Letters To The Editor


October 11, 2007

Expand our empathy to embrace refugees

I felt unsettled myself after reading "Unsettled by resettlement" (Oct. 4).

Hagerstown residents are disturbed by the arrival of 200 refugees (in a city of 37,000), largely from countries in Africa and the former Soviet Union - mainly claiming these new arrivals are taking job opportunities away from other residents.

But do these residents honestly feel that their jobs will be threatened, and their children's economic opportunities diminished, because refugees need work?

I doubt that this is their actual concern. I think there is a much deeper problem going on. And I think Americans need greater perspective.

In the last year, I have had the privilege of spending time with two teenage refugees from the African nation of Eritrea.

A brother and sister, they fled their country for safety. They had little say in where they would go but landed in Baltimore.

The times I spend with these two human beings are always rich and humbling.

A refugee is someone who flees his or her country looking for just that - refuge.

If the tables were turned, how would Hagerstown residents react to an icy reception when they went looking for opportunity or for a chance to survive?

We need to get over this deep-seated sense of "what's mine is mine."

Life is much bigger than our own selves, our own needs and our own success.

If our country, which is supposed to be about liberty and justice for all, is only for some of us, then what good is it?

Kristen B. Habicht


It's wrong to portray Hagerstown as racist

I understand the point The Sun was trying to illustrate in the editorial "Closed until further notice" (Oct. 7) about jobs and refugees in rural America. But the editorial's implications about racism in Hagerstown just aren't true.

Specifically, the sentence that cites the incident "when Mayor William M. Breichner failed in his 2005 attempt to rename a street after [Willie] Mays ... and then was voted out of office" implies that the Hagerstown community rebelled at the notion of renaming anything for Willie Mays and then, because of the public's disapproval of Mr. Breichner's effort to do so, wouldn't vote to re-elect him.

However, veterans groups reacted strongly against the idea because the street the mayor suggested renaming had, in fact, been named in the past to honor veterans for their sacrifice. They suggested naming or renaming something else for Mr. Mays.

And Mr. Breichner's re-election campaign was not a single-issue campaign.

To try to paint Hagerstown as some kind of racist stronghold based on that experience is a disservice to the truth and to the people in that city.

I've lived in Hagerstown and Baltimore and have friends and family in both areas. And, believe me, people in general are no more or less tolerant or racist in either place.

You can find intolerance and narrow-mindedness just about anywhere. You can also find love, kindness and beauty.

Mike Wicklein


Unchecked power is the greater threat

Congressional Democrats need to show that they will take care of the Constitution they swore oaths to protect and defend ("Spy trouble for Democrats," Oct. 9).

They should know by now that Republicans in Congress and the Bush administration will portray Democrats as weak on terror, regardless of what they do.

A real sign of weakness, however, would be to allow more of our constitutional rights to be lost in order to appear tough.

The danger to the nation comes more from an unchecked government than from an amorphous terrorist threat.

David Schwartz


Surveillance powers certain to be abused

It's hard to believe that Congress is even debating a bill that would continue to give the executive branch surveillance powers unchecked either by mandatory warrants or meaningful oversight by the judiciary ("Spy trouble for Democrats," Oct. 9).

The question is not whether the extraordinary powers to be conferred by the renewal of the so-called Protect America Act would be abused but when and how they would be abused.

Nothing has changed since the ratification of the Constitution; unchecked power still leads to tyranny.

It's a measure of how militarized America has become that Congress appears ready to renew this law without very significant modifications in the name of national security.

John Bailey


ABA now backs `collaborative law'

The Sun's informative article about "collaborative law" missed an important piece of information ("Same split with a lot less spat," Oct. 5).

The article refers to ethics opinions from a number of state bar associations - five that support the use of collaborative law and one that does not. But it does not mention the most recent ethics opinion on the subject issued by the American Bar Association.

The ABA's opinion, issued with little fanfare two months ago, approves of the use of collaborative law and represents a "tipping point" in the movement for more-civilized resolution of legal conflict.

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