Trillions for Defense

Re “Weakened by Defense” (Editorial, 1/18): I don’t know whether I should smile or cry when I hear the word trillion used so glibly in the media today. How much is a trillion dollars? No human being has ever been able to count to a trillion for the simple reason that, if you could say one number every second, it would take you 32,000 years to count to one trillion. To spell it out: There are 3,600 seconds in 1 hour, 86,400 seconds in 1 day, 31,536,000 seconds in 1 year, 31,536,000,000 seconds in 1,000 years, 1,009,152,000,000 seconds in 32,000 years.


Larry N. Lorenzoni, S.D.B.

San Francisco, Calif.

Slogans and Labels

A magazine with the thoughtful, Christian background of America disappoints me by using the pro-life label (Signs of the Times, 2/15). Everyone I know is pro-life; they much prefer life to death, and they abhor the notion of taking life, particularly the life of an infant at any stage of conception or development. Similarly, everyone I know is pro-choice: People should be given as many choices as are possible without preventing or neutralizing the legitimate choices of others.

The abortion debate uses labels to cover the real issue: should terminating the life of a child in the womb be handled in the legal system as a criminal act, or should it be recognized as a painful moral decision to be made in the realm of conscience without state involvement? Such debasing of words and advertising slogans makes it hard for a person of conscience to find sincerity in the discussion.

I expect America to impose discipline on its use of language always, especially when a moral issue is being discussed. It is the truth that will set us free, and truth appears only in language carefully and prayerfully used.

We should not allow Madison Avenue to provide us clever labels, even if they put our position in a favorable light or the opponent’s position in an unfavorable one.

Peter Castaldi

Shrewsbury, Mass.

Compelling, if Flawed

Re “Guilt Remains” (Web only, 2/22): I, like Maurice Timothy Reidy, was deeply captivated—yet also troubled—by Michael Haneke’s film “The White Ribbon.” It is, one can say, one of the most beautifully photographed films in recent years. Many saw a resemblance to Ingmar Bergman’s great films. At no moment as I watched the film was I anything but mesmerized.

Still, like your reviewer, I felt the lack of redemption, compassion, the other side of our sinfulness. In many ways, the director seems too easily to say, “We all were guilty.” While that may be true in some sense, like the Nuremburg trials, we also need to calculate carefully true metrics or measures of guilt. When all are guilty, somehow we lack the bite for those who are more sinful, more guilty, beyond the human pale of fault.

I certainly did not come away from this arresting film buoyed with anything like hope, even whispers of it. That may say something about the director’s nihilism. Thanks for the good review of an interesting and compelling, if flawed, film.

John A. Coleman, S.J.

San Francisco, Calif.

Simply Grateful

All I can say to Kevin Clarke is, thank God those boys have you both as parents (Of Many Things, 2/15). Thank you for sharing your personal story in a wonderful article.

Ann O’Donaghue

New York, N.Y.

The Real Greensboro Four

Re “Saving a Lunch Counter” (Current Comment, 2/15):

I am a longtime reader who eagerly awaits each new issue of America. I was pleased to see your coverage of the opening on Feb. 1 of the International Civil Rights Center and Museum in Greensboro, N.C. I was disappointed, however, to see a glaring error in your coverage. The Greensboro Four who sat at the Woolworth counter on Feb. 1, 1960, included Franklin McCain, Joseph McNeil, Ezell Blair Jr. (Jibreel Khazan) and the late David Richmond—not Melvin Alston and Earl Jones.

Alston and Jones, active in city and state politics, were visionaries in their effort to save the downtown Woolworth’s and create a civil rights museum to honor the place where the sit-in movement started. They were not, however, participants in the sit-in at Woolworth’s.

Edward Robinson

Greensboro, N.C.

A Doctor’s Vocation

When a physician’s work transcends occupation and becomes one of vocation, then God’s grace begins to work through us, as Dr. Pat Fosarelli so aptly describes in her essay “Healing Faith” (1/18). Her essay is a beautiful testament to how we meet the suffering Christ and are blessed in our work as physicians. The Holy Spirit leads us forward and empowers us and we are able to “suffer with” our patient and share the compassion that God has for each of us—the suffering, their loved ones and those who are called to help them. God’s grace allows us to “be compassionate as [our] Father is compassionate.” (Lk 6:36). Compassion is one of a physician’s most powerful tools, one that brings blessing to those who wield it.

Andre F. Lijoi, M.D.

York, Pa.

No More Law and Order

Re “Moral Convictions,” by Emily Brennan (Books and Culture, 2/22): I used to watch “Law and Order,” but I don’t anymore. René Balcer, the show’s producer, has a very left-wing political ideology, and at times he gets very preachy about his particular political point of view. He never gives any attention to the other side—only the left’s spin. I watch television for entertainment, not to be preached at from either side of the political spectrum.

Jim Collins

Farmington Hills, Mich.

Up With Law and Order

“Law and Order” is one of my very favorite television shows. I appreciate it not only because the stories are relevant to city life today, but also because the scripts and the acting stimulate moral reflection and discernment. Connie seems to be Jack McCoy’s conscience in some episodes. She also is courageous in challenging her immediate boss at times. I still mourn the loss of Lenny Briscoe! Keep up your great work, Mr. Balcer!

Joe Walker

East Grand Rapids, Mich.

The Seamless Robe

Thank you, William Van Ornum, for your excellent review of the movie “Extraordinary Measures” (Web only, 2/15). For over 40 years I have lived in that deep divide between rhetoric and reality for families who care for children with special needs. Both of my children, who have special needs, have lived with me their entire lives. Now that I am getting older and less able to care for them, my deepest anxiety is about what will happen to them when I am incapacitated.

I have to rely on governmental programs, as the church by and large does not have anything to offer my family. While I am avidly pro-life, I am also very critical of the pro-life groups, who should be in the forefront of helping our families and are strangely missing.

My family’s needs were well known in the parishes we belonged to. I have given up on getting any kind of help for us, but there are many young families who need the kind of loving support that Catholics can and should give as part of the body of Christ. Why the disconnect between advocating for life of the unborn and then abandoning those families who give birth to a child with disabilities?

I am sad to have to say that I have been sustained throughout my parenthood by my Catholic faith but have been abandoned by my church, the people of God.

Janice Johnson

San Diego, Calif.


Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Jim Lein
8 years 10 months ago

Re: Slogans and Labels by Peter Castaldi -

This should be required reading for anyone offering an opinion or commentary on the abortion issue.  Those using labels and slogans freely usually also say you can't be pro-life and pro-choice.  It's either/or, zero-sum, totally one way or the other. 

Also required reading should be the book reviewed last issue, "The Naked Now: Learning to See as Mystics See," by Richard Rohr.  It is a thorough description of the spiritually crippling limitations of dualistic, either/or thinking and acting, and an inspiring description of the openness (to God's love) of both/and thinking and acting.          


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