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Freedom calls for a measure of self-restraint

Re: Liberty first, editorial, July 4.

The actions taken by Attorney General John Ashcroft after the attacks of Sept. 11, were designed to maintain our cherished liberties that are so meticulously described and defended in our Declaration of Independence. If we truly want to be free, then we must learn that compliance and self-restraint are key ingredients to true liberty. In fact, all of our liberties entail some degree of restraint. No one is free to do what is right in his own eyes whenever he pleases. No one has the right to murder or rape or slander _ to name a few.

Thomas Jefferson penned a great foundation for liberty 227 years ago. The goal was liberty under law, not liberty from the law. I believe there is an appropriate time to surrender some of our liberties in order to provide safety and to ensure future liberty for all Americans.

Jan Avery, Clearwater

Ashcroft has us on a dangerous track

Re: Liberty first.

Hooray, cheers and celebration for your Independence Day editorial reminding the sometimes too comfortable masses of the responsibility that our forefathers included in our Declaration of Independence for every one of us. And for pointing out the dangerous track that Attorney General John Ashcroft has laid out for our country.

The Patriot Act is a dangerous act of sedition in regard to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and our other founding documents. And Patriot II is apparently patiently waiting in the wings for the next opportunity for fearmongering.

In light of the half-truths and misleading information that took us into a devastating invasion and war in Iraq, each of us must carefully consider every aspect of our current administration's policies. And we must speak out loudly to our local government officials (city councils, county commissions and state Legislature) and to our senators and members of Congress, letting them know that we demand a return of our constitutional rights! This business of freedom and democracy is hard work, and I appreciate the Times having the courage and leadership to challenge the direction of the attorney general toward martial law.

Bill Carpenter, St. Petersburg

Students know what's going on

Re: Ignorance of history is raising alarms, July 3.

"Apparently the truths in the Declaration of Independence aren't so evident." This statement begins an article concerning the notion that today's students are unaware of certain "historical" documents. The issue is bigger than mere ignorance.

Our students today are not dumb, ignorant or uninterested (as this article seems to indicate). In fact, quiet the opposite is true. Students today are very in tune and interested in what's going on around them. And with a culture that creates both products and ideas at an extraordinarily quick pace, just keeping up with what is happening in the world today is a full-time job. There is a huge amount of information and data that today's student must learn, more than at any other point in history. This is not an excuse; it is a fact.

There are, I think, two reason that this perceived ignorance regarding history exists. The first is that today's culture, for various reasons, is a culture of now, this instant. One can just turn on the TV to see this. Is this preoccupation with the present a bad thing? No, of course not, it is neutral, as are all changes in a culture. And while, yes, it is a turning away from Western civilization's usual obsession with the past, it is also a turning toward something new: a culture that will deal with things now.

The second reason this "ignorance" toward history exists is that our students are intelligent. You can't pull the wool over their eyes. You try to tell a student that laws are created and passed by the legislative branch of government and you can hear a collective, "I don't think so," from the students. They keep up with current events. They know it's not that simple. They know Big Business is highly involved. They understand that lobbyists write the laws and pay big bucks to have them passed. They know that the system of checks and balances no longer exists, that the Supreme Court (against the will of the people) can assign a president, and then that president can do just about anything he wants. They know that a rigid class structure has been implemented in America, no matter how much the history books deny it. Our students pay attention to the news, they understand all this stuff.

To teach history, teachers don't need to make it more interesting. They need to make it more truthful. The lead sentence of the article got it right: Apparently the truths in the Declaration of Independence (as well, the Constitution) are not very evident in today's America.

I agree with this statement. And today's students apparently do, too.

A.J. Graham, St. Petersburg

Teens working for a better world

Re: More teens give of themselves through volunteering, June 30.

I wish to commend you for your positive reporting and interest in the good work performed by teenagers through volunteerism as evidenced by your front-page article by Adrienne Lu. Sadly, we usually only hear about the small handful of teens in trouble. It's refreshing to see an article addressing the good the majority of young people are doing.

For eight weeks each summer, D&D Missionary Homes in the Lealman area of Pinellas County host hundreds of young people from all over the Southeastern United States who not only volunteer to help us, but also pay for the opportunity to do so. We watch them eagerly use their energy helping us build new homes, paint, clean up and repair existing homes, replace walks and roofs, wash and prepare free clothing given to visiting missionaries, and maintain a large children's playground.

Their positive attitude is encouraging and contagious. Each week they arrive ready and willing to roll up their sleeves to serve missionaries from around the world who live with us. So thanks for the positive news about today's teens. They're not all interested in getting into trouble with law! Some are trying hard to change the world that will one day be theirs. We at D&D salute them and the St. Petersburg Times for truth about teens.

Philip R. Fogle, president, D&D Missionary Homes, Inc.,

St. Petersburg

Bush is a worthy recipient

Re: Letters, July 5.

To all the people complaining about President Bush raising the money he did: Where were your complaints when Bill Clinton and Al (I invented the Internet) Gore were doing the same at about the same time in their administration? Why not attack Howard Dean for having raised $7-million? Or is that hypocrisy I smell in the air?

Additionally, to those who feel people should donate, instead, to charities: Please remember this is a free country. Assuming you earn your money as many of us do, how about you donate to whomever or whatever you want and let me use my money as I see fit and donate to whoever I want?

I consider that those who donated to President Bush were donating to a charity: The one that will save us from the rapacious and ever higher taxing "hunger" of Democrat do-gooders and social engineers.

One last thing it might also save us from: People who believe that to "think clearly" involves yelling back at a TV set! Now, that's priceless _ and why I vote Republican!

Vilmar Tavares, Spring Hill

Comic strip is too partisan

Re: Doonesbury.

I realize that I'm walking on old ground and you have heard all this many times before, but don't you really think it is time to move the Doonesbury cartoon strip to the editorial page?

Garry Trudeau has become increasingly partisan and I'm expecting him at any time to endorse a candidate _ most likely Howard Dean. Trudeau's "comic" strip has become nothing more than a liberal hate-rant against President Bush. Most people I mention this to don't seem to care. They say they don't look at Doonesbury anyway, since he's not "funny." If the St. Petersburg Times chooses to continue running the Doonesbury "comic," why not put it on the Opinion pages where it deserves to be? Trudeau would probably be comfortable with those left-wing scribblers from the New York Times that you are so fond of reprinting.

George Lear, St. Petersburg

A distortion of Panther history

Re: A heroic force or a pack of criminals? June 28.

It appears that writer Kate Coleman has made a career of smearing the Black Panther Party. From her constant attacks against a handful of elite party leaders in Oakland you would never guess that the Black Panther Party was an organization of thousands that spanned the continent, and that the vast majority of Black Panthers never met celebrities such as Huey Newton and Eldridge Cleaver.

I find it curious that she doesn't even mention the historical period in which the Panther Party came into existence, a time when African-Americans were dying for the United States in a foreign war but were still denied the right to vote in some parts of the country. The black panther symbol itself came from the human rights struggle being waged in Alabama.

By 1974 the Panther Party had disintegrated nationally, existing only in name in Oakland. The details of Huey Newton's troubled life, especially beyond that point in time, have no relationship to the motives and sacrifices made by thousands who gave up their futures, their bodies and their very lives to challenge a racist society.

The conference at Wheelock College, which Coleman is so critical of, is part of a national tour of a Black Panther Party photo exhibit. The exhibit grew out of a reunion of more than 350 former Panthers that took place in Washington, D.C. last year. In attendance at that reunion was current U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush of Chicago, co-founder of the Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party.

By some twisted logic Coleman is using the paranoid behavior of a few individuals, long after the Black Panther Party ceased to exist, to attack the effort of former members to bring the true history of the Panther Party to the American public. The group she is attacking has no connection to the events that she describes.

In their own words, "We have the responsibility to place our own experiences into historical context; otherwise the legacy of the Black Panther Party will be distorted by today's commentators and tomorrow's historians. We commemorate the sacrifices of those who fell in body and spirit to the prevailing internal and external forces of those times."

Larry Stone, St. Petersburg

A celebration spoiled

Re: Fireworks.

At 10:30 p.m. on Friday the fireworks were still going off around my home in Northeast St. Petersburg. I used to love July 4th _ hot dogs, hamburgers and family. After the barbecue, we would go to the township fireworks show. I grew up in a state where the fireworks laws were enforced. (What a concept!)

On Friday, I sat at home hoping that none of the fireworks would land on my house and start a fire or that I would hear an ambulance racing down the street because somebody blew off their hand.

I now hate the Fourth of July.

Nancy Rubin, St. Petersburg

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