An absurd article

Michael B. Sullivan

May 22, 1992|By Michael B. Sullivan

WHEN I read the article, "A brand new Frankenstein monster" (Other Voices, April 3), my reaction was one of disbelief. I know that the author, Stephen Vicchio, is chairman of the philosophy department at the College of Notre Dame. I found it difficult to accept that an article such as this could have been written by one in his position. I found the tone and manner of the article to be petty and mean-spirited, and Dr. Vicchio's assertion absurd that various acts of Presidents Reagan and Bush (the "creators of a monster . . . complete with a bolt through his neck . . .") were attributable to the pervasive "hatred" and "prejudices" in their characters.

One can understand that Dr. Vicchio may not find any civil rights bill too liberal, nor any decrease in government regulation acceptable, but I suggest that intelligent people of good will can and do differ in their perception of the appropriate action to take in attempting to solve the many problems that exist, have existed and will continue to exist in this imperfect world.

To attribute such dissent to "hatred" and "prejudice" seems to be unwarranted and hardly in accord with Christ's teaching that one is to hate the sin but love the sinner. Christ also warned of the danger of judging others' souls.

Dr. Vicchio asserts that "Reagan and Bush . . . censored art that was even the tiniest bit risque." I find the word "censored" inappropriate, since it indicates suppression, which is not applicable. "Censured" would have been more accurate, since it indicates strong disapproval. Obviously, the "art" that was censured (Serrano's "Piss Christ" and Mapplethorpe's photographs of sadomasochistic sodomites) was anything but suppressed.

Dr. Vicchio does not specify which works of art he claims to have been censored although only ". . . the tiniest bit risque." It is not clear if he finds the above-mentioned exhibits, which were specifically the cause of the controversy, to be in this category.

I hope that is not the case, but if he does believe that they are only slightly risque, we may have learned something about Dr. Vicchio's philosophy.

Dr. Vicchio also made a factual statement, referring to President Bush: "It was he who returned the Haitian boat people to certain death at the hands of a dictatorial government." I cannot imagine why he would write, as a fact, such an absurd and obviously false statement. If his statement were true, thousands of Haitians would have been massacred, and we would have learned of such an atrocity long before he wrote this. I stress that Dr. Vicchio said that their death was "certain," not possible, not probable, but "certain"!

Neither in the newspapers, nor on television, have I found any indication that any of the Haitians returned to Haiti have been killed. Moreover, I have been told, through the courtesy of my congresswoman and the Haitian desk at the State Department, that each of about 17,000 Haitians who attempted to come to the United States was interviewed in an attempt to determine if there was a serious threat to the life or well-being of the individual from the military government. Thirty-five percent were found to have at least some basis for fearing personal harm, and they have been granted permission to apply to enter this country. They were not returned to Haiti.

Dr. Vicchio is entitled to express his opinions, no matter how absurd they may be, but why would he present them as factual statements when they are so obviously untrue? Why would he resort to ad hominem attacks, repeatedly alleging that it was Presidents Reagan and Bush who were guilty of hatred and prejudice?

I do not presume to judge Dr. Vicchio's motives, but I am unable to find any justification for, or any merit in, the tone and content of his article.

Michael B. Sullivan writes from Towson.

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