Intolerance TodayI wish I could be as sanguine about the...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

January 23, 1994

Intolerance Today

I wish I could be as sanguine about the Rush Limbaugh sensation as was Peter Jay, Jan. 6.

It would have been warming to read less of an encomium for "therapeutic terrification" by Mr. Limbaugh.

John Gardner asked decades ago with respect to public education whether we could have equality and excellence. Rush Limbaugh's following suggests we need now to ask whether we can have sensitivity and sense in public policy.

The answer to both questions hinges on our ability to overcome some serious attitudinal barriers and remember who we are.

DPretension -- right or left -- needs to be punctured, and so I, with Mr. Jay, find myself cheering those who do so, if done with grace and wit. But there's something else present these days.

It's mean and shrill and not very nice to be around.

is a climate which allows centrists no hearing because people who ditto Mr. Limbaugh say they do not exist. Pleas for tolerance are greeted with laughter.

Those of us, for example, who remember watching yahoos as they ground burning cigarettes into the necks of college students sitting-in at lunch counters in the early '60s are, I suppose, seen as hopelessly naive because we grew to believe in a dream of racial harmony.

It is the one we heard articulated so eloquently by a man who spoke with the authority of an idea whose time had come.

We, too, dreamed of a society where hate and fear could be drowned out by a chorus of good will and love for each other as human beings, a swelling recognition that we were either going to survive together or go down separately. We were heavily into affirmation.

That tone is now challenged by negativism of the sort one encounters frequently on talk shows like Mr. Limbaugh's.

It is nearly -- but not quite -- obliterated by expression of the fears and frustrations of people who feel (sometimes justly) left out in a seismic shift of society which threatens to render them a lot less well off.

I don't confuse cause and effect, blaming Mr. Limbaugh for the message, because he's merely reflecting what some at the grass roots want to hear. And I certainly don't want him in any way silenced in the name of civil liberty.

But I hope somebody will, in the wake of the observance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, replay that film footage of his sharing his dream. We need a little more of that right now.

Anthony Cobb

Baltimore

TV Violence

Michael Hurd's Jan. 6 letter asserting that "the fate of the First Amendment . . . will be decided" at Sen. Paul Simon's meeting with network executives to discuss violence in TV programming is preposterous. The award of a television frequency does not give a franchise holder the "right" to do as he pleases.

The airwaves are public, not private property; the networks are mere leaseholders of the airwaves.

Just as a zoning board and health department will not permit a property owner to drop sewage on his private lawn, the networks can be prohibited from dumping sewage in the form of violence and pornography on the public airwaves.

Liberty is not the same as license. Mr. Hurd, and most other civil libertarians, will have to eventually accept the notion that not everything goes in a safe and sane society.

Vernon Lentz

Timonium

Maryland Has Little Choice in BWI Expansion

As Maryland's secretary of transportation, I feel I must comment on your Dec. 24 article regarding the proposed expansion of the international pier of Baltimore- Washington International Airport, headlined "BWI expansion plan pits Md. vs USAir."

It is true we rarely disagree with our hub carrier, but in this case Maryland does.

We in the Department of Transportation believe BWI must construct international facilities adequate for today's passengers and those to come in the future. The "Field of Dreams" analogy just doesn't fit this project.

Many current international passengers, forced to wait aboard aircraft because the customs hall is full, would inform you otherwise.

The maximum seating capacity in the largest international departure gate is 150, and with a wide-body aircraft holding up to 400 passengers, seating is often available only on the floor.

There is no room for a restaurant, or a lounge, or many of the other amenities passengers seek.

BWI handled 650,000 international passengers in 1993, and 11 international airlines have to share three aircraft gates, four small hold rooms and a customs and immigrations area that was built in the late 1970s as a temporary facility.

Yes, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines did move from BWI. But no others have followed suit, and BWI is handling double the number of international passengers it did 10 years ago.

BWI has continued to attract international carriers and flights, and forecasts for international traffic, both at BWI and across the United States, are strong.

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