Saturday Mailbox

SATURDAY MAILBOX

October 08, 2005

Citing Gatsby apt given current woes

The Sun's critique of Mayor Martin O'Malley's use of a quote from The Great Gatsby in his speech was ungenerous ("Say what?" Editorial Notebook, Oct. 1). I think it's a perfectly apt quotation and well in line with the mayor's proclamation that under current leadership, Maryland is "sliding backward."

To apply the metaphor: Mr. O'Malley's intent is clearly to "beat on," as a "boat against the current," by working against existing trends in state politics.

F. Scott Fitzgerald's bit about being "borne back ceaselessly into the past" has a strong note of doom, but it also has a tenor that presently resonates all too well with citizens who have democratic ideals, as Mr. O'Malley must know.

As our nation's poor get much, much poorer, anti-trust laws established to serve the public good go by the wayside with merger after merger, progressive environmental policies are scarified to corporate greed, relationships with other nations of the world disintegrate; as we forget lessons we learned decades ago about the ineffectiveness of forcing democracy on others and entering foreign wars with no exit plan; and as "good old boy" cronyism dictates political appointees and long-standing civil liberties are eroded, doesn't it feel as if we're being "borne back ceaselessly into the past"?

The mayor needed to add one last statement after his quotation from Fitzgerald - that with the right leadership, the boats can resiliently plow through - or, better, the current itself can be reversed.

But as it stands, the quotation from Fitzgerald is sadly apropos of the current state of affairs in our nation and our state.

Rebecca Smith

Baltimore

Glad that literature applied to public life

My 11th-graders work their way through The Great Gatsby each year, and it is beautiful to behold how they can connect the frivolous, empty, deluded characters from the 1920s to people and values in our world today.

The tragic Jay Gatsby was unable to cut his ties to the past. He lived for a memory that could never be re-created, a past he imbued with a golden gloss of meaning, rather than using his considerable savvy to find a meaningful place in the real world.

Mayor Martin O'Malley was prescient in his evocation of Gatsby ("Fitzgerald quote gives O'Malley early style points," Opinion

Commentary, Oct. 2). And unlike Fitzgerald's doomed character, Mr. O'Malley sees that it is only in resisting the inevitable pull into the thinking and the ways of the past that we are free to imagine and live a creative future.

It was affirming to see a copy of the very book we use in high school pictured in The Sun, and my classes will be discussing the relevance and appropriateness of the mayor's reference to Gatsby.

As one who daily joins the battle to give literature importance in the lives of young people, I am so pleased to see not only the Gatsby quote but also the ensuing debate over its meaning and application.

Best of all, however, is the simple and wonderful fact of a literary idea being connected to political vision.

Thank you, Mr. O'Malley.

Mary Murray

Cockeysville

The writer teaches English at a Baltimore County public high school.

U.N. critics ignore key contributions

The producers of the new film Broken Promises recently took to the pages of The Sun to attack the United Nations ("At 60, United Nations fails to fulfill promise," Opinion

Commentary, Sept. 28). Their attacks should not be surprising given the organization and the individuals behind it.

Citizens United, the group behind the project, is an out-of-the mainstream organization headed by one of the column's authors, David Bossie.

Mr. Bossie is best known for having been dismissed as lead investigator of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee for unethical behavior during the Whitewater investigation.

The United Nations is now this group's latest target.

Broken Promises is filled with half-truths and distortions designed to meet a political agenda to discredit the United Nations. It completely omits the outstanding and lifesaving work performed by U.N. agencies around the world everyday.

A small sample of these important efforts includes supplying vaccines to 40 percent of the world's children, containing the spread of SARS, enrolling girls in school in 25 countries and facilitating the voting of more than 8 million people in Iraq.

Despite its successes, the United Nations is not a perfect organization. And in fact, many important reforms, such as the creation of a new Human Rights Council and a U.N. Peacebuilding Commission, are already under way.

However, while the United States and other states strive to build a more effective and accountable United Nations for the future, we should not forget that since its inception in 1945, the United Nations has functioned as a vital organization providing humanitarian relief, protecting our health and enforcing global security - crucial work the world would be hard-pressed to undertake without the United Nations.

Kathy Bushkin

Washington

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