OPIATE OF THE MASSES
Erik Baard's "The Guilt-Free Soldier" [January 22-28] warns about the latest breakthrough in psychopharmacology, a pill that dissolves the moral sense: "Every value he learned as a boy tells him to back down, to return to base and find another way of routing the enemy. Or, he reasons, he could complete the task and rush back to start popping pills that can, over the course of two weeks, immunize him against a lifetime of crushing remorse."
This piece of pharmaco-mythology, characteristic of our age, is extraordinarily naive. Drugs act on the body, not our moral sense. Scientists will never develop a drug that will annul our moral sense. Nor need they do so. Such a drug was discovered thousands of years ago and has been successfully used by people everywhere: It is called "religion." Clergymen confidently assure combatants on all sidesIsraelis and Palestinians, Americans and Iraqisthat God is on their side. This has successfully tranquilized billions throughout history and there is no evidence that the power of this "drug" is waning. To the contrary, it is becoming more powerful before our very eyes.
Thomas Szasz, M.D.
Professor of Psychiatry Emeritus
Upstate Medical University
State University of New York, Syracuse
Re Erik Baard's "The Guilt-Free Soldier":
Baard makes some good arguments. Of course no one wants to go through post-traumatic stress from war, rape, or even a car accident, but ultimately our experiences make us who we are. This society is too quick to pop a pill and numb itself to feeling anything. We already have alcohol, Valium, and Prozac (among other things) to dull the senses. Do we really need to erase the memory of the trauma to heal the victim?
We certainly don't need to make it easier for the inflicters of trauma. War should be dreadful. We do not need to create "universal soldiers" that are unfeeling drones. We need to create clever peace negotiators instead.
Greenville, North Carolina
A RIVER IN EGYPT
Why does Erik Baard think that feeling guilt equals taking responsibility for an action? In some cases, perpetrators feel guilt, but engage in other "crimes" to prevent the onslaught of horrible feelings. With these pills, perhaps perpetrators would have access to their logical minds unclouded with the psyche's natural defense mechanism to deny.
Without such a pill, human beings are quite capable of denial.
Adjunct Professor, Department of English
New York University
Re Richard Goldstein's "Persecuting Pee-wee" [January 15-21]:
I just had to write and tell you how interesting I found your article. Although I don't at all condone child pornography, I wonder where we draw the line with human rights. I have always believed what you do in your own home is your business as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else.
I can't help but feel that there are injustices being done in harassing Pee-wee for a vintage collection of gay porn, and Pete Townshend for doing research. Who's next?
Red Hook, New York
Re "Persecuting Pee-wee":
Yeah, that's rightI'm running to the defense of Pee-wee Herman based on such a persuasive call to arms. Who cares that his "persecution" started after a boy complained to the police? Feel free to ignore that fact and disingenuously assert instead that the "corrupt" L.A. city attorney Delgadillo had no basis to arrest Pee-wee and is merely imposing his puritanical views on a martyr of sexual freedom.
This is not the First Amendment lightning rod that you are trying to make it. Save your indignation for real injustices and stop crying wolf at the most ridiculous causes.
IT'S JUST A CASE OF WOMAN V. MAN
Thank you so much for Jennifer Block's "Roe v. Wade, Then v. Now" [January 15-21].
Nothing speaks more clearly than the facts Block provided. I hope that every woman who read it was as greatly inspired as I was.
I would have liked to see the "Men v. Women" comparative statistics on crime and incarceration, as only women's stats were listed. I'm sure there's a large divide there as well. When will women wake up and change the world? We need leaders, not breeders!
San Diego, California
GRAY LADY OF THE EVENING
Re Wayne Barrett's "Read My Lips" [January 15-21]:
After The New York Times endorsed Governor Stealth for the third time, overlooking his dismal record on campaign finance reform, I canceled my home delivery.
The Voice proves once again that the other papers in this town are media whores. They truly are doing a disservice to the public and I don't feel one bit guilty about not buying the paper edition anymore. (I continue to grab Newsday because of the columnists, but their editorial judgment on Pataki sucked.)
Frederique N. Sol
New Rochelle, New York
Allen St. John complains about the state of NFL officiating, and claims that the refs "blew . . . a very questionable roughing-the-kicker call" in the Titans-Steelers playoff game on January 11 ["Bringing Shame to Whistle-Blowers Everywhere," January 15-21].
St. John needs to brush up on the rules. The officials did not call "roughing the kicker"; they called "running into the kicker," a different violation. When a defensive player deliberately makes contact with a kicker, it's an automatic five-yard penalty. The contact does not have to be hard enough to constitute roughing, a more serious 15-yard penalty. Any hit, even a glancing one, is against the rules.
Regardless of the other gaffes the officials have made this playoff season, this call was right on the money. Dewayne Washington of the Steelers very obviously hit Titans kicker Joe Nedney, and he wasn't blocked into Nedney. NFL officials will throw a flag on that every single time. While it's unfortunate to see such a great game hinge on such a small penalty, the call was not only correct, but unavoidable.
Hoboken, New Jersey
In Jennifer Block's "Roe v. Wade, Then v. Now" [January 15-21], the number of abortion-related deaths in 1965 and 1973 (200 and 48, respectively) referred to those "officially reported" to the Centers for Disease Control. The actual number of yearly abortion-related deaths prior to 1973 is estimated to have been in the thousands.
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