Letters, calls and the roar of the crowd:
Albert Mills, Member Elks Lodge #622, Annapolis: I, for one, am real glad you aren't a member of a fraternal organization, particularly Annapolis Elks #622. Your painting of the Elks membership is slanderous. To take your statements one by one:
* We don't wear funny clothes or hats.
* There are no secret handshakes or passwords.
* I, for one, and many others, don't drink or smoke, and the many things we do for our community is shared by our wives and girlfriends, and, Mr. Simon, they are women!
If I want to get drunk and pass out, I can do it at home. If I want to watch a stag film, I can rent one for $3 and watch it at home.
But, Mr. Simon, if I want to socialize with good friends, have dinner, dance, play bingo, or do a charitable deed, then I can go to the Elks Lodge.
If creating a nation where all people, black and white, red and yellow, male and female, rich and poor, INCLUDES YOU, then I hope we never see it happen.
COMMENT: C'mon, Al, can't you recognize a cry for help when you hear one? I wrote that column in the hope that the Elks would invite me to join. But now that I learn you don't wear funny hats, I don't see much point.
Next time you're at home watching one of those $3 stag films, however, please give me a call. I'll bring the dip.
Shirley Streb, Baltimore: I have been living for 10 years with the knowledge that a loved one will die from the HIV virus. And, following the news about the lack of effective medicine for a cure, I have watched our government spend billions in the Persian Gulf to help another country while our citizens are dying by the hundreds of thousands and the research for an AIDS cure takes a back seat.
The politician who will get my vote for our next president is the man/woman who announces all federal spending will cease until a cure is found.
COMMENT: And even that might not do it. Disease has a way sometimes of laughing at science. We make great strides in some areas and are frustrated in others.
Take lung cancer. Billions spent, years of research and its fatality rate is virtually the same as that of AIDS. In other words, if you get it, you almost certainly will die from it.
And lung cancer, like AIDS, is linked to behavior. If you want to avoid lung cancer, it's a good idea not to smoke. But even though smoking is at is lowest level in 37 years in the United States, millions of Americans continue doing it.
We need many more dollars spent on AIDS research. We need to make it a national priority. But what is both depressing and baffling is the number of people who continue high-risk behavior even though they know it puts them in peril of a fatal disease.
Government has to do much more to fight AIDS. But so do individuals.
Arthur Fellows, Tarzanza, Calif.: Before you consider once again to ridicule Bill Clinton, I refer you to the tarnishing of George Bush. Mr. Bush is no angel!
1. October Surprise.
2. Looking the other way in allowing Noriega to continue with drug trafficking.
3. His family's lobbying to benefit family interests.
4. His unwise and narrow-minded vision in supporting Saddam Hussein prior to Kuwait invasion.
It goes on and on. Clinton's politics are important, not his sex life or what he did at 20 years of age.
COMMENT: And then I pick up this letter from Greg Hoffnagle of Pasadena, who writes: "Perot has something that Bush and Clinton lack and that is integrity, determination and a true vision. I see Bush flipping like a fish and Clinton says, 'I smoked pot but didn't inhale.' That's the most asinine thing I have ever heard."
Hoffnagle goes on to tell me that I am "utterly disgusting."
But you, Art, think I'm disgusting because I pick on Clinton. Hoffnagle thinks I'm disgusting because I pick on Perot. And I have several letters telling me I'm disgusting because I pick on Bush.
So I'm going to continue to stick to one of the oldest rules in journalism: "The only way for a journalist to look on a politician is down."