Editor: Members of the Governor's Task Force on Self-Esteem must be having second thoughts after reading Carol Tavris' Perspective article of Sept. 15.
Ms. Tavris, a social psychologist, maintains that self-esteem, while obviously desirable, remains a "murky psychological concept." This suggests that the governor's task force may have spent the past 18 months chasing a chimera.
The basic premises behind the work of self-esteem task forces -- several states have mounted similar efforts -- is that people who feel good about themselves are more likely to be happy and socially productive instead of unhappy and socially burdensome. Thus, the governor's task force has laboriously identified more than 1,000 things Marylanders are doing to make each other feel good about themselves.
But happiness, and the self-esteem which contributes to it, are not substances to be grafted onto people's psyches; rather, they are reflections of material conditions which enable people to realize their potential, which is the basis for true self-esteem. Good housing, health care, education and jobs are examples of material conditions from which self-esteem is likely to follow.
The problem with self-esteem task forces, despite their good intentions, is that they attempt to produce self-esteem in the absence of the requisite material conditions, as if a pat on the back might somehow compensate for an empty stomach. These task forces seem unwilling or unable to fully appreciate the real basis for low self-esteem in so many of our fellow-citizens: material deprivation. And to spend so much time finding ways to make people feel psychologically better when their physical well-being remains precarious seems an exercise in futility, if not downright cynical.
An ironic addendum: the governor's task force is itself so materially deprived that it can't even find the funds to disseminate its conclusions.
What I Want
Editor: The Sept. 26 article, ''Senate, by slim margin, votes to retain B-2 program,'' really upsets me as a taxpayer. Would someone please explain to me why my elected official chose to see that the funding for this program stays intact?
Who can rationalize an airplane that costs $865 million per copy and cannot perform the mission it was designed and built to do? I certainly would not buy a car without test driving it, yet that is what our brilliant military organizations appear to be doing.
When will our elected officials and the military learn?
My congressman and senators never asked me if I wanted a stealth bomber which isn't so stealthy. No one in government has the courage to stand up and say, ''This program is too costly'' or ''it doesn't work.''
I don't want a stealth bomber. What I want is for my elected official to cease their self-aggrandizement and be accountable for their follies.
I want my schools to have all of the funds they need to educate my society. I want people who need medical assistance to get it. I want my environment cleaned up. I want crime stopped.
John W. Smith.
No Safe Seats
Editor: Politicians commenting on proposed redistricting plans indicate they set up safe seats for specific incumbents. This creates an uneven playing field, in which those incumbents' supporters find the effect of their votes enhanced, since they are concentrated in tailor-made districts. Challengers find their supporters will usually be different.
Any districting plan will help some and hurt others. However, recent statistics on re-election of congressional incumbents seem to show that districts have been tailored for incumbents. A plan designed to help or hurt specific candidates is inappropriate in much the same way as a plan designed to prevent election of minority candidates -- it violates equal protection and effectively abridges the right to vote. The 14th Amendment can reduce a state's congressional representation if the right to vote is abridged in any way. The Maryland General Assembly should develop an even-handed redistricting plan.
Editor: Your editorial, ''Closing the Child-Support Gap,'' was most informative and I support any reasonable measures necessary to collect overdue child support.
Your editorial, however, unfairly labels fathers as the guilty spouse, making no mention of the other spouse. Both spouses potentially contribute to the ''Child Support Gap'' depending on who is the non-custodial parent.
Halt the Waste
Editor: Your editorial, "Wasted State House Energy," appropriately pointed out that Maryland is taking some positive steps in assessing its energy uses. Gov. William Donald Schaefer and his energy coordinator, Gary Thorpe, should be commended for convening the Energy Summit and appointing the Energy Task Force. I applaud the governor's initiative to make energy conservation a priority in state government and in the private sector.