Accept Sex's RiskEditor: Cal Thomas (Opinion * Commentary...


November 25, 1991

Accept Sex's Risk

Editor: Cal Thomas (Opinion * Commentary, Nov. 12) took as his point of departure the recent revelations regarding Magic Johnson, and proceeded to inveigh against safe sex campaigns and to argue that if the Bible still held its place of reverence in U.S. schools, then we might see different behaviors. Mr. Thomas even appealed to the supposed sacred authority of the Bible to support his own criticisms and prescriptions, but they cannot stand on their own merits.

He contended that no sex is better than safe sex not merely for reasons of self-interest -- it is a surer protection against AIDS -- but also for reasons of public morals -- the alleged danger of sexual promiscuity to the culture as a whole. Sexuality, in his model, must be strictly restrained, lest it overpower the individual's will.

In assuming that one's sexual nature strains always to kick out of its traces, Mr. Thomas effectively denied that one may make rational decisions about sex. Reason and responsibility, it seems to me, are exactly the messages of having condoms in the schools, which prospect he found so alarming. I would expect youths and adults who think of their sexuality as something beyond their control to be more likely to disregard warnings when they do act on their desires. One might note that the movies, ads and other forms of popular culture that he execrated take this same view of sexuality as uncontrollable, non-rational and spontaneous. We need a different paradigm.

AIDS has certainly raised the potential costs of sex, but it should not stigmatize the original project of coming to terms with the sexual aspect of one's being. Surely somewhere between Wilt Chamberlain and the Virgin Mary (the opposing role models to whom Mr. Thomas alluded) there is a middle ground. If one can accept the minimized, though non-zero risk of acquiring disease that safe sex carries, then one can take the other, more meaningful risks involved in learning about oneself and others and life through sexual relations.

Thomas Cole.


Campaign Reform

Editor: I applaud your position that campaign finance reform and not term limits is the key to voters gaining control over their representatives in Congress.

However, I am disturbed by your opposition to public financing of part of campaign expenses. You give no rationale for your opposition; you just assume that the public won't go for it because of the current low esteem of the Congress.

Public financing coupled with limits on PAC contributions will reduce the influence of special interests on the election of members of Congress and the way they vote, once elected. The best way for the American people to gain control of their Congress is to eliminate the stranglehold of special interests.

Public financing will also break the lock that incumbents have on their jobs. Under Rep. Sam Gejdenson's proposal now being considered by the House, a person seeking a House seat could be eligible for public financing if he raised $60,000 in donations of $200 or less. Eligibility for public financing for a man or woman aspiring to be a member of the Congress would put such person on a much more level playing field with the incumbent than exists today.

In your editorial, you did not state how revenues would be raised for financing of congressional campaigns. I think the public would go for a proposal now before the Congress. That proposal would remove the tax exemption for lobbying costs that businesses now claim as a business expense. This would be another way of reducing special interest influence.

Millie Tyssowski.


Hearty Stew

Editor: I have read on occasion that the deer population on our Eastern Shore is destroying many a farmer's field and that there are quotas put on hunters.

I have also read the plight of our hungry, with soup kitchen needs just barely getting by.

Why not allow the hunters, when ''thinning'' the deer population, to go over their limit, if they would clean and donate the meat to the soup kitchens, who in turn could provide a hearty stew and feed our poor?

Brian D. Kelly.


When Libraries Close

Editor: When a library is closed, the quality of life in the surrounding community declines significantly. When I read that eight branches of the Enoch Pratt Free Library will be closed, I could only reflect that this hurts all of us. The people who live in those neighborhoods will be deprived of resources to educate their children, expand their own minds and locate valuable information.

Baltimore, the self-proclaimed ''City That Reads,'' has become the city that closes libraries. What are the priorities of the local, state and national governments that brought this situation into being?

If improving education is truly a high priority of our society, as it should be, then closing libraries is the worst step we can take. Our politicians should be ashamed for gutting Baltimore's library system, which used to be a model for libraries nationally and abroad.

Paul Bary.


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