Role ModelsPatrick Ercolano's June 12 column...


June 28, 1993

Role Models

Patrick Ercolano's June 12 column, "Slam-Dunking Role Models," about Charles Barkley's recent commercial and the role of athletes, overlooks a much more significant statement from the National Basketball Association's top player.

In his product-endorsement, Barkley clears himself not only of being a role model but also of the responsibility of raising other people's children, and for the first time we hear what the endorser-athlete actually thinks, in addition to what he is paid to say.

The question of whether Barkley originated this forthright message to parents or it was scripted for him by an ad agency, although intriguing, doesn't really matter. The central message is for moms and dads, and it says that neither television nor the people that appear on it are baby-sitters who have come into your homes to relieve you of the duty of meaningful parenting.

Children cannot continue to try to emulate personalities they see on film and television (including sports broadcasts) and easily develop into responsible adults. This type of development is carried out only reluctantly.

Even though it is the industrial sponsor who sells these men as desirable for a 12-year-old to emulate, the adults responsible for the well-being of children are the ones who should carry the burden of protecting their children from the destructive effects of envy which television production and advertising seem to breed. A failure of this duty harms not only the child but many times the community in which the child lives and spends his life.

This duty, Barkley rightly claims, is not his but mother's and father's. In a seemingly humdrum celebrity endorsement, this big, not-so-dumb jock has unearthed an intimidating piece of news for the American public. That is, that protection from the harmful effects of any broadcast or publication must be the responsibility of the consuming audience rather than the producer, publisher or government.

We cannot turn to the network executives to restrict television messages because we think they do harm any more than we can let the government determine what is safe for children to watch. If we did that, it would be just another giant step in the process of allowing these institutions to raise our children.

Alvin Hutchinson

Braddock Heights

God's Majority

A June 17 letter to the editor by Susan Hughes Gray criticized the Institute of Notre Dame, Defend Life and the Catholic Church for the decision not to have City Council President Mary Pat Clarke speak at IND's commencement exercises.

As part of this criticism Mrs. Gray wrote, ''As Roman Catholics, we are taught to make moral decisions by consulting scripture, church teaching and our own conscience. And, ultimately, it is our own conscience that we are taught we must follow, even if it is counter to church teaching.''

I must say with all due respect to Mrs. Gray that if this is what she was taught, she was taught wrong. Roman Catholics are not expected to follow their consciences if they are in discord with church teaching. As Catholics we are to look to the church for guidance in making moral decisions and we must strive to follow the morality which is given to us by the church.

If it was the case that each of us could disobey or ignore church teaching and follow the guidance of our consciences, any act, no matter how immoral, could be justified.

IND, in its decision to exclude Ms. Clarke from commencement exercises, has taken a bold stand in favor of following church teaching over its own conscience.

Mrs. Gray closed her letter by referring to pro-life Catholics as ''a vocal minority.'' I would like to close this letter by reminding Mrs. Gray that God, unlike the City Council, does not need a majority vote to pass a law.

Anthony Bianca


No Gun Rights

While gun violence takes almost 100 lives in America every single day, gun lobby apologists continue to hide behind the fraudulent claim that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prevents us from stopping gun proliferation.

The fact is that no court has ever struck down a gun law on the grounds that it violated the Second Amendment.

Federal courts have upheld gun control laws ranging from California's assault weapons ban to a total ban on the sale and possession of handguns in Morton Grove, Ill. All of these courts summarily dismissed the NRA's Second Amendment argument, with one court stating, "This argument borders on the frivolous and does not warrant any further consideration."

The National Rifle Association's Mark Overstreet argues that the Second Amendment bars gun control laws because citizens are part of the "militia." He relies, however, on 1792 and 1903 statutes, which limit the "militia" to "able-bodied male" citizens less than 45 years old. On what, then, does the NRA base its multi-million dollar campaign to convince women and the elderly that they should exercise their "constitutional" right to buy guns?

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