King's humane vision wasn't just a drem The focus of...

SATURDAY MAILBOX

January 20, 2001

King's humane vision wasn't just a drem

The focus of commentators each year on the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech is understandable. It is a stirring piece of oratory, likely the greatest speech of the 20th century.

But while The Sun's article "Dr. King's speech revered, but call for action is lost" (Jan. 14) broadens the discussion of King's ideas, briefly mentioning his attack on policies he believed were harmful to the poor, the emphasis remains on the struggle against segregation and injustice prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The truth is that King wanted to continue the War on Poverty President Lyndon Johnson initiated, but let it wither on the vine because of his preoccupation with the Vietnam War.

In his speech, "Beyond Vietnam" in 1967, King not only expressed his opposition to the Vietnam War, but called for a "radical change in the structure of our society," a fundamental change in the distribution of wealth and power.

He cited the "glaring contrast between rich and poor" and stated that "True compassion ... comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring."

King's witness against state-sanctioned violence, racism and poverty is just as meaningful today as it was in 1968, when he was prematurely silenced by an assassin's bullet.

If King were alive today, he would be in the forefront of the fight for full employment, a living wage, a decrease in the military budget and universal health care.

Lee Lears Annapolis

Respect for Confederates is not racism

King's humane vision wasn't just a dream

As someone who has 20 ancestors who served the cause of Southern independence, several of whom served under Gen. Robert E. Lee, I was highly offended by Tom Teepen's column "Everything was OK until Ashcroft" (Opinion*Commentary, Jan. 2).

Mr. Teepen asserts that, "Given Mr. Ashcroft's history -- including fawning praise for Confederate leaders -- civil rights organizations reasonably suspect racial animus in his campaign against [Judge Ronnie] White.

I would suggest that making a connection between those who admire and respect the leaders of the Confederacy and racial hatred is a poor excuse for intellectual honesty and historical accuracy.

Mr. Teepen may not be aware that Gen. Stonewall Jackson, prior to hostilities, had a Sunday school for black children.

Or that it was a free black woman to whom Lee entrusted the keys to his Arlington mansion when he left to serve his country and his state.

After the war, it was Lee who stepped forward and shared Holy Communion with a black man at St Paul's Church in Richmond.

A monument to Lee and Jackson in Baltimore is inscribed, "They were Christian soldiers and waged war like gentlemen."

I would match the character of Lee and Jackson against the just-departed occupant of the White House and the rent-a-mob demagogues of some civil rights organizations anytime.

G. Elliott Cummings, Baltimore

The writer is a past commander of the Maryland Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Don't accept excuses for hate

I'm sure every drunken driver in the city is taping Gregory Kane's column "Graziano's anti-gay slur doesn't make him a bigot" (Jan. 13) to his or her visor.

A lot of people regard alcohol as a mitigating factor. That's one reason why, for decades, it was nearly impossible to adequately attack drunken driving in this country.

Most judges regarded it as merely an unfortunate lapse of judgment, with the occasional regrettable consequence. "I'm sorry, your honor, I was drunk, I didn't mean to do what I did."

It is charming to see yet another conservative champion of personal responsibility and individual accountability making excuses for intolerance.

My problem is that, after watching MTV recently present hour after hour of hate crimes on my television screen, one mindless horror after another, I'm a little sick of hearing excuses.

I've read the unedited report of Mr. Graziano's comments, and there is just no mistaking what they are -- ugly and vicious expressions of contempt for homosexual people.

Mr. Graziano isn't just another barstool Archie Bunker, he's a part of the city government, the head of one of its major departments. He's responsible, in part, for setting the tone of city government.

The people calling for Mr. Graziano's removal from office aren't "thought police" any more then Mothers Against Drunk Driving are latter-day prohibitionists.

This nation has a serious and deadly problem with hate and if Mr. Kane doesn't see it, perhaps he should have watched a few of the 18 hours MTV spent listing hate crimes -- and watched as the names of hate crime victims scrolled on and on and on.

How many more names on the scroll will it take before Mr. Kane understands that "I'm sorry, I was drunk, I didn't mean to do it" just doesn't cut it?

How many more names before a serious effort is made to combat hate in America?

Bruce Garrett, Cockeysville

State plans make college affordable

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