leaders would do well to heed the lessons of Benjamin Franklin.” FRED WICKHAM San Francisco

Your tribute to Ben Franklin was a useful summary of how much he contributed to our nation [COVER STORY, July 7]. It also served as a reminder of how rare his seven “great virtues”–aversion to tyranny, support for a free press, a sense of humor, humility, idealism in foreign policy, tolerance and respect for compromise–are in the leaders of today in their response to the challenges of the post-9/11 world. Franklin’s fundamental scientific approach, in which conclusions are drawn after testing hypotheses, is an important additional virtue. This philosophy is quite different from that of the Bush Administration, which often selects the facts to fit its hypotheses. DAVID GWYNNE Beverly, Mass.

The Special Report on Franklin was perfect subject matter for today. I was thrilled to read about something positive–one of our country’s great forefathers–instead of about the negative events happening around the world and especially here in the U.S. We Americans often lose sight of our incredibly rich past, and your report was a reminder of how this country was founded upon freedom and liberty, ideas that inspired the American people to be innovative and audacious in achieving their dream. ALISON C. HAMILL Portland, Conn.

In the excerpt from his book, Walter Isaacson envisions having a beer with Ben Franklin and discussing George Bush’s foreign policy. I imagine that Franklin, an icon of democracy–and confirmed opponent of aristocracy and hereditary rule–would scathingly denounce the Administration’s imperial ambitions and its upward redistribution of wealth and power. Franklin would also have a good word for France. And he would note the hypocrisy and error of trying to purchase temporary safety by curtailing essential liberties with the Bush Administration’s “Patriot Act.” BYRON C. BANGERT Bloomington, Ind.

Will someone please give a copy of the book on Benjamin Franklin to President Bush and pray that he reads it? MURIEL MANUEL Morgan City, La.

In his life and work, Franklin demonstrated a humane approach to individuals and ideas. Behind the facade of the powerful and worldly elder statesman lurked a streak of little-boy mischievousness, which accounted in part for Franklin’s appeal to the ladies. CAROLINE HAKIM Palm Springs, Calif.

A Tricorner hats-off to TIME for your marvelous feature on Franklin. Think of how much less hawkish our country might be if, to keep us humble, we had selected the turkey for our national bird, as Franklin preferred, instead of the eagle. A champion of the right of all to be heard regardless of differing opinions, Franklin would have a lot to say about today’s election process. He would demand that voters know the positions of all the presidential candidates, Democrats and Republicans, and insist they all get equal time in public debates. LAURIE DOBSON Rowayton, Conn.

If Franklin had not been in his 80s by the time presidential elections began, he almost certainly would have been one of the first U.S. Presidents and undoubtedly one of the best. ELAINE PEPIN Sterling Heights, Mich.

Operation Unfinished

The appalling image of a young Iraqi boy lying on the floor, being handcuffed by an American soldier [IRAQ OCCUPATION, July 7], only reiterated the horrors of this unjustified war. What right did the soldier have to be in that child’s home or, for that matter, in his country? By engaging in the “liberation” of Iraq without caring about world opinion, the U.S. has become extremely vulnerable to all kinds of assaults by fundamentalists. ARCHA DUTTA Lyons, France

The war in Iraq began only in March, and already your headline calls it “The War That Never Ends.” Amazing! What was World War II, then? DAN VLOSSAK Cambridge, Mass.

Bush & Co. clearly have fudged the truth about a number of things. The Administration’s statements that the military occupation of Iraq would be short were wrong. American men and women are dying in a distant land, with no end to the carnage in sight. If the President and his staff deliberately misled the American public and Congress, they should suffer the consequences. BRANDON BITTNER Spring City, Pa.

The Elusive WMD

Why is everyone so quick to assume that Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) do not exist [IRAQ WEAPONS, July 7] simply because we have not yet found them? We have not yet located Saddam Hussein, his sons or Osama bin Laden, but I don’t think their existence is the result of manipulated intelligence. MARY LYNN WATSON St. Joseph, La.

In the minds of many Americans, the chief rationale for going to war in Iraq was that a vast stockpile of WMD was ready and waiting for bin Laden or Saddam to use on Americans. Should no evidence of such weapons be found, what we have is a poorly explained war started for political reasons known only to Washington insiders. Many of us baby boomers remember a similar scenario for the Vietnam War. STEPHEN J. DOHL Concord, N.C.

Saddam did not have weapons of mass destruction. He may have been aggressive because he was frustrated by the arrogance of the U.S. What makes the Americans think they are the only ones who can responsibly use WMD? What makes them think they alone have the ultimate power to control every other country in the world? SUSAN CHAPMAN Toronto

Rights for Homosexuals

I am glad the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Texas law against homosexual sodomy is unconstitutional [NATION, July 7]. I hope the court will address other such laws that violate the privacy of adult citizens. There should be no law against private sexual activities. The Supreme Court was not taking sides in a cultural war, as Justice Antonin Scalia claimed in his dissenting opinion. The court was doing its job of protecting the right of privacy for every citizen in this country. Homosexuals are citizens just like Scalia, with all the attendant rights and privileges. COLLEEN GUERNSEY Toledo, Ohio

The Supreme Court may have mirrored cultural consensus in its decision, but that isn’t the court’s job. The court is there to interpret the Constitution, not to write it. When the court starts validating social norms instead of upholding the Constitution, we will live to regret it. BEN JOHNSON Frisco, Texas

Carrying the Banner

Perry Bacon Jr., writing on his experiences as a racial minority [ESSAY, July 7], noted that the beneficiaries of affirmative-action policies are burdened by having to “contribute diversity” and speak on behalf of minorities. That’s an entertaining but flawed perspective. Affirmative action means Bacon will not have to be the only representative of blacks because there will be more than a token number at school or work, thereby enabling others to appreciate a variety of views and perspectives. Affirmative action doesn’t force you to be the representative of diversity; it gives you the freedom to be yourself. SHIRLEY J. WILCHER Accokeek, Md.

Bacon’s Column was thought provoking and well written. Twenty years ago, I became only the second woman administrator in the University of Missouri system office. Although I really didn’t want to carry the banner for women, it was expected. Bacon was right: it can be a heavy burden when all you really want is to get on with the job at hand. It’s a difficult balancing act to be seen as an advocate for one group without being perceived as a foe of another. I look forward to the day when race and sex are neutral descriptors and no longer carry political baggage. MARY SAPP Columbia, Mo.

Nudism for the Whole Family

In your article on nudist camps, my great-grandfather Silas Ilsley Boone (1879-1968) was mentioned as a minister who ran an early nudist organization [SOCIETY, June 30]. “Uncle Danny,” as everyone called him, was a minister and a renowned scientist and publisher. After visiting Germany, he became interested in nudism and wanted to popularize the movement in the U.S. I spent many summers at Sunshine Park, a well-known nudist camp that he had established in Mays Landing, N.J. One September I stood in front of my school class and said I had spent my summer at a nudist camp, where I swam and played volleyball with no clothes on. My teacher was upset, my parents were called in and I was told never again to talk about nudism in public. Uncle Danny had eight children; my grandmother was the eldest. I’m pleased that you mentioned him. He was a relative to be proud of. JUDI SHAPIRO MARRACCINI Brick, N.J.

Going Out in Style

“What A Way To Go,” on the new trend in making funerals personal and fun, was great [LIVING, July 7]. When I die, I do not want people to mourn. I’m Irish, and Irish people generally celebrate the life of the departed. I have had a great life and want people to honor the fundamental step that flows from life: death! I once owned an Irish bar here in Florida. My idea of the perfect service is to have a keg of beer by my remains and let everyone pull a draft and raise a glass, toasting my life with fond memories. It has been a great run! PETE DERRIG Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

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