Only victims can understand 'bitterness'I am writing in...

the Forum

February 07, 1991

Only victims can understand 'bitterness'

I am writing in response to your editorial of Jan. 29, "The toll of bitterness," dealing with the murder trial of Stephen Oken and its emotional aftermath. Although I cannot argue with the point you made that "unresolved bitterness does not alleviate the terrible loss; it only intensifies it," I take great exception to the method you used to make the point.

The quote you used was uttered by the mother of the victim after a three-week trial filled with emotional anguish for her family far beyond most human experience. It hardly seems fair to classify an unfortunate statement made moments after the jury rendered its verdict (and I might add after an embittered outcry by the mother of the defendant in the courtroom, which you failed to mention) as "unresolved" bitterness.

Families of homicide victims take years to resolve their rage and bitterness after the death of a loved one. Further, these families tell us that it is difficult to begin the healing process until after the trial and sentencing are over.

Victims need support, respect, understanding and an opportunity to talk about their loss without experiencing judgment. They do not need sermonizing and platitudes from those of us who have not been through this kind of tragedy and, therefore, do not understand. With our society becoming more violent all the time, how much better if we listen and learn from survivors, instead of telling them how they should feel!

Sandra B. Stolker

The writer is director of the Victim Witness Program of the Baltimore County state's attorney's office.

I think the editorial, "The Toll of Bitterness," was in very poor taste. To publicly scold the mother of the murder victim for a statement she made under the worst of circumstances should have been forgotten.

Use your head!

Gary B. Coleman


Education failure

While it's sad that students like Lisa Adams will suffer from the closing of a private business school ("School's closing surprises students," Feb. 1), I think it's even more sad that the need for such schools exists. Not many years ago, high school students were either prepared for college or directed toward a vocational training program that would enable them to get a good job after graduation. What happened to such a common-sense approach?

Why are we spending money on sports, bands and advanced placement courses for college-bound students who would cover the material in college anyway (at their own cost), but not providing the technical and vocational education that non-college-bound students need to contribute to society and stay off welfare?

These are lean times, and our educational system continues to spawn an underclass of citizens by spending valuable resources on frivolous things. We need to abolish the frills: all extracurricular activities and courses that would otherwise be available in college.

We need to put those resources in ensuring that all students graduating from high school in Maryland meet minimal academic standards and are either prepared for college or to immediately acquire a job at which they will be productive. People shouldn't have to rely on a private business school to get the skills they need for employment at a decent job. The fact that people need these private business schools means education in Maryland has failed them.

Anita Heygster


Miffed over makeup

Regarding your front page of Jan. 30, what an interesting photograph of our First Lady walking stick raised in triumph after President Bush's State of the Union address.

But why was it printed directly under the headline, "Clash kills 8-10 Marines"? Poor placement and very poor judgment.

Marilyn W. Coudon

Havre de Grace

Biased against guns

As a frequent reader of Wiley Hall's column, I long ago concluded that he is a bigot. Until his column "Treat gun owners like car owners" (Jan. 29), however, I had thought his bigotry was limited to racial issues. But apparently he hates gun owners, too. Not just those who criminally abuses firearms I hate them also but he loathes us all, even the 98 percent of us who are decent, peaceable citizens.

Although the title of his column suggests that gun owners should be regulated as are car owners, the description of his proposal is not so benign. Using terms like "fearsome, towering bureaucracy" and "blind enforcement of . . . unyielding blind rules," his proposals sound more like the Jim Crow laws of the old South than the MVA.

Even if there were such a bureaucracy like the MVA to regulate gun owners, what would be the point? If saving lives is the goal, the evidence suggests that a regulating agency would be of no value. Can anyone seriously claim that the existence of the MVA has reduced the incidence of drunk and reckless drivers, auto thefts, criminal misuse of autos or even innocent accidents? The fact that drivers kill thousands more people annually than do the minuscule percent of firearms abusers clearly answers the question.

A. Richard Lego


Ever so humble

In Peter Kumpa's "An era of genteel music" (Jan. 28), he mentioned that the song "Home Sweet Home" 's popularity was enhanced by being a favorite of world-class prima donnas Jenny Lind and Adelina Patti.

On Dec. 31, 1990, the Royal Opera at London's Covent Garden gave a performance of "Die Fledermaus," featuring surprise HTC guest Dame Joan Sutherland. Sutherland chose "Home Sweet Home" as her final selection, and the Times of London wrote: "As expected, Dame Joan's last notes were those with which she also made her farewell from the Sydney Opera House three months ago...

"A saccharine item in other circumstances, it surely moistened many an eye here, as that illustrious voice trembling slightly with the emotions of the night made its swansong to the strumming of a harp."

Geraldine Segal


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