Don't revert to `normal' I have heard several times...

SATURDAY MAILBOX

October 06, 2001

Don't revert to `normal'

I have heard several times that after the tragic terrorist attack we should get back to a normal life.

But just what is a normal life now? Can you call the life we were living prior to the attack normal?

Consider what had been happening in our country for many years: Violence and trash sex in the movies, on TV, in the newspapers; all types of crime - muggings, rapes, drive-by shootings because of drug wars, killing after killing.

How about the infidelity of public officials, scandals from entertainment and sports fields. And consider the greed of sneaky business deals. And, of course, abortion, to which many have been hardened.

This is all "normal."

How many people today are expressing themselves through prayers - at sports events, in front of public buildings and perhaps inside. Before the attack God was thrown out of all public areas as well as not mentioned in the news and entertainment arenas. Now, we are all imploring God's help and protection.

The way we now see people hugging and kissing and crying on one another's shoulders shows we have compassion.

So let's rise above our so-called normal life and get a better life.

Joseph J. Thomas, Baltimore

Help the needy, not panhandlers

Eric Siegel's article "Big push being made on city panhandling bill" (Sept. 6) was somewhat misleading.

Mr. Siegel found only a "handful" of panhandlers on his little excursion into the city.

He suggested that the problem may be only "a minor annoyance," depending on your "perspective."

He should have visited our neighborhood.

On the night before the article was published, like many other nights, there were as many panhandlers as non-panhandlers walking around (and approaching front doors and cars, "guarding" parking spots, following tourists, drinking and urinating in public).

Recent media coverage of this issue repeatedly confuses the issue of panhandling with the problems of homelessness and poverty in our city.

But those who oppose panhandling are not against helping the poor and homeless. We just disagree with the notion that giving a dollar to a panhandler helps that person in any way.

My wife and I have grown to know most of the panhandlers around Fells Point. Many of them have mental illnesses and lack the skills to improve their situation without medical help.

One of them told me that on a "bad" day, he makes $50 panhandling, and on a good day makes five to 10 times that. When I asked him what he spends his money on, he told me he buys crack cocaine.

Most panhandlers have alcohol and drug problems. Our "generous" handouts perpetuate their problems.

Then there are the panhandlers who are not homeless or poor (those Mr. Siegel speculated were "at the beach"?). They are simply con artists who make us feel guilty or intimidated to get our hard-earned money.

One of these who is quite good at what he does recently walked past us, tauntingly flashing a roll of money that was more than many legitimate local business owners make in a day.

When we asked him about paying taxes, he stated with a smile, "No, this is tax-free."

We all know that there are not enough services in this city for all those in need.

However, when several volunteer organizations show up regularly to distribute free meals to the homeless in Fells Point, not one of the many regular panhandlers comes to accept food.

They seem to be elsewhere, spending their cash.

Baltimore clearly needs more services for the poor, homeless, and substance abusers. But let's not confuse the issues and believe that by banning panhandling we are betraying those in need.

Let's focus on giving those in need the things they really need.

Gregory Mathews, Baltimore

Mansion also graces Carroll Park

I enjoyed reading The Sun's editorial regarding the expanding vision of Sam Himmelrich Jr. and David Tufaro at the site of the former Montgomery Ward warehouse building ("Risk-takers gamble by increasing stakes," Sept. 22).

The editorial mentioned the property's proximity to the Carroll Park golf course, a wonderful amenity in southwest Baltimore. I would add that another of the area's cultural amenities is Mount Clare Mansion, which is also located in Carroll Park and is open to the public six days a week.

The mansion, built between 1756 and 1760, was the summer residence of Charles Carroll, the barrister. It originally sat in the midst of an 800-acre plantation.

It was on land from this plantation that Mount Clare Station, the first railroad depot constructed in the United States, was erected.

It was here that two Civil War-era camps protected Baltimore; it was here that the German West Baltimore Schuetzen Society met in the late 1800s; and it was on this land that the third-oldest park in the city was developed, under the direction of the Olmsted Brothers.

In 1925, 40 acres of the park was sold to make way for the Montgomery Ward building.

Mount Clare Mansion was the first historic house museum opened in Maryland. Today, more than 85 percent of what is in the house is original to it.

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