Recalling MenckenThe much awaited H.L. Mencken book edited...


September 11, 1992

Recalling Mencken

The much awaited H.L. Mencken book edited by Jonathan Yardley (based on writings Mencken required to be sealed for 35 years following his 1956 death) should contain, as most of Mencken's writings do, both extensive observation and praise for the city he loved more than any other in the world: Baltimore.

The book is supposed to be released early next year, but many people are speculating that it might be released in December in time for the book industry's very profitable Christmas trade promotions. Baltimoreans should keep an eye out for this book. Much of it is likely to be about their town.

One great way to prepare for maximum appreciation of the new Mencken book is to attend the annual Mencken Day activities scheduled at the Enoch Pratt Free Library on Saturday.

It's the only day of the year when the H.L. Mencken Room at the Pratt is open to the public.

The library's impressive staff of Mencken experts and librarians will be on hand to answer even the most obscure questions visitors may have about Mencken.

Mencken memorabilia on display include his diploma from the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute (Class of 1896.)

Mencken was first in his class at the ripe old age of 15. The diploma is signed by every teacher who taught Mencken, which was the custom of the time.

David Roger Allen


The writer is a Baltimore County librarian and volunteer tour guide at the Mencken House Museum in Baltimore.

Minority Needs

I was extremely pleased to read the reactions of Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, State's Attorney Stuart O. Simms and Del. Elijah E. Cummings, chairman of the Governor's Commission on Black Males, to the recent saturnine and bleak report of the National Center on Institutions and Alternatives (N.C.I.A.) germane to young black males in the age range of 18-35.

I strongly believe, as Messrs. Schmoke, Simms and Cummings stated, each in his own distinctive way, that a holistic or comprehensive approach is needed to address criminal and violent-assaultive behavior in the Monumental City and throughout our nation, especially in large urban centers.

Mr. Simms expresses the point cogently, directly and aptly: "The real solution lies at the front end -- through prevention, education, job training, new housing." Huzzah!

The great tragedy today is that there is a growing mind-set of widespread incarceration without the benefit of rehabilitation 11 through education, training and concentrated treatment for drug and alcohol addiction. And there is an egregious failure to address Depression-like levels of unemployment-underemployment of black and minority youths.

It is clear (as depicted in a number of national reports such as the Kerner Commission report and recent reports on the upheaval in Los Angeles) that black and Hispanic youths, in particular, are disproportionately arrested or involved in the nation's criminal justice system.

Current penal statistics indicate that blacks represent 50 percent of all persons incarcerated. Hispanics represent 10 percent of all persons incarcerated. Blacks and Hispanics, respectively, make up 12 percent and eight percent of our nation's population. The level of their incarceration represents a colossal national disgrace.

The clearest way to prevent criminal activity is to provide a basis for hope and equality of opportunity for all 250 million Americans.

As a nation, we have not, even with abundant fiscal and human resources, made this commitment.

Samuel L. Banks


Families and Values are Diverse

At the Republican National Convention the words "family values" were brandished to such an extent one would think that the word "values" must essentially have the prefix "family."

Children's values are molded today by numerous factors -- family, peers, the print and television media, schools, community and government play roles to varying degrees.

The crime on the streets and the fall of education are not due to the breakdown of family alone. The irresponsibility of government, the commercialism of the media and the fractionation of communities are also responsible for the mayhem on the streets.

The word "values" comes with a variety of prefixes. There are individual values, community values, national values and cultural values. There are concrete tangible values and intangible vague values.

Families by their very nature are hotbeds of comfort and conflict, warmth and heat. From the time of Abel and Cain, perfect families have been cocooned in the myths of our wishful minds.

But families energize mainly because they are flawed. Because of the renegade uncle or the philandering sister, the cackling aunt, or the drunken brother, the garrulous mother, or the grunting father, families are microcosms of the world.

Here as everywhere else the good comes with the bad. Sibling rivalry, hate and greed are balanced by sibling camaraderie, love and sacrifice. A family whose values are all good would be static, plastic and dull.

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